Melasma vs Hyperpigmentation: Know The Difference

What is melasma?

Melasma is a skin pigmentation disorder, and form of hyperpigmentation that occurs due to UV exposure and hormonal changes. It is more commonly seen in women.


What is hyperpigmentation? 


“Hyperpigmentation” is an umbrella term that covers various skin discoloration conditions, including spots, freckles, and melasma. It refers to any condition in which patches of skin become noticeably darker than the surrounding areas.


What are the symptoms of melasma?

Melasma is a type of hyperpigmentation that is characterized by brown or bluish patches or freckle-like spots on your face, usually on the cheeks, forehead, and chin. Generally, melasma tends to affect the face in symmetry- which means that if you have patches on one cheek, they appear on the other cheek too.


What are the symptoms of hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is characterized by the appearance of dark spots or patches on the skin. These patches can develop anywhere on the body and can be of varying sizes. Unlike melasma which appears in the form of blocks, other forms of hyperpigmentation exhibit a more mottled (spotted or smudged) appearance on the skin.


What Causes Melasma?


Given below are the causes of Melasma:

  • Genetic factors
  • Ethnicity; certain races are more prone to Melasma, like African Americans, South Asians, Asians, and the Mediterranean. It can also occur in Caucasians
  • The use of progesterone-containing IUDs such as Mirena IUD can play havoc with the skin and cause melasma
  • Pregnancy and BCP
  • Sun exposure
  • Even visible light exposure, such as on computer screens and iPhones, can exacerbate Melasma


What are the causes of hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is mostly caused due to excessive sun exposure and inflammation. Some other factors that also may give rise to hyperpigmentation are as follows:

  • Acne
  • Injury
  • Hormone changes
  • Medications such as anticancer drugs that increase sunlight sensitivity
  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Bug bites


How can hyperpigmentation be treated?


Daily use of topical creams that contain antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, hydroquinone, glycolic acid, and retinol can help to reverse and prevent further hyperpigmentation.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels decrease the appearance of hyperpigmentation by using acidic solutions in the desired treatment area. Such acids include glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, retinol, and trichloroacetic acid.


How can melasma be treated?

Melasma treatment can be more difficult than treating hyperpigmentation, even though it is usually treated with the same techniques used to treat hyperpigmentation. There is a low success rate in the treatment of Melasma because its contributing factors are hormonal influences, heat, and stress, which cannot be easily avoided. 

Listed below are the measures that you can take to prevent melasma: 

  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 every day
  • Minimise your exposure to the sun when you can
  • Wear hats or protective clothing to shield your face from the sun when you are outside


Melasma vs hyperpigmentation: So what’s the difference?

The difference between melasma and hyperpigmentation is that all melasma cases are a form of hyperpigmentation, but not all hyperpigmentation cases are melasma. As hyperpigmentation is triggered mostly by external factors, melasma brings its presence mostly due to internal factors.

Dr. Shehla Ebrahim is a skincare physician in West Vancouver, BC. She provides treatment for various skin conditions, and to this date, she has helped many women feel comfortable in their skin. So, if you are looking for hyperpigmentation or melasma treatment, book an appointment with us today!