Melasma and Age Spots… Are They The Same?

Do you ever notice that some women have light or dark patches appearing on their faces? These ‘patches’ on the facial skin are melasma which are also commonly known as butterfly pigmentations because of their shapes and their distributions on both sides of the face. 

 What Is Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin pigmentation disorder which is suffered mostly by Asian women aged 35 and above. In Asia, approximately 70-80% of melasma skin pigmentations affect women who are more than 30 years old, while 10-20% of this skin pigmentation disorder is affected by those who are between 25 and 30 years old. On the overall, melasma affects more dark-skinned individuals rather than fair-skinned individuals. 

Melasma has a distinguished feature where the ‘patches’ will tend to be matching and symmetrically distributed on both sides of the face. The commonly affected areas of melasma on the face will involve a midline region like the central of the forehead, nose, chin and the upper lip areas.

Among all types of skin pigmentation, melasma is one of the skin pigmentations which are most closely related to the female hormone. As such, the use of birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy and even medical illness that affects the hormone level such as thyroid disorder can also trigger the occurrence of melasma. Long prone stresses that cause hormonal imbalance and sun exposure may also cause melasma.

 How To Diagnose Melasma

With today’s technology and expertise, melasma can be diagnosed through visual examination based on its appearing characteristics, distribution pattern, symmetrical pattern and shape. This type of skin pigmentation can also be categorised based on the skin layer involved, namely:

• Superficial Type (epidermal melasma), which involves the top/epidermal layer of the skin
• Deep Type (dermal melasma), which involves the deeper layer of the skin
• Mixed Type, which involved the superficial and deep layers of the skin

Do you know that there is a special kind of light which is used by doctors to identify the layer of skin where the melasma is affecting? This skin examination is conducted by using the Wood’s Lamp. This specialty light is held up against the skin and experts would be able to see the type of melasma that is present.
Although there is no permanent cure for melasma, there are still several treatment options that can help to effectively lighten and significantly improve on the condition. Thus, it is very important for women to know that protecting their skin from the sun rays is a must. 

This is so that one can prevent the affected skin area from being too hypersensitive towards the sun rays - this may darken the particular skin pigmentation appearing to be darker than the surrounding skin, especially when it is exposed under severe sunlight. Hence, applying sunscreen protector after treatment is vital to prevent the reoccurrence of the skin pigmentation.  

 What About Age Spots?

Age spots and melasma do commonly affect women around the same areas like the face, arms and shoulders. However, age spots are caused by years of exposure to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. Also known as solar lentigines, age spots are flat and may appear as brown or black spots in various sizes, in shapes like oval or round. 

Age spots appear when pigments in skin which are known as melanin are clumped together due to its particularly high and concentrated productivity in certain part of the skin. Unlike melasma which may affect various layers of the skin, age spots only can affect the upper layer of the skin. This type of skin pigmentation is very common especially in senior adults, aged between 45 and 50 years old. However, younger people may also be affected by age spots especially if they are constantly exposed to the sun for a long duration of time.

Question: Is Age Spot A Type Of Skin Cancer?

Although age spots may also look similar with some skin cancer, a true age spot is usually harmless. Unlike skin cancer, age spots can be easily diagnosed by doctors through visual examination. However, do consult a doctor and if necessary, do conduct a skin biopsy if the following symptoms appear drastically in a short period of time:

• Dramatic increase in the pigment spot size
• Quick in the darkening of its colour
• Irregularity in its shape
• The pigment spot becomes itchy or painful

 
 How to Differentiate Between Age Spots and Freckles?

Every human being is prone to be affected by age spots as we get older. This is due to the natural skin ageing process and daily exposure to the sun. But the severity of the effects will depend on how fast your skin may age and the frequency as well as duration of your exposure to the sun.

Some people may also mistakenly identify freckles as small age spots. Well, age spots are usually larger in size compared to freckles. Unlike age spots, freckles usually affect young teenagers and younger adults. Age spots may also group together and appear more prominent on the skin compared to freckles – and, age spots may appear in sizes range from a diameter of one freckle size up to even 20mm!

So, do you wonder to yourself about how to get rid of these little skin imperfections? These age spots and melasma skin pigmentations can be easily lighten or even removed through several treatment sessions with satisfactory visible results. A consultation would be an excellent start to achieving a lasting, perfectly toned and attractive skin!