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Melasma v/s Hyperpigmentation: What’s the difference?

Both hyperpigmentation and melasma are some of the most prominent skin conditions among women. And the similarities between the two have confused women for ages. Understandable. But despite the similarities, there are key differences between the two conditions and knowing what they are will help you get the right treatment.

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What’s the difference?

Hyperpigmentation simply refers to any type darkening of the skin, caused by anything – acne scars, freckles, prolonged exposure to UV and infrared rays, discoloration caused by eczema or psoriasis. Melasma, on the other hand, is chiefly oestrogen driven, which is why it’s mostly prominent among women. It is commonly seen during pregnancy, when you’re on birth control pills, or hormone therapy. It’s also more prevalent among Indian women. Melasma is further exacerbated by exposure to sun and heat.

Another key difference between hyperpigmentation and melasma is the appearance. Hyperpigmentation may manifest as random spots or patches anywhere on the face and neck, whereas melasma appears in blotchy but symmetrical patterns on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin and upper lip.

Hyperpigmentation is affected by external factors, whereas melasma is affected by internal factors.

Treatment methods

While hyperpigmentation can be treated easily via many over the counter products and DIY treatments, melasma is difficult to treat. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here – the same treatment may not work for two different people dealing with melasma. But, you can still follow the basics to keep the situation under control.

Sun protection: Cover your arms and face every time you’re out and apply SPF 30 sunscreen even on a gloomy day or if you’re sitting near the window. You may even have to apply sunscreen every two hours.

Iron Oxide: Products containing iron oxide can block visible light and minimise the damage caused to your skin.

Limiting screen time: Research tells us that sun is not the only enemy. Infrared rays are just as bad. Spending too much time in front of the computer, smartphone, hot kitchens and even the gym could cause a flare up.

Laser treatment: This is a tricky territory, as too much exposure can aggravate melasma. But low-frequency laser therapy is said to be helpful in treating melasma. Consult with a dermatologist before proceeding.

If you’re on birth control pills or hormone therapy, discuss the side-effects and its treatments with your doctor.

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