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Melasma vs. Hyperpigmentation: Spotting the Difference

Hyperpigmentation and melasma are considered to be different skin conditions and treatment can vary. Let’s take a look at melasma vs hyperpigmentation.

Read on

These two skin conditions look similar and are exacerbated by the same triggers. However, they are not exactly the same.

Hyperpigmentation and melasma are considered to be different skin conditions and treatment can vary.

Let’s take a closer look at hyperpigmentation and melasma and find out what distinguishes them.

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation simply is the darkening of different areas of the skin as a result of injury, acne, or sun damage. Hyperpigmentation is caused by excess production of melanin.

Melanin is what gives color to our skin. So, areas of hyperpigmentation appear darker than the rest of your skin.

Hyperpigmentation happens equally to both men and women. This condition is harmless and it is possible for this to lighten and resolve on its own with time. However, there are treatments that can speed this along.

What does hyperpigmentation look like?

Hyperpigmentation is simply areas that are slightly darker than the rest of your skin.

They are small pockets of excess skin pigment. Hyperpigmentation can occur for many different reasons. You may experience it after a bad acne breakout (aka post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.)

Learn more: Fade Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation With Tretinoin

Melasma vs. Hyperpigmentation

This is an example of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.

You might have sun spots, liver spots, freckles, or scarring from an injury. These are all a form of hyperpigmentation. This discoloration can occur on any part of the body and can be large or small.

What’s melasma and how is it different from hyperpigmentation?

Melasma is a pigment disorder that causes dark patches that appear most commonly on the cheeks, nose, chin, above the upper lip, and the forehead.

So, melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation but is a primary pigment disorder that results in discoloration. Melasma is like the stubborn older sister of hyperpigmentation.

The two are similar, but what really differentiates them is the cause. Melasma’s cause is still not entirely known but it’s thought to be related to fluctuations in hormones. Melasma is most common in women and may develop during pregnancy.

Learn more: How to Cure Melasma From The Inside Out

Those who are of a darker complexion are reportedly more prone to melasma as they naturally have more melanin in the skin than those that are paler. Causes of melasma include:

  • Hormonal imbalances caused by pregnancy, hormonal birth control, or hormone therapy
  • Thyroid disease or imbalance
  • Stress
  • Sun exposure
  • Genetics
  • Certain irritating skincare products

What does melasma look like?

Melasma is characterized by brown or blue-gray patches or freckle-like spots on the face that are a different color than the rest of your body.

Melasma vs. Hyperpigmentation

This an example of melasma.

They can appear as flat dark patches or freckle-like dots. These areas often get darker in the summer (because of heightened sun exposure) and lighter in the winter.

Learn more: How To Get Rid of Melasma Mustache

Treatments: Melasma vs. Hyperpigmentation

The treatments for both hyperpigmentation and melasma can vary in duration and product intensity as melasma can be a bit more stubborn than hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation treatments:

  • Sun protection: use daily SPF 30 or higher to keep from darkening the areas of hyperpigmentation.
  • Skin brightening treatments: These products might contain vitamin C, azelaic acid, hydroquinone, or retinoids like tretinoin.
  • Chemical peels: The use of exfoliating acids can help brighten areas of hyperpigmentation.
  • Time: Areas of hyperpigmentation may fade with time, but it might take a while.

Melasma treatments:

  • Sun protection: Melasma is thought to be triggered and exacerbated by the sun. High levels of daily sun protection are essential when treating melasma.
  • Combination topical prescriptions: Formulas that combine both the skin lightener hydroquinone and the retinoid tretinoin have been shown to be helpful with depigmenting melasma.
  • Hormonal screening and balancing: If your melasma is hormonally driven, the hormonal imbalance should be looked at by a doctor to help stop the progression of the disorder.
  • Examining any hormonal therapies: Because melasma is at times triggered by estrogen, it might be worth moving away from estrogen-only birth control or HRT.
  • Daily topicals: Serums containing vitamin C, azelaic acid or kojic acid are all staple skin brighteners that can help depigment melasma.
  • In-office treatments: For the more stubborn melasma, in-office treatments such as laser treatments or chemical peels might be beneficial.  

Protect from UV damage

Whether you are dealing with hyperpigmentation from a bad breakout or are experiencing melasma’s mask of pregnancy -- sun protection is very important. In both instances, there is the presence of excess melanin.

This melanin can then be further darkened by sun exposure. The simplest thing you can do for your discoloration is to protect it from the sun, every single day.

Strut Health treats hyperpigmentation and melasma online

Strut Health and our skin experts have compound prescription formulas that work to brighten hyperpigmentation and depigment stubborn melasma.

Learn more about Strut Melasma Formula for melasma and Strut Brightly for general hyperpigmentation.

If you’re ready for a prescription treatment that can lighten areas of discoloration, complete a questionnaire-based online doctor's consultation to see if our treatments are right for you.

If our doctors find this is a good fit for you, we’ll ship your prescription right to your doorstep.

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