Melasma vs Hyperpigmentation: Is There Really a Difference?

Melasma and hyperpigmentation are both skin conditions that affect the face by creating dark, blotchy patches. The two conditions also have similar treatments. It’s easy to see why they seem like the same thing but they’re definitely not.

These two skin conditions are unique and each has its own symptoms. And, while the treatment options are also similar, each condition requires a slightly different approach to achieve the best results. 

Below, we break down some of the main differences between melasma and hyperpigmentation. 

Hyperpigmentation – Breaking Down the Basics

People with hyperpigmentation will have dark patches on their skin and it’s a condition that can affect all ethnicities and backgrounds. 

In some instances, the affected areas are very small but for others, the pigmentation is far more noticeable due to its size. 

Age spots, which are also known as liver spots, are the most common form of hyperpigmentation. They’re generally the result of prolonged exposure to harmful UV rays and tend to appear on the face, back and hands. It’s also possible for hyperpigmentation to form due to skin damage such as a cut or scrape. 

Hyperpigmentation isn’t a health threat, it simply causes your body to overproduce melanin, which is what gives your skin its color. 

The Treatment

The are several hyperpigmentation treatment options available today, including topical medications that help lighten the skin. 

More severe cases of hyperpigmentation would benefit from chemical peels and microdermabrasion treatments at a clinic such as Aesthetic Harmony

Melasma – Breaking Down the Basics

Melasma is also a skin condition that creates pigmented patches on the skin, with the face being the most affected area. The neck and arms are two other areas that tend to be affected. 

Melasma can look very similar to hyperpigmentation but it’s still not clear what actually causes this condition. However, research has found some links between melasma and the following triggers:

  • Hormonal fluctuations. Women tend to struggle with melasma more often than men. This is thought to be due to high levels of estrogen and progesterone. 
  • Pregnancy. Pregnant women tend to be more prone to developing melasma due to hormonal fluctuations. 
  • Sun exposure. Melasma is also thought to be triggered by prolonged sun exposure. It’s why people who have had melasma in the past tend to experience it more often during summer.
  • Genetics. Lastly, melasma is also thought to be hereditary, with darker skin tones having a higher risk. 

Overall, melasma has more triggers than hyperpigmentation does, and it forms on more areas of the body, including the cheeks, forehead and chin. Melasma also tends to form symmetrically. 

The Treatment

Melasma can be more challenging to treat than hyperpigmentation. This is mostly because there are so many potential causes. 

The first potential treatment is the same topical products that are used to lighten hyperpigmented skin. You will need to consult with a dermatologist if you want to go this route. Mainly because these topical products need to be paired with other products to have the desired effect. 

Cosmetic treatments such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion can also be used to address melasma. This is the ideal option for those who aren’t seeing a difference after using topical treatments or are struggling with severe cases.

If the melasma is linked to hormonal fluctuations, the underlying cause can be treated. For example, melasma is common amongst women who take birth control. Stopping the medication and switching to another form of birth control could be a simple solution. 

In the case of pregnancy, some women have found that the condition dissipates on its own after giving birth, so you may want to wait until after you have your baby to seek treatment. 

Both hyperpigmentation and melasma are very common and not something to be embarrassed about. If you feel that dark patches are starting to affect your confidence as well as your professional and personal life, it might be time to seek treatment.

With the help of a skincare professional who understands these two conditions, you can devise a personalised treatment plan that meets your requirements. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating skin pigmentation, which is why it’s best to consult with a professional right from the start.