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Melasma, also known as chloasma, is a chronic pigmentary disorder of the skin amongst women of South East Asian descent and patients living close to the equator. Usually presenting insidiously as a mild and faint discolouration of the face before darkening. It is sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy” due to it being a common occurrence among pregnant women, it can affect women outside of pregnancy as well. It can also affect men, although at a much lesser scale.
Melasma patches vary in size and distribution and usually develop at a gradual pace depending on the person. These patches may gradually disappear a few months after pregnancy, but this does not always happen. If this is the case, you may consider undergoing treatment to remove melasma patches.
The pathology of Melasma is complex and there are both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Genetic susceptibility has been noted. Excessive UV damage and exposure may aggravate the condition further. It can also be confused and complicate post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation caused by damage to the skin such as chemical peels or allergies to certain facial creams.
There are still many questions regarding what exactly causes melasma. Medical studies have shown that melasma disproportionately affects more women who have darker skin, estrogen sensitivity, or are under extreme stress. Many also believe that melasma is caused by the overstimulation of melanocytes when the skin has been under heavy exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, which is especially common in tropical countries like Singapore.
The most at risk of developing melasma are:
Cambridge Medical offers the following treatments for the removal or reduction of the appearance of melasma:
One possible treatment option for melasma is through the use of the QuadroStar Pro Yellow Laser, from Germany. It uses a stable and diode-based specific wavelength of 577nm that gives it its signature yellow colour and is particularly effective in treating Asian skin types. Commonly referred to as the “Yellow laser”. It is an effective treatment option for pigmentation problems such as melasma. Besides treating melasma, it can also be used to deal with a variety of other skin problems such as spider veins, skin redness, and hyperpigmentation.
The Pro Yellow Laser utilises a unique wavelength of 577nm which means that the laser energy is almost instantaneously absorbed by the melanin pigments as well as the blood vessels near it. The focused laser energy causes these blood vessels to effectively reduce blood supply to the melanocytes, which slows down their production of the pigments causing melasma.
A consultation and assessment with Dr Lee Mun Heng are first done before undergoing the treatment so that it can be tailored to the needs of the patient. Our clinic staff will then clean the treatment area and some “before” photos will be taken for comparison. There is usually no need to apply a numbing cream to the area unless the patient has a low pain tolerance. During the treatment, the patient may feel a tingly sensation that is very tolerable and mild. A typical treatment session of the Pro Yellow Melasma Treatment usually does not take more than 45 minutes. Depending on the patient’s assessment, additional laser treatments may be administered along with the Pro Yellow Laser.
Because it is not an invasive type of treatment, many patients experience no downtime at all after the procedure. Patients may return to their usual routine after the laser treatment is administered. There may be some redness and the skin may feel a little sensitive, but this should not hinder the patient from his/her usual activities.
To treat melasma, the patient will need about 4 to 6 sessions of the Pro Yellow Laser Treatment spaced about 3 weeks in between. The effects of a laser treatment session will start to show up about a week after the procedure. The patient will notice his/her melasma patches look lighter and less noticeable compared to before. Each successive session will lighten the appearance of the melasma until it fully clears away.
Cosmetic laser treatments have evolved throughout the years, and one of the latest innovations in laser technology is the picosecond laser. A picosecond laser, or pico laser, is a type of laser technology that delivers energy in very quick pulses, making it an effective tool for treating pigmentation problems such as melasma. The PicoCare 450 Pico Laser Pigmentation Removal treatment can target the pigments in the skin which effectively breaks them up. The body will then naturally flush away these broken pigments out of your skin.
The quick pulsing application of laser energy allows the treatment to deliver high-energy light beams that last for a very quick time. This enables it to deliver most of the energy on the melasma pigments and leaves the surrounding tissues unharmed. This results in fewer side effects, reduced discomfort, and less damage to the skin compared to other laser pigmentation removal treatments.
Dr Lee first assesses and examines the melasma and determine its severity. The procedure is very safe with minimal discomfort, so there is no need to apply a numbing cream unless the patient so desires. The laser treatment is very quick, with most sessions lasting less than 30 minutes. The patient may feel a tingly sensation that quickly dissipates each time a laser pulse is applied.
There is very little downtime if any after a pico laser treatment. There may be some redness, but this should disappear within a few days.
Depending on the patient assessment, it might require 2 to 3 sessions of the pico laser treatment before the melasma fully disappears. However, the patient will notice that about a week after each session, the melasma patches will look lighter and less noticeable compared to before.