I woke up one morning to find dark patches on my face, I don’t use cream or lotion on my face so was wondering what had caused such a discoloration. Lol. I didn’t think much of it after make-up and went about my day’s business. I got more alarmed two weeks later when I met a friend’s mother who took one look at me and asked in a shrieked voice, ‘ki lose oju e’ meaning what happened to your face?!’
I looked in the mirror and saw it and didn’t really know what to do until a young doctor at my hospital mentioned it in relation to some medication I was taking then. He said some medication- hormonal and sorts can cause this. I started my research and came across a lady Cosmetologist Opeyemi who took one look at me and said this is Melasma. I looked at her like Arnold in ‘Different Strokes’ and asked, ‘whacthu talkin bout’? And she laughed as she explained to me what Melasma was.
Melasma is a very common patchy brown, tan, facial skin discoloration, almost entirely seen in women in the reproductive years. It typically appears on the upper cheeks, upper lip, forehead, and chin of women 20-50 years of age. Melasma (also known as Chloasma faciei is especially common in pregnant women and those who are taking oral or patch contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications and also in rare cases IVF treatment. Melasma does not cause any other symptoms beyond the cosmetic discoloration. Melasma is also common in pre-menopausal women. It is thought to be enhanced by surges in certain hormones. Melasma is caused partly by sun, genetic predisposition, and hormonal changes. The most common treatment is topical creams containing hydroquinone. (More info added from Google search)
Looking at her in bewilderment I ask what causes it and she said, ‘the exact cause of melasma remains unknown. Experts believe that the dark patches in melasma could be triggered by several factors, including pregnancy, birth control pills, hormonal treatment, progesterone, family history, your skin colour, some types of medications for seizure and a great culprit is the UVA in Sunlight which most considers the leading cause. She said she has seen women who get it due to cooking near very hot stove or firewood almost every day!
Before I could ask how you could treat it she told me a lot of people experiment with hydroquinone (BAD FOR THE SKIN EXCEPT UNDER EXPERT SUPERVISION); other treatment available out there include Obagi Clear, Neocutis Blanche etc She however prescribed something that had Kojic Acid, which I cannot mention here (see me in camera) lol… alongside some other facial treatments. Needless to say, as we speak my face is shedding skin, peeling off like crazy and I am sure I look like HUSK the famous comic character!
My friend Opeyemi, does other treatments like the chemical peel, glycolic acid peel, Lactic acid lotions etc right here in Nigeria. She is specially trained for that unlike most of the quacks you see around who turn your face blue black. However, I am not advertising for her in anyway, she may have to pay me for referrals! (Lol) Never accept mixed creams you do not know its content and always ask questions when you go for facials as those questions can save your life.
Now after my treatment, the Cosmetologist has warned me never to enter the sun without good protection. One of the most common treatments for melasma is sun protection. This means wearing sunscreen every day and reapplying the sunscreen every 2 hours. Most Dermatologists also recommend wearing a wide-brimmed hat when you are outside as sunscreen alone may not give you the protection you need. I hear the fashionistas giving a squeal of joy!
Sunscreen is essentially any cream or lotion that is applied on to the skin to protect it from the ruthless effects of the sun. A number of damage can be caused to your skin by the harsh and ruthless rays from the sun, such as Melanoma i.e. a tumour of melanin-forming cells that is associated with cancer; and fast ageing of the skin as well as in this case Melasma. Contrary to the popular perception that only white people with light skin need sunscreen, black people or Africans also need the use of sunscreen because both skins are made of the same things and can be affected by the same elements.
I decided to poke around the internet to gather a few tips on the use of sunscreen and its advantages as seen below:
- Research shows 90% of wrinkles are caused by the sun’s UVA light and damage from sun is the number one cause of premature aging in women and men. The first thing you want to note is that for the best result you should buy sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These are the key ingredients that protect your skin from UVB rays. Contact me for names and prices and where you can get these in Nigeria. I use one now by Bion.
- The sunlight that reaches us is made up of two types of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB). Basically, UVA rays can age us and UVB rays can burn us. Overexposure to either can damage the skin. There’s also a third type of ray, UVC – these are the shortest and strongest, but thankfully they’re absorbed by the ozone layer and don’t typically reach the Earth. UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. Unprotected exposure can lead to premature skin aging and suppression of the immune system. And when your skin’s defences are down, you’re at risk for skin cancer.
UVB rays will usually burn the superficial layers of your skin. The intensity of UVB rays vary by season, location and time of day, with 10AM to 4PM being the peak hours of ultraviolet radiation. Sunburned skin doesn’t just feel awful, it can cause permanent damage over time.
- If you cannot avoid this wear sun protective clothing, including a long-sleeve shirt, a hat with a three-inch brim and sunglasses. There are loads of good clothing in the open market and shops.
- The ozone layer is depleting and your body needs shielding from harmful rays. Skin Cancer rates are on the rise and sunscreen has been proven to decrease the development of skin cancer. And don’t think too far, we have them in Nigeria too.
- If you have sensitive skin, it is advisable for you to buy sunscreen products recommended for children. They have tender skin as do you and this would be better suited for your skin. Most people with sensitive skin may react to some sunscreen, thus when buying sunscreen be sure to try it on a small patch of skin to check for irritation.
- Sunscreen helps to prevent facial brown spots and skin discolorations. It also helps to reduce the appearance of facial red veins and blotchiness. It slows down the development of wrinkled, premature aging skin.
- A lot of us would argue, as I used to, that it is good to expose yourself to the sun before noon for Vitamin D, however research shows that most people can fulfil their Vitamin D requirements of 600 IU or 15mcg per day with normal daily outdoor activities amounting to five to 30 minutes twice per week. Equally, a healthy vitamin D rich diet of fish, milk, dairy, liver, eggs and vitamin D supplementation provides daily requirements. Prolonged sun exposure gives no extra production of necessary vitamin D, and it exposes the skin to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation which includes development of skin cancers and photo-damage.
- Sunscreen should be applied before any other type of lotion or cream. The sunscreen needs adequate freedom and time to absorb into the skin and applying other lotions before it could hinder its effectiveness.
- Make sure your skin is squeaky clean before application. The best time to apply sunscreen is right after your shower and your skin is dry; at this time your skin is still fresh and your pores open which allows for full absorption.
- After applying sunscreen people tend to forget the hands, always be reminded not to ignore this part of the body especially the back of your hands; it gets burnt easily.
- You should apply a generous amount of sunscreen to your body; at least an ounce (a shot glass full) to the totality of your body. There are cheap options out there, check your local stores and pharmacies
- Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 – 30 minutes before you step out into the sun. This is because the skin needs this amount of time to properly absorb the lotion and when heading for the pool or beach re-apply every 3 hours to keep your skin safe.
- If you are only applying the lotion to your face, be sure to include your neck and chest. This is because years down the line you could end up with sun damaged neck or chest. I tell you I am talking from experience!
- There are different grades of sunscreen Sun Protection Factors (SPF); SPF50, SPF30, SPF15 etc. The higher the number does not necessarily mean the better it will protect your skin. You should take into consideration the intensity of the sun. SPF 50 only blocks about 1.3% more UVB than SPF15. To be safe think of it this way; short periods of time spent outside = SPF15; longer periods= SPF50.
- The American Academy of Dermatology