As the age-old saying goes, “if there’s a will, there’s a way”. And when it comes to melasma, some people are willing to go ALL the way just to get rid of those unsightly dark spots. One of the most popular instant fixes – tanning beds! The logic behind this solution is pretty simple – treating your body to that glorious golden tan will mask unwanted marks and even out the skin tone. Sounds like a one-done deal, right? Well, not quite.
While tanning is an easy way to cover up melasma, it is not necessarily the safest way. Sure, you’ll come out looking fresh-off-the-beach, but what happens skin deep is a whole different story! In this article, we discuss what tanning beds actually do for melasma, and safer alternatives you can explore to solve your hyperpigmentation spots. You may just realise that the “long” way is sometimes the best way!
Let’s start with some Melasma 101! Here’s a quick recap of everything you need to know. Keep these things in mind before exploring the right treatment for you.
What is Melasma?
To the regular person, melasma is an annoying skin problem that leaves them with stubborn dark spots around their face and body. But for the rest of us tasked to find the best solutions for you, melasma is much more than uneven skin tone. And in order for us to treat it, we have to go layers deep – to the dermis, to be exact!
To put it simply, melasma is a chronic skin condition triggered by the over production of melanin in your skin’s different layers. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin its colour. If you’re born with less melanin, then you naturally have a lighter skin tone, and vice versa. For someone with melasma, their body is triggered to produce more melanin than it should. Hence, those annoying spots! And what exactly are those triggers? We’ll find that out next!
What Causes Melasma?
Like other chronic skin conditions, there is no exact cause behind melasma. For most people with this condition – especially women – the effect on their skin is rarely sudden as the hyperpigmentation develops slowly over years. Usually, they first start noticing the visible brown and dark patches between the ages of 20 to 40 years old. The skin discolouration starts small and then builds up over time. However, this ultimately varies from person to person. Some women will only have minimal melasma patches in their lifetime, while others might see the pigmentation in a darker colour as they age. While there is no definite reason for why it appears and how it will eventually develop, experts attribute it to a combination of different factors.
No surprise here! The sun is a major trigger in darkening the skin. It naturally emits UV rays that activate the production of melanin – thus, tanning our skin! But in the case of melasma, it does so much more than blessing you with a sun-kissed tan. Melanocyte cells present in melasma-prone skin are overstimulated, leading to an irregular and uneven production.
Apart from UV rays, the heat from the sun triggers inflammation in the skin as well. Some people with melasma manifest red marks caused by their dilated blood vessels underneath. The same goes for any source of heat for that matter – like cooking a hot pot of soup! Chefs are common victims because of their constant exposure to heat and sweat.
Some experts claim that visible light causes melasma as well, more specifically blue light. This comes from gadgets like our phones and computers. So the next time you spend hours scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, just be wary of what that could do for your melasma!
And now, the most common factor associated with melasma – hormones. Unfortunately for women, our estrogen hormone is found to have a direct effect on our melanin. At high levels, it can cause excessive production of these pigments, which in turn manifests as melasma. That is why this condition is prevalent among pregnant women. In fact, it is so common that it was given the notorious title of “the mask of pregnancy”. An appropriate name for a villain if you ask me!
According to research, up to 50% of women experience this during their pregnancy. And like a true villain in a superhero movie, it comes out when you least expect it! Some show symptoms in their first few months, while others carry on unscathed before it surprises them in their last trimester. Now, if you’re reading this with a little one on the way, don’t panic just yet! While melasma is burdensome to have, it has little to do with your health – which leads us to another common question.
Is Melasma Dangerous?
Absolutely not! Other than those unsightly dark spots, melasma is generally harmless. Compared to other chronic skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis, melasma is not painful, itchy, or uncomfortable in any way. If anything, it is mostly a cosmetic issue that leaves women feeling insecure and seeking treatment plans.
Does Melasma Ever Go Away?
We wish the answer was simple, but unfortunately, the effects of melasma differ per person. Some are lucky enough to experience it at a certain period in their life, for it to eventually go away on its own. For others, it may disappear with the right treatments and skincare products. While some people may have darker spots that are harder to treat. Here’s our pro tip: A good way to gauge your body’s reaction to treatments is to first determine the type of melasma you have.
- Melasma at the epidermis layer: Melasma appears as dark brown in colour with well-defined borders. Because it develops at the topmost layer of the skin, this type of melasma responds well to treatment.
- Melasma at the dermis layer: Hyperpigmentation usually appears as light brown or bluish spots. It is present at a deeper layer, which may be harder to treat. This type does not usually respond to topical products and may need more professional treatments.
- Melasma at mixed layers: The most common type of melasma affects both the epidermis and dermis layers. It manifests as a mixture of dark, light, and bluish marks. People with this type should opt for both topical products and cosmetic treatments.
If you are unsure about which type you have, start by consulting a professional before taking any action. That way, you are well-versed to find the best treatment plan for your condition. However, keep in mind that not all treatments completely eradicate melasma. Results will ultimately depend on the person, and the chances of it recurring.
Whatever the case may be, there are a bunch of options to explore! While they may not completely remove your dark spots, they will at least improve the look of discolouration. Among the most popular options is tanning!
Does Tanning Help Hyperpigmentation and Melasma?
Many believe that tanning solutions – whether through self-tanning products or tanning beds – are the quickest way of covering up evidence of melasma and hyperpigmentation. Compared to slapping on some make-up for the day, this route offers more long-term results with regular maintenance in between. They particularly appeal to those who want to get out of the sun entirely and limit exposure to ultraviolet rays. Overall, tanning solutions help give off the impression of an even-coloured (not to mention glowing!) skin tone without the risks – or so they think!
Topical tanning products
Topical treatments like self-tanning lotions or creams are popular solutions often discussed in online forums and beauty communities. These products allow you to decide how dark you want your skin to be in order to mask the melasma spots. Plus, they make for a fun DIY self-care night at home! They are generally safe for the skin as they affect only the topmost layer. Some retail brands take it a notch higher by offering skin-friendly formulations with hydration, moisturisation, and other skincare benefits.
Tanning beds and sunbeds
Some women, on the other hand, try to take an even quicker path by going for sunbeds or tanning beds. Compared to self-tanning products, this method guarantees more even, long-term, and hassle-free tanning. You simply head into a session, spend a few minutes in a controlled tanning environment, and come out without uneven spots in sight. Easy? Definitely! Safe? Not quite! While tanning beds help hide melasma, they are far from the safest route. In fact, frequent use of sunbeds is said to be potentially dangerous for the skin! Here’s why.
Pigmentation From Sunbeds: The Truth About The Risks
Remember how we said that the sun emits harmful UV rays that can cause melasma? Well, according to the EPA, sun beds, sun lamps, and other tanning equipment also emit UV radiation at even higher levels. While you lay on that seemingly safe tanning machine, you actually expose yourself to the same UV rays even without the sun’s presence.
- Ultraviolet A Rays (UVA): This is the most abundant type of UV radiation on the Earth’s surface. Not only do they affect people directly under the sun, but they also seep through clouds and windows. That means, they are lurking around even during rainy weather or days spent indoors.
- Ultraviolet B Rays (UVB): UVB rays are typically filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere, which means they are not as abundant as UVA rays. However, they can reach the surface depending on the location, time of the year, and other factors.
Ironically enough, people who resort to tanning alternatives as a way to treat melasma actually subject themselves to even bigger risks!
Not only does UV radiation increase your chances of aggravating your melasma, but they also cause deeper skin damage. In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration cautions that the level of UV radiation in tanning machines poses serious health risks. A 2009 study shows that prolonged or frequent UV exposure via these artificial indoor solutions can lead to the following issues:
- Hyperpigmentation and melasma
- Premature skin aging
- Skin burns
- Skin cancer
- Eye damage
- Weakened immunity
Because of these potential hazards, tanning bed manufacturers are required to state specific health warnings on their labels. However, regardless of these facts, some people still opt for the sunbed route in the name of beauty. We know it’s hard to give up, but the next time you’re tempted to get a session, just picture all that harmful radiation penetrating your skin! Trust us, those dark spots are nothing compared to the bigger health problems you’ll face down the road. That said, we definitely encourage you to boycott tanning equipment altogether and explore safer long-term solutions to treat your melasma.
Alternatives To Tanning Beds: Safe Ways To Treat Melasma
As with any skin condition, the best thing you can do for yourself is to seek the help of a professional. We understand how tempting it can be to play the role of a beauty guru and experiment on different methods! However, in most cases we’ve seen, it may lead to minimal – or even worse! – results. Under a skin expert’s care, your chances of success are a lot higher. Some people are able to get rid of their melasma or at least manage them to almost invisible levels. The best part is, professional treatments are sure to be safe for your skin!
Here at Lovoir Skin Body & Beauty, we offer a variety of skincare products and beauty treatments that are proven safe and effective on our customers with melasma. Our team of skin experts are well-equipped with the right tools to analyse your skin and recommend the best treatment for you. Bear in mind, though, that melasma is quite stubborn, so don’t expect quick and easy fixes. It could take months of treatment sessions before your expected outcomes are visible. Either way, they will be well worth the wait! Here is a rundown of our treatments for melasma:
Skin Care for Melasma
We carry a range of professional skin care products that take a holistic approach to address melasma. They are formulated to work from the inside out – lightening dark spots on the outside, and managing melanin production on the inside. This is a good starting point for those of you unsure about cosmetic treatments. You can shop our products here!
Chemical Peels for Melasma
This beauty treatment makes use of a chemical solution to exfoliate and peel off the outer layer of skin. In doing so, it removes dark spots and pigments in the process. If you’re one of the many who cringe at the topic of acids, don’t worry! We can customise the type and strength depending on your skin type. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can read our article on chemical peels here.
Microdermabrasion for Melasma
Microdermabrasion is another form of exfoliation. Instead of using a peeling solution, we use a machine equipped with a diamond head – a unique technology capable of removing dead skin cells. However, keep in mind that this type of treatment is more abrasive on the skin. In that case, people with sensitive skin may want to opt for this next treatment.
Microneedling for Melasma
Our Dermapen™ is the real star of our microneedling treatment. It induces the skin’s natural healing response, which then corrects your skin’s tone and colour. Although this treatment is slightly more invasive than the other options, we promise the results are worth it! Plus, we make sure to create a comfortable environment for you and provide microneedling aftercare tips for best results.
If you want to learn more about these services, read our in-depth guide on the best treatments for melasma.
Book a Consultation with our Skin Experts!
The moral of the story (or rather, this article): UV exposure is one of the main reasons why melasma spots multiply and become darker over time. Whether it’s from spending too much time under the sun or using tanning machines too frequently, these seemingly harmless activities can make those brown patches worse. In that case, it’s best to seek safer alternatives to treat your melasma. Although they won’t give you instant results, they will treat your skin with some much-needed TLC!
Reach out to our skin experts at Lovoir Skin Body & Beauty, and we’ll recommend the best treatment plan for your melasma condition. Book a consultation with us today, and start your journey to spot-less skin!
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