Melasma — also known as chloasma — is a challenging skin condition that can cause people to feel insecure and/or helpless about ways in which they can treat their symptoms. Melasma causes dark patches on one’s skin and is sometimes referred to as “the mask of pregnancy.” This is due to the increased hormones during pregnancy making expectant mothers more likely to experience melasma — however they aren’t the only population that experiences this frustrating condition.
There is no shortage of treatments to “cure” melasma, but unfortunately many of them do not work and simply rob customers out of time, money, and emotional distress. However, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) provides promising treatment opportunities for people living with melasma. First, let’s discuss the disease and how PRP can help the condition.
What Is Melasma?
What Causes Melasma?
While melasma may sometimes resolve itself on its own, there’s no guarantee. Therefore, if you’re in one of the subsequent demographics, you should be aware of the causes of melasma — sun exposure and hormonal changes — as well as the potential treatment options.
Sun exposure is the most common cause of melasma. While a great skincare routine and regular application of SPF may reduce the chances of developing melasma, there is no foolproof way to ensure that you won’t develop the frustrating skin discoloration that plagues people with this condition. Therefore, if you have consistent and significant sun exposure, you are at higher risk for melasma than the average person.
As previously mentioned, pregnant women often experience melasma, which typically clears up after pregnancy — although it’s far from guaranteed. However, pregnancy isn’t the only source of hormone-induced melasma. Women who use hormonal birth control may also experience melasma as a frustrating but fairly common side effect. Alas, these two hormonal conditions are large factors as to why women suffer from melasma far more than men, however men are not immune to this skin condition.
Regardless of gender, many patients will become frustrated with the lack of effective treatments that do not work for them. Some of these patients will look online for treatments that are not effective.
Look Out For Skin-Lightening Scams
Desperate patients may seek out treatments online where they will find skin-lightening treatments that promise to get rid of their melasma. These patients are often frustrated by conventional treatments that do not work for their specific case. They turn to hyperpigmentation products that are marketed to women that are embarrassed of their melasma.
They may stumble upon skin-lightening creams and treatments that make extravagant promises to vulnerable patients. These scams claim that they can effectively treat their melasma and rejuvenate their skin. The problem is that many of these treatments are only effective in the short term and can cause health problems.
The hyperpigmentation market is full of scammers and fake products that are ineffective. There are skin-bleaching creams that can cause extreme rashes on patient’s faces and further exacerbate their melasma. Patients can waste hundreds or thousands of dollars on products that do not work.
Oral or injected glutathione products are a line of products that you need to look out for. Many herbal products and remedies contain these antioxidants that can be found in various plants and animals. That may sound amazing and natural, but that is far from the truth. These treatments can even cause thyroid and kidney problems.
Patients need to take extreme caution with these types of treatments and consult their healthcare professional before taking any skin-lightening treatment. Instead of online scams, many patients are beginning to turn to regenerative medicine. Platelet-Rich Plasma is slowly becoming a viable alternative treatment option for patients who do not respond to traditional melasma treatments.
How Does PRP Help Patients With Melasma?
Platelet-Rich Plasma utilizes the body’s own healing abilities to create an environment that encourages healing. The platelet-rich plasma is injected into the area where the body needs to heal itself. PRP is able to promote healing due to growth and healing factors that are present in the plasma. The platelets present in PRP are one of the strongest growth factors in the body.
Key Growth Factors
PRP has a number of growth and healing factors that help with a variety of conditions. There are more than 30 bioactive growth factors in a PRP treatment. Some growth factors help with certain conditions, while other growth factors will help with other conditions. Naturally, there are certain growth factors in PRP that aid in treating melasma.
The growth factors that help specifically with melasma are:
- Transforming Growth Factor-Beta 1
- Epidermal Growth Factor
- Platelet-Derived Angiogenesis Factor
Transforming growth factor-beta 1 encourages melanin synthesis, which will help patients with melasma. Researchers are still looking into how and if the other three factors contribute to the production of melanin. Some early research may indicate that the epidermal growth factor actually lowers melanin production. These growth factors may all play a role in how PRP is able to treat melasma.
What Does The Treatment Entail?
The PRP treatment process is a fairly straightforward process. The medical center will draw a certain volume of blood from the patient. The blood will then be run through a centrifuge, which will separate the platelets in the blood from the rest of the contents. Depending on the treatment, growth and healing factors may be added to the plasma. The plasma will then be injected into the desired area.
A few recent studies have shown that PRP is looking like a promising treatment for patients with melasma.
Studies Show PRP Is Effective For Melasma
PRP treatment for women with melasma has not been widely studied. A lack of interest in melasma and regenerative medicine may have contributed to this. However, the studies that have been completed are extremely encouraging.
A 27-Year Old’s Incredible Improvement
The most famous case study that is widely quoted is a 27-year old who received PRP after suffering from melasma for more than five years. She had attempted other treatments, but the condition still persisted. Eight milliliters of blood was extracted from the patient and processed into the final PRP product.
Over the course of one month, she received three PRP injections into the dermis of the face. There were 15-day intervals in between the treatments. After the third PRP treatment, the patient had an 80% reduction in epidermal hyperpigmentation. That is a remarkable improvement after just three treatments
There was no other treatment administered other than the encouragement of sunscreen use. After six months, there was no recurrence of melasma. This example of a successful treatment is encouraging, but it should be noted that one case does not mean a cure for all patients with melasma.
Another small study was recently completed that continues to showcase the effectiveness of PRP therapy.
Small, But Promising Study
A small study has shown that PRP is effective in treating melasma. Researchers in Thailand were interested in the effectiveness of PRP compared to saline injections. They found 10 women between the ages of 33 and 58 who had mixed-type bilateral melasma. Over the course of 10 weeks patients would receive PRP injections and saline injections into either side of their faces.
The patients were evaluated after two, four, six weeks and one month after all the treatments were completed. On the side of the face that received the PRP, the Melasma Area Severity Index scores fell by an average of 28.9%. The side of the face that received the saline injections only improved scores by an average of 9%. That is a remarkable improvement in the patient’s conditions. The effect was not as drastic as the 27-year old and that may be due to age.
Any side effects that patients experienced from the PRP treatment were resolved within days of the treatment. Patient satisfaction was also much higher on the side of the face that was treated with PRP injections after 10 weeks. The benefits of PRP injections compared to saline injections are clear and obvious.
Larger studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of PRP for patients with melasma. There are a few large studies that are currently underway that will continue to investigate the efficacy of PRP for melasma. The current evidence is promising for patients that are looking for alternative therapies for melasma.
If you are frustrated with current treatment methods for melasma, you should reach out to your healthcare professional to see if you are a good candidate for platelet-rich plasma. Your appearance could improve drastically by utilizing PRP therapy. Additionally, because you are using your own blood the risk of side effects are less compared to other treatments.