The skin is a strange and wonderful organ of the body. Although you may only think of it as the covering over all of your organs, it is actually an organ itself filled with thousands of cells and a variety of tissues that must be constantly refreshed, replenished and rebuilt through nutrients and chemicals brought to it by the blood. Because the skin is constantly open to the air, it is quite easy to damage it. It can become dry and dull if it is not constantly moisturized and nourished. It can become full of breakouts and oiliness if the sebaceous glands in it over-produce sebum and if the pores become clogged. Aging skin can be quite easy to spot as it begins to lose some of its elasticity and plumpness. Certain milestones, such as pregnancy, can cause brown and gray spots called melasma to appear.
What Is Melasma?
Melasma refers to patches of overly pigmented skin that show up most often on the face. If you have it, you will most likely see it on your nose or forehead although it may also appear on your upper lip or on other parts of your body that frequently see the sunlight. It seems to affect women more often than men, the reason for which is not entirely known. Men only account for 10 percent of melasma cases. In fact, pregnant women are at an incredibly high risk of developing this condition. In this case, it is typically caused by hormonal changes and is called a “pregnancy mask.”
Melasma most frequently occurs on individuals who already have more deeply pigmented skin, rather than on individuals who have very fair skin. This seems to happen because the melanin-producing cells in the skin are already more active in these individuals. Therefore, individuals who identify as Hispanic, African-American, Middle Eastern or Asian tend to experience melasma with higher frequency than Caucasians do.
Although hormonal changes have been implicated in many cases of melasma, these do not necessarily cause all melasma cases. Ultraviolet radiation also seems to cause many cases as melasma is often seen in individuals who spend a great deal of time outdoors. Because of this, individuals with melasma will see it worsen in the summer months and may see the condition come back following sun exposure when they may have thought it was gone for good. Other causes of melasma could include irritation to the skin, such as from skin care products that are not designed for sensitive skin.
Although the condition can be highly visible, it does not cause any uncomfortable side effects. The area will not be itchy nor will it hurt. It is simply a cosmetic irritation that most people do not want negatively impacting their confidence levels.
What are Some Options for Treating Melasma?
A dermatologist or aesthetic professional is the best person to diagnose your melasma. If you are unsure what the patches on your skin are, they may be causing you unnecessary worry. Once you determine the exact diagnosis, you can start down the road to removing this unnecessary concern from your life.
Some people see their melasma fade away gradually without any treatment. This might be the case for you particularly if you experienced melasma only with pregnancy or only when you were taking birth control pills or other hormonal medications.
When melasma does not go away on its own, you will most likely want to find a workable solution for it. You must seek professional help for treatment because melasma can return many times and may return darker in the future if it is not properly treated. Your aesthetic professional or dermatologist may try some topical lotions that are meant to lighten the skin. Most often, hydroquinone is used, although corticosteroids or acid-based treatments may also work.
When topical solutions do not provide the help that you want, your practitioner will recommend that you move on to a non-invasive or minimally-invasive treatment that will target your skin problem at its source. Lasers, peels, microneedling, or light-based treatments are popular choices based on your particular needs.
What Is the Sciton BBL Treatment?
Sciton BBL stands for Broadband Light therapy produced by a specialty aesthetic machine. It is a high-powered intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy that can treat a variety of skin conditions depending on the wavelength of light that is used. In fact, BBL is more powerful than any other IPL treatment currently offered.
BBL therapy uses powerful light waves to heat up the layers of your skin, reaching deep into your tissues to treat the problem at its source. The Sciton machine comes with a variety of handheld add-on filters, allowing your aesthetician to treat a variety of common concerns on the skin. The adapters are interchangeable and give different wavelengths of light that are designed to reach different levels in the skin.
Sciton BBL also includes some other great features. It has dual-lamp technology, which means that it has two light lamps. This gives double the power as compared to single-lamp IPL models. In addition, Sciton provides a way to keep the skin cool during treatment. This helps with comfort. Finally, this treatment is incredibly precise and is able to work in very small areas. Its special energy delivery provides consistent results across your skin.
How Does BBL Improve Melasma?
When the handheld adapter is changed to one particularly used for pigmented lesions or for darker skin types, this device can target the melanin-producing cells deep within the skin. The extra melanin is vaporized by this heat-producing device, allowing it to leave your skin. This reduces the appearance of dark spots and patches on your skin. It is highly beneficial because it targets areas far beneath the surface of the skin rather than only those areas directly on the surface of the skin like topical products do.
What Is the Treatment Like?
Treatments with BBL are generally quick and easy. It is completely non-invasive, and you will need no needles or incisions to get great results. Depending on the size of the area to be treated and the level of darkness of the melasma patch, your treatment could take from a few minutes to up to one hour. You will be comfortable throughout your appointment thanks to a topical anesthetic that is often used to numb your skin temporarily.
Once your skin is anesthetized — if necessary — we will place protective glasses over your eyes to guard them from the pulsed light. We will then hold the handheld device over your skin, moving it carefully over all the spots that need to be treated. You may feel a slight stinging or pinching sensation during the procedure, but this will not be uncomfortable.
You should expect little to no downtime. Your skin may initially appear a bit more red than normal, and your dark patches may actually darken for a few days. However, within a week or two, the skin over the treated areas will begin to peel, revealing lighter-colored skin beneath the surface. However, you will be able to apply your makeup as usual and go about the rest of your daily activities with no activity restrictions.
How Many BBL Treatments Will You Need?
Every patient responds slightly differently to BBL treatments. The number of treatments that you will need and the length of each treatment will depend on your skin tone, your skin care needs, the size of the treated area and your body’s response to treatment. However, we typically recommend a series of treatments with a minimum of three needed. Some patients need up to six treatments. Treatments should be spaced apart by two to four weeks each to allow the skin to heal thoroughly between appointments.
What Else Can Sciton BBL Treat?
Because the BBL device comes with a variety of adapters, it can be used for other types of hyperpigmentation as well, including freckles, age spots and even small red veins just beneath the surface of the skin. However, it can even treat many other common skin conditions that can make the skin appear aged and tired. For example, it can treat rosacea and acne while also making aging skin appear smoother and firmer than it has in years. It can increase collagen levels deep within the skin for great results.
If you have been struggling with melasma and have not seen it go away on its own, we encourage you to call DelaneyMD Aesthetics and Anti-Aging today to schedule your consultation! With only a few treatments, we can help you get rid of your melasma and teach you about ways to keep it away for the rest of your life. Our office is conveniently located in Edmonds, WA.