Melasma is a skin condition characterized by brown patches on the face that can develop after sun exposure. Since facial skin discoloration is very visible, you may feel self conscious about your brown patches. Your dermatologist can use treatments like microdermabrasion to restore your skin color. Here are four things melasma sufferers need to know about microdermabrasion.

What is microdermabrasion?

Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure that resurfaces your skin. Your dermatologist will use a handheld device to spray an abrasive material on your skin, which removes the top layer of your skin. This procedure is similar to exfoliating your skin at home, though your dermatologist is able to go deeper with microdermabrasion.

It will take up to 40 minutes for your dermatologist to treat your entire face. Afterwards, moisturizer will be applied to your face. Since this procedure is non-invasive, you can get it done on your lunch hour and go back to work right afterwards if you want to.

How does microdermabrasion treat melasma?

Melasma occurs when excess melanin—skin pigment—is produced in your epidermal layer. This is the uppermost layer of your skin, and it's also the layer that's targeted during microdermabrasion. After these cells are removed by microdermabrasion, new cells will be produced to take their place. Since these new cells haven't been exposed to the sun yet, they won't have excess melanin levels.

How effective is microdermabrasion for melasma?

Microdermabrasion has been shown to be a very effective treatment for melasma. One study of 27 melasma patients found that 81% experienced more than 75% clearance of their discoloration after undergoing microdermabrasion, while 40% experienced at least 95% clearance. An average of 2.6 treatments were needed to get these results, and the results lasted for at least six months. If your melasma returns in the future, you can always have the microdermabrasion procedure repeated, though you can also take steps to prevent a recurrence.

How can you prevent melasma recurrences?

Since melasma can be caused by sun exposure, you'll need to be careful to stay out of the sun after your microdermabrasion treatment. Every time you go outside—even on cloudy days—make sure to wear sunscreen. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat will give your face additional protection from the sun. If possible, stay indoors during the middle of the day when the sun is the strongest.

If you suffer from melasma, ask your dermatologist if microdermabrasion is right for you or visit