dark patches on cheeks - melasma and hyperpigmentation

Dark Patches on Cheeks: What Could They Be From?

Dark patches on your cheeks, also known as melasma or hyperpigmentation, is a skin condition characterized by brown or gray-brown patches that appear on your skin. It often occurs on the cheeks, forehead, and bridge of the nose but can occur anywhere on your body. 

Hyperpigmentation is not often a cause for concern, but it may cause you to feel self-conscious. Fortunately, there are treatment options to help reduce the appearance of these patches. Before we discuss the treatment options, let’s learn about what causes these dark patches on your cheeks to form. 

What Causes Dark Spots on Cheeks? 

Dark patches on your cheeks are most commonly due to hyperpigmentation. But what causes this hyperpigmentation? There are actually many causes, including skin irritation or inflammation, hormonal changes, prolonged sun exposure, medications, and more. 

  • Skin Irritation

Some of the products we use in our hair and on our faces can irritate your skin. Prolonged irritation can eventually cause dark patches to appear on your cheeks. 

  • Skin Infections and Inflammation

Infections and inflammation, whether caused by eczema, acne, or another skin condition, often result in dark patches. 

  • Hormonal Changes

Drastic hormone changes, like those often experienced during pregnancy, can result in an increase in melasma, which can cause these dark patches to appear on your skin. 

  • Prolonged Sun Exposure

Too much sun exposure without protection can lead to dark patches appearing. This is caused by the sun triggering your body to produce more melanin, which in turn can cause dark patches.

  • Medication Side Effects

Some medications can lead to dark patches through increased skin pigmentation. The most common types of medication to increase the appearance of dark patches are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), tetracyclines, and psychotropic drugs. 

  • Diabetes

Diabetes can cause dark patches that are often confused with age spots. A key difference is that dark patches caused by diabetes feel velvety to the touch.

What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Darkening of the Skin on Cheekbones? 

Another possible cause of dark patches on your cheeks is a deficiency in the vitamin B12. However, dark patches caused by a B12 deficiency are most often found on the hands, especially the knuckles, and the feet and in people with darker skin tones. 

Does Melasma Go Away? 

Melasma can fade on its own, but this is not always the case. And even though dark patches on your cheeks can fade, it can sometimes take years for this to occur. 

Can I Prevent Dark Patches on My Cheeks?

There is only one way to try to prevent melasma, but it does not prevent all occurrences of dark patches, and you can probably make a good guess as to what it is. Yep, the best way to prevent dark patches from forming is to protect your skin from the sun. This means applying sunscreen with at least SPF 30 repeatedly throughout the day, as well as wearing clothes that protect your skin, like hats and long sleeves.

How Do I Get Rid of Dark Patches on My Cheeks?

Even though it’s not easy to prevent dark patches on your cheeks and it can take years for these dark patches to fade on their own, there are treatment options available to help diminish their appearance. The three common options for melasma treatment are chemical peels, laser skin treatment, and hydroquinone. 

  • Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are a popular way to treat melasma as they lessen the appearance of dark patches and also prevent the accumulation of melanin, reducing the possibility of new dark patches forming. 

During a chemical peel, a chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes exfoliation, leading to the skin eventually peeling off. Following a chemical peel, your skin is usually smoother, with a better tone and color. There are two peels we perform in our offices, the superficial or lunchtime peel and the medium peel. 

During a superficial peel, a mild acid is used to gently exfoliate the outer layer of skin. This type of peel is used to treat mild skin discoloration. During a medium chemical peel, glycolic or trichloroacetic acid is used to penetrate the outer and middle layers of the skins to remove damaged skin cells. This is used to treat age spots, freckles, and moderate skin discoloration.

  • Laser Skin Treatment

At Vujevich Dermatology, laser skin treatments are used to treat dark patches on your cheeks using the Excel V laser. The Excel V laser delivers a specific wavelength of light that targets red and brown structures in the skin. Once the targeted area absorbs the laser energy, the brown pigmented cells break apart and your body eventually eliminates the remnants. Because this treatment only targets red and brown lesions, it can treat melasma without damaging the surrounding skin.

Your dermatologist will perform a cosmetic consultation to determine the expected number of treatments, but larger areas typically require 3-4 treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart. Once dark patches are treated, they typically do not return. However, this does not mean new dark patches won’t develop over time. 

Before a laser skin treatment begins, pre-procedure photos are taken and protective eyewear is provided. A cooling gel is placed on the area to be treated, and then the treatment begins. The laser is moved over the treatment area while it delivers laser pulses of energy. Following the procedure, the area is cleansed and iced and sunscreen is applied. 

  • Hydroquinone 

At Vujevich Dermatology, we often recommend Melasma Gel with hydroquinone for melasma. This medication has three active ingredients – hydroquinone, tretinoin, and fluocinolone – uniquely combined to treat dark patches on your cheeks. 

Hydroquinone interrupts melanin from forming and synthesizing, leading to the lightening of your skin. Tretinoin helps exfoliate the skin by increasing cell turnover rate. Fluocinolone, a mild corticosteroid, helps reduce inflammation. 

Schedule Your Appointment

If you’re interested in learning more about the treatment options for dark patches on your cheeks, schedule an appointment with one of our highly trained dermatologists in Pittsburgh using the form below. You can also reach our team at 412-429-2570 or visit our contact page to see all of our locations. And, follow us on Facebook to see what’s new in the world of dermatology!

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