In last weeks’ article we discussed skin spots and how to take care of them and remove them. This week, we will focus on skin tags and Melasma.
What are skin tags?
Skin tags are small skin growths that hang off your skin. They’re pretty common, and even if they do not cause any issues, you may with to remove them for aesthetic or comfort reasons.
Skin tags are small, soft, skin-coloured extra growths on your skin. They can vary largely in colour and size between a few millimetres and 5cm wide. They can grow anywhere on your body, but are usually found where your skin folds, commonly on the neck, armpits, or even under the breasts. Skin tags can also grow on the eyelids.
People often confuse skin tags and warts. Here are the main differences between them: Skin tags are
- not contagious (warts spread very easily)
- smooth and soft (warts usually have an irregular surface and they are rougher)
- they hang off the skin (warts are flat or slightly raised)
What is in a skin tag?
Skin tags consist of loose collagen fibres (collagen is one of the main proteins in connective tissue, so it’s the most abundant protein in mammals) and blood vessels surrounded by skin. Both men and women can develop skin tags. There is higher prevalence in older people, people with type 2 diabetes and people who are obese.
Pregnant women may be more likely to develop skin tags as a result of changes in their hormone levels, and this is the same for menopausal women. Very commonly, people develop them for no apparent reason.
Remedies for skin tags
First of all, before removing skin tags, talk to your GP. Different sized skin tags require different removals. You can easily remove small skin tags by burning or freezing them off in the same way you remove warts. Some larger skin tags will need to be removed surgically under local anaesthetic.
Removing skin tags by freezing or burning stops blood circulation to the skin tag. As a result, it can cause temporary skin irritation and skin discolouration. This is not a 100% effective method and you might need further treatment, which is why it’s best to talk to your GP. Surgical removal has the advantage of removing the skin tag completely. There is a risk of minor bleeding associated with surgical removal which generally depends on the size of the skin tag.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is the result of hormonal changes within your body. It is sometimes known as the “mask of pregnancy”, as it is more likely to happen during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. The name “mask” comes from the presence of large patches or areas of darker skin pigmentation that appears on the face (the forehead in most cases), nose, and chin. It is also common in menopause, where diminished levels of oestrogen can give rise to the very same phenomenon.
Remedies for melasma
Melasma may eventually go away on its own, but it can take time and dedication. The following advice can help manage Melasma as well as protecting against any future recurrence.
Limit sun exposure.
This is the number one rule for most skin related issues. Sun is extremely good for your health as it boosts Vitamin D production which is pivotal for bone health.
However, an unhealthy amount of exposure can be detrimental for your skin health. In fact, the best Melasma treatment is usually prevention as sun exposure is a leading trigger. When going outdoors you should wear a wide hat, sunglasses, and good sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. This is the number one step and it is very important.
Good nutrition is the key.
Additional sun protection strategies include trying to eat a mostly anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants. You can do this by filling your plate with plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, like olive and avocado oil and omega-3 fatty acids like salmon. There are various supplements you may also wish to consider. The most common are those containing grape seed extract, green tea extract, omega-3 fatty acids and astanxanthin.
If natural remedies are not really working for you, there are a number of topical treatments you may want to try. Talk with your doctor about the different types available and which would be most suitable for you.
- Tretinoin and corticosteroids: Topical tretinoin (Retin-A) may increase skin lightening.
- Hydroquinone: This is usually the first-line treatment for Melasma. You apply it directly to the areas you’d like to lighten. It is available in many prescription strengths and you can also buy a less-powerful over-the-counter varieties. One thing to remember: this medicine should be used briefly and not for a prolonged period, as it can cause a darkening of the skin called ochronosis.
- Azelic acid: This works in a similar way to hydroquinone and also could be paired with tretinoin in order to enhance the effects.
- Kojic acid: Kojic acid is a natural compound found in soy and mushrooms. It can help with Melasma as it can decrease the amount of pigment within the melanocytes. However, it has been demonstrated that kojic acid can sometimes cause contact sensitivity. For this reason careful use is important to avoid skin irritation that could actually worsen Melasma.
- Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic acid): Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant that can mildly prevent the absorption of UV radiation and the consequent formation of free-radicals. It is well tolerated by the body, and can be used alone or in combination with other topical therapies.
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): Many studies indicate that niacinamide can be effective for melasma. Melanocytes produce melanosomes which are responsible of the colour of skin; niacinamide can help block melanin transfer to the outer layers of the skin, lessening pigment.