Melasma is a darkening of the skin on the face caused by excessive production of melanin by melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells.
Manifesting as darker patches on cheeks, forehead, nose and chin, melasma affects an estimated 6 to 7 million women. (Men can develop it, but it is rare.) It is more common in people with light brown skin, especially Hispanics and Asians.
Melasma is usually caused by normal hormonal changes in women — during pregnancy or when taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Because of the way it looks when it usually occurs, melasma is sometimes called the "mask of pregnancy." It can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much of the face is discolored and how much darker than normal your skin has become. Melasma may also be associated with the use of certain anti-epileptic drugs.
Melasma only occurs on the areas of your skin that are exposed to the sun. Exposure to the sun, even during normal daily activities, can further darken melasma patches.
Melasma can be embarrassing, especially in a society where appearance is important and valued. Fortunately, treatment is available.
What is Melasma?
Melasma is a hyperpigmentation disorder of the skin and is characterized by dark spots or blotches on the face, forehead and neck.
Caused by an imbalance of hormones, melasma is the result of excess melanin being deposited in the dermal or epidermal layers of the skin. The skin naturally darkens, or tans, in response to sun exposure, due to the pigment melanin. In women with melasma, the imbalance of melanin in certain areas of the face cause the dark patches to form.
The majority of melasma cases occur during pregnancy or with oral contraceptive use, but women who are taking hormone replacement therapy can also develop melasma. Between 50% and 70% of pregnant women experience melasma, usually during the second or third trimester. Melasma seems to run in families — if your mother and grandmother had melasma, you are more likely to develop it.
Control melasma and face a brighter future.
Melasma is often brushed aside as a condition that will "go away on its own." Not necessarily true. Melasma can get worse as time goes on due to day-to-day sun exposure. Fortunately, there are treatments that can help fade melasma patches. If you have melasma or have had it in the past, you need to protect your skin from the sun. Even minimal daily exposure can cause your melasma to return or can darken existing spots. Wear a sunscreen every day with an SPF of 30 or greater. Also try to shield your face from the sun with hats or visors.