Melasma, a common skin disorder, causes dark patches to appear on the face. These are most commonly found on the cheeks and forehead. This benign skin condition affects men and women alike but is more prevalent in darker-skinned women.
Melasma, also called chloasma (or “masks of pregnancy”), occurs most often during pregnancy due to hormonal changes. It can develop in women who aren’t pregnant but can also be caused by sun exposure, genetics, and certain medications.
It is still unknown what causes Melasma, but the overproduction of pigment called melanin is thought to be the cause. Melasma can be caused by hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which stimulate melanin production. This is why it is more common among women who are pregnant or taking birth control pills.
Melasma is also a result of sun exposure. UV rays can cause the skin to produce melanin, resulting in dark patches. Melasma is more common in people with darker skin because their skin contains more melanin.
Certain medications can cause Melasma. This includes hormone replacement therapy and anti-seizure medication. Melasma is usually brown or grayish-brown patches that appear on the face. They are often symmetrical with a distinct border. The patches may be blotchy, irregular, or have an irregular shape. Physical symptoms like itching or pain do not accompany Melasma. However, it can cause emotional distress in some people.
How do I know?
A physical exam of the skin affected diagnoses Melasma. Your dermatologist may use a Wood’s Lamp to examine the skin under ultraviolet lights. This can be used to measure the amount of pigmentation in the skin and the extent of Melasma.
The severity of Melasma will determine the treatment. The patches will sometimes fade, particularly if the cause has been eliminated, such as pregnancy, medication, or a previous skin condition. However, treatment may be required in many cases to reduce the appearance.
Hydroquinone is a skin-lightening agent found in topical creams or gels. These products inhibit the production of skin melanin. Other topical treatments are tretinoin, which exfoliates the skin and promotes cell turnover, and corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and redness.
Melasma can also be treated with microdermabrasion and chemical peels. The outer layer of the skin is removed to reveal a more radiant, even complexion. These procedures can be done in the dermatologist’s clinic and require multiple sessions to achieve optimal results.
Another option to treat Melasma is laser therapy. A laser breaks up the pigment. Laser therapy is effective but can be expensive and require multiple sessions.
Melasma can be prevented by avoiding triggers like sun exposure and hormonal fluctuations. Sunscreens with high SPF can prevent the formation of Melasma. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or on a birth control pill to determine how to reduce the risk of developing Melasma.
Melasma, a dark patch on the face, is a skin condition common to women. Melasma is more common among women and can be caused by hormonal changes, exposure to the sun, or certain medications. There is no cure for Melasma, but treatments can reduce its appearance.
Avoiding triggers like sun exposure and hormone changes is key to preventing Melasma. You should consult a dermatologist if you’re concerned about dark patches on your face. A specialist can diagnose the condition and suggest appropriate treatment options.