Melasma

Melasma is patches of dark skin that appear on areas of the face exposed to the sun.

Causes
Melasma is a very common skin disorder. It is most common in young women with brownish skin tone, but it can affect anyone. Melasma is often associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

It is common in:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Women taking birth control pills (oral contraceptives).
  • Women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during menopause.

Being in the sun makes melasma more likely to develop. The problem is more common in tropical climates.


Symptoms

The only symptom of melasma is change in skin color. However, this can cause distress about how you look. 

The skin color changes are most often an even brown color. They usually appear on the cheeks, forehead, nose, or upper lip. Dark patches are usually symmetrical (matching on both sides of the face).


Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will look at your skin to diagnose the problem. A closer exam using a Wood's lamp may help guide your treatment.


Treatments may include:

  • Creams containing a combination of tretinoin, hydroquione, kojic acid, and azelaic acid have been shown to improve the appearance of melasma.
  • Chemical peels or topical steroid creams.
  • Laser treatments can be used to remove the dark pigment if problem is severe.
  • Stopping hormone medicines that may be causing the problem.