Melasma is a common skin problem. It causes brown to gray-brown patches, usually on the face. Most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip. It also can appear on other parts of the body that get lots of sun, such as the forearms and neck.
Melasma does not cause any symptoms. But many people dislike the way melasma makes their skin look. If you dislike these patches, sun protection and treatment can help.
What causes melasma?
What causes melasma is not yet clear. It likely occurs when the color-making cells in the skin (melanocytes) produce too much color. People with skin of color are more prone to melasma because they have more active melanocytes than people with light skin.
Common melasma triggers (what starts it) include:
- Sun exposure
- A change in hormones: Pregnant women often get melasma. When melasma appears in pregnant women, it is called chloasma, or the mask of pregnancy. Birth control pills and hormone replacement medicine also can trigger melasma.
- Skin care products: If a product irritates your skin, melasma can worsen.
Is melasma treatable?
For some women, melasma disappears on its own.
There are creams your healthcare professional can prescribe that can lighten the skin. They might also prescribe topical steroids to help lighten the affected areas. If these don't work, chemical peels, dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, mesotherapy , Nano and Pico lasers are possible options.
These procedures don't guarantee that melasma won't come back, and some cases of melasma can't be completely lightened. You might have to return for follow-up visits and stick to certain skin treatment practices to reduce the risk of the melasma returning. These include minimizing your sun exposure and wearing sunscreen daily.