Melasma is a skin condition where brown patches appear on the skin. These patches usually appear on the cheeks, nose, forehead, chin, and upper lip. Patches can also appear on the neck and forearms.
It is common during pregnancy, but can happen in men and women.
Common Site for Melasma
Melasma usually appear on the face.
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The brown patches are due to an increased amount of melanin in the skin. The exact cause of increase in melanin is unknown. It is thought to be associated with hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Sun exposure also plays a major role.
Factors that increase your chance of melasma include: Family history of melasmaBeing a woman of reproductive ageHaving a darker skin tonePregnancyGetting too much sun exposureTaking birth control pillsUsing products that irritate the skin, such as cosmeticsTaking certain medicines, such as antiseizure medicines, or hormone therapy
The only sign of melasma is dark patches of skin. It is not painful or itchy.
Not all brown patches on your skin are melasma. Talk to your doctor about changes in your skin.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your skin will be examined. A lamp, called a Wood’s lamp, may be used to look at your skin. A small sample of skin may be taken for a biopsy. The sample will be sent to a lab to confirm the diagnosis.
Melasma may go away on its own. If it does not go away, it may need to be treated. In general, treating melasma can be difficult. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Factors that are causing the melasma may be removed. For example: Melasma associated with pregnancy may slowly fade after giving birthMelasma associated with birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy may fade after the medication is stopped
It can reappear and become darker if you become pregnant again or resume taking medication.
Protecting your skin from UV light is important in helping to fade melasma. This means avoiding sun and tanning bed exposure. Your doctor may recommend wearing sunscreen, clothing, and hats when outdoors.
Certain medicines, like bleaching creams, are used to lighten skin color. A common bleaching cream used to treat melasma is
. This may also be used with other creams, like
or glycolic acid. These creams enhance the skin-lightening effect.
Your skin may be sensitive to these medicines. Use care and start slowly when first using them. It may take several months before you see an improvement.
Other treatments remove outer layers of the skin. Examples include: Chemical peelMicrodermabrasion—removing top layer of skinLaser therapy
Along with treatment, avoid using products that can irritate your skin. These include make-up, creams, and cleansers.
To help reduce your chance of getting melasma, take the following steps: Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun. Avoid using tanning booths.Use sunscreen daily. Wear sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 30 or more.
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Last reviewed June 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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