Melasma

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. Because it is common in pregnant women, melasma may be referred to as the mask of pregnancy.

  • Causes

    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.

  • Definition

    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.

    Because it is common in pregnant women, melasma may be referred to as the mask of pregnancy.

    Common Sites on the Face for Melasma
    AM00013 face
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  • Diagnosis

    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.

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of getting melasma:

    • 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.

  • Risk Factors

    Melasma is more common in women during their reproductive years, but it can occur in men. Other factors that increase may your chance of melasma include:

    • Family history of melasma
    • Being a woman of reproductive age
    • Having a darker skin tone
    • Pregnancy
    • Getting too much sun exposure
    • Taking birth control pills
    • Using products that irritate the skin, such as cosmetics
    • Certain medications, such as antiseizure drugs or hormone therapy

  • Symptoms

    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.

  • Treatment

    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.