What is melasma?

It may appear on the face, causing brown to grayish facial patches, on the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, chin, and above the upper lip. It also can appear elsewhere on the body where lots of sun exposure occurs. Sun exposure is what triggers the condition.


What are the symptoms?

It doesn’t cause any symptoms in terms of the way you feel, but many don’t like the appearance.

What causes melasma?

Melasma occurs in women much more often than men, only 1 out of 10 men experience the condition, and people with darker skin are more likely to get it as well. Having a relative with the condition increases your chance of getting it. The cause is not clear.ses melasma is not yet clear. It happens when melanocytes (pigment producing cells) make too much color. (UV) light stimulates melanocytes. A change in hormones, such as from pregnacy, can trigger it, often called chloasma. Birth control pills can also trigger it, and cosmetic products can worsen the condition.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

At Dermatology of Seattle, your dermatologist may use a Wood’s light to see how deep the melasma goes into the skin. It can look like other conditions, so sometimes a biopsy is necessary. It can fade on its own, especially if the trigger (such as hormones) is stopped. Some have it for years, or all their lives. There are various treatments, such as hydroquinone, which lightens the skin, along with tretinoin or a corticosteroid to enhance the lightening. A “triple cream” (not a brie) is a medicinal cream containing all three. Dermabrasion or a chemical peel may be performed if the melasma does not respond to creams. After melasma clears, you can help prevent your melasma from returning with a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen used daily.