Melasma

Melasma is a common pigmentation disorder that causes brown or gray patches to appear on the skin, primarily on the face.

The most common areas for melasma to appear on the face include:

  • the bridge of the nose
  • the forehead
  • the cheeks
  • the upper lip

Causes
It may be due to the malfunction of the melanocytes (the color-making cells) in the skin, causing them to produce too much color.

As a result, people with darker skin tones are more likely to develop melasma, as they have more melanocytes than people with lighter skin.

Potential triggers for melasma include:

  • changes in hormones during pregnancy (chloasma), hormone treatment, or while taking¬†birth control pills
  • sun exposure
  • certain skin care products, if they irritate a person's skin

Symptoms
Apart from changes in appearance, melasma does not cause any physical symptoms.

The primary symptom of melasma is the development of discolored patches of skin. While it does not cause any other physical symptoms, some people find the appearance of these patches bothersome.

The most common area for patches of melasma to appear is the face. Common locations include the upper lips, bridge of the nose, cheeks, and forehead.

Less commonly, a person may also have patches on their arms and neck.

Treatment

Medical procedures
If topical medications do not work, a dermatologist may recommend procedures such as:

  • microdermabrasion
  • chemical peel
  • laser treatment
  • light therapy
  • dermabrasion

If a person has had melasma before, they can try to avoid triggers by:

  • limiting sun exposure
  • wearing a hat when outside
  • using sunscreen