Melasma – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

March 27 01:30 2019 Print This Article

Melasma is a very common skin disorder, characterized by irregular patches of dark patches on the skin. Melasma is also known by other names such as Chloasma and Mask of pregnancy . Although it can affect anyone, melasma is particularly common in women, especially pregnant women and those who are taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy medications. Melasma appears as a blotchy, brownish pigmentation on the face that develops slowly and fades with time. Chloasma usually affects women but occasionally is seen in young men who use after-shave lotions, scented soaps, and other toiletries. The disorder is most common in sunny climates and in people of Latin or Asian origin. Melasma produces irregular, patchy areas of dark color that are the same on both sides of the face.

The pigmentation most often occurs in the center of the face and on the cheeks, forehead, upper lip, and nose. Sometimes people have the patches only on the sides of the face. Rarely, melasma appears on the forearms. The patches do not itch or hurt and are only of cosmetic significance. Melasma usually fades after pregnancy or when an oral contraceptive is discontinued. People with melasma can use sunscreens on the dark patches and avoid sun exposure to prevent the condition from getting worse. Skin-bleaching creams containing hydroquinone and retinoic acid can help lighten the dark patches.

Melasma is a skin condition in which brown patches occur primarily on the cheekbones, forehead and upper lip. The most common sites of involvement are the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, and upper lip. Melasma does not cause any other symptoms beyond the cosmetic discoloration but may be of great cosmetic concern. Different types of melasma occur depending on the location of the excess melanin, in the epidermis or the dermis. Melasma is thought to be caused by elevated levels of estrogen, progesterone, and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (a hormone that causes melanin cells to make more melanin). Pregnancy-induced melasma usually resolves after delivery, but may return with subsequent pregnancies or with oral contraceptives. Treatment of melasma depends on the type and involves skin-lightening agents and sometimes tretinoin (Retin-A). The proper use of sunscreen is also important because UV light can worsen melasma.

Causes of Melasma

Find common causes and risk factors of Melasma:

  • Sunlight is a major factor in the development of melasma
  • Pregnancy (mask of pregnancy) is the most common cause of melasma.
  • Women who are taking oral contraceptives are at risk of developing melasma.
  • The main cause of melasma is uncertain. People with a family history of melasma are more likely to develop melasma themselves. A change in hormonal status may trigger melasma.
  • Some anti-malarial drugs and antibiotics can trigger melasma.
  • The majority of cases appear related to pregnancy or oral contraceptives.

Signs and Symptoms of Melasma

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Irregular in shape.
  • Tan, dark brown patches.

Treatment for Melasma

Treatment may include:

  • The best way to prevent melasma is to limit your exposure to sunlight and regularly apply a sunscreen with an SPF of least 15, such as Neutrogena Sensitive Skin sunblock or Olay Daily Care moisturizer.
  • Chemical peels, are liquid solutions applied to the skin to provide a mild chemical burn, similar to sunburn. Over time, the burned layers peel off, leaving fresh, new skin. Chemical peels vary in strength.
  • Wearing sunscreen on a regular basis helps to prevent melasma from becoming worse.
  • Hydroquinone 4% cream (available by prescription) applied to the face twice a day (in the morning before applying sun screen and later in the day) is the main treatment for melasma.
  • Retin-A cream applied to the entire face each night before bed has been shown to be an effective treatment for melasma.

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