Melasma is a condition of the skin where the color of the skin becomes darker in sun exposed areas of the face. This condition affects individuals with olive skin tones to dark pigment skin types. It is also associated with female hormones estrogen and progesterone, making it more common in women who are pregnant, using hormone-based birth control (particularly oral contraceptives), or taking hormone replacement therapy and it is sometimes even referred to as the mask of pregnancy. Because melasma occurs with sun exposure, this is a strong risk factor for the disorder and people living in tropical climates are at higher risk of developing it. Certain skin products can also irritate or worsen melasma.
Melasma generally manifests itself in a brown or gray discoloration across the cheeks, forehead, nose, chin or upper lip, and is most often uniform and symmetrical on both sides of the face. Melasma worsens with sun exposure, this is a strong risk factor for the disorder and people living in tropical climates are at higher risk of developing it. It can also be made worse with certain products.
Melasma is sometimes very bothersome to patients affected by it and there are treatment options available. Brightening agents, including but not limited to: hydroquinone, tretinoin, azelaic acid and kojic acid can improve the symptoms and discoloration of melasma. Chemical peels may also be recommended and it is very important to avoid sun exposure and use sunscreen to prevent melasma, especially among women who are pregnant, on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or using hormone birth control methods and may improve after delivery or discontinuing these treatments.