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Melasma - Definition, Causes and Treatment


Melasmaalso known as chloasma or the mask of pregnancy, is a tan or dark facial skin discoloration. 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 (HRT) 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. Melasma is mainly associated with hormonal changes.

Melasma, may also be noticed in healthy, normal, non-pregnant women,where it is presumed to be due to some mild and harmless hormonal imbalance. It produces dark brown patches of pigmentation on sun-exposed areas, usually on the face.

Causes of melasma:-

The possible causes of melasma are as:-

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.

The majority of cases appear related to pregnancy or oral contraceptives.

Sun exposure does appear to be a stimulating factor in predisposed individuals.

Treatments of melasma:

These includes:-

  • 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.
  • Hydroquinone creams, can help fade existing melasma spots. Doctors usually recommend prescription hydroquinone products when less-concentrated over-the-counter formulations aren't effective.
  • Tretinoin i.e. Retin-A , Renova, is sometimes used alone or in combination with hydroquinone to treat melasma. It increases the turnover of skin cells, a process that helps reduce excess pigmentation. Tretinoin lightens melasma spots slowly over several months. The spots usually reappear after treatment stops.
  • 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.