What is Melasma

Melasma is a common skin disorder resulting in brown to gray-brown patches, and commonly appears on the face, especially on the cheeks, forehead, chin and the bridge of the nose. Most melasma occurs in women; however, 10% of cases affect men. The cause of melasma remains unknown but is believed to be due to an increase in the production of cells which release the pigment melanin, resulting in darkening of the skin. Because melasma is so common and has a very characteristic appearance the diagnosis of melasma is made by the physician in most cases by just looking at the skin.

The condition is universal and seen in all cultures and ethnicities; however it is far more commonly seen in people with darker skin tones including those of Asian, Hispanic, Latin, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African descent. Individuals with these backgrounds have higher levels of melanin in their skin and a tendency to tan. There often is a family history of melasma. Individuals with fair skin may experience a lighter shade of melasma which is not always recognized.

There are multiple factors which are thought to trigger melasma including some cosmetics, birth control pills, hormone therapy, drugs that cause sun sensitivity, certain ant-seizure medications and sun exposure. In addition, melasma is very common during pregnancy and after childbirth. Pregnancy related melasma is referred to as chloasma or the "mask of pregnancy".

Melasma Management

1. Avoid Triggers 

Sun exposure can trigger melasma because melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) in the skin are responsible for producing melanin (pigment) and are stimulated by UV rays from the sun. Darker skin individuals have more active melanocytes and so produce more pigment than people with light skin. Melanin production increases when stimulated by sun exposure. The main reason for melasma returning after it has faded is sun exposure; even small amounts can trigger melasma. For this reason it is very important to use a broad spectrum (protects from UVA and UVB rays) and has a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or more.

2. Melasma Treatments

Melasma sometimes resolves or fades on its own, especially after pregnancy or discontinuing birth control pills. If, however, you have persistent melasma various melasma treatments have been developed including:

  • Skin Care Products e.g. Cysteamine
  • Chemical Peels
  • BBL Skin Rejuvenation Treatment
  • Laser Skin Rejuvenation

It may take several months for improvement to occur so it is important to follow up with our skin care staff and to follow their recommendations in order to maximize the benefit from melasma treatment. The Aesthetic Studio Clinic & Surgery offers a wide range of melasma treatments to help with this condition. In addition, our experienced nurses and doctors can recommend quality cosmetics that will not trigger melasma.