Melasma is a very common skin disorder that occurs on areas of the face that are exposed to the sun, creating dark discolorations on the skin. It 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 can usually be diagnosed simply due to this appearance of the skin, although a closer examination using a Wood’s lamp is sometimes done.
Melasma can affect anyone, but it is more prevalent among young women with darker or olive 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. Because Melasma occurs with sun exposure, this is a strong risk factor for the disorder.
How can Melasma be treated?
Topical creams containing hydroquinone, tretinoin, azelaic acid and kojic acid can improve the symptoms and discoloration of melasma. Treatments like Microdermabrasion, Chemical peels and Intense Pulsed Light, and possible ablative lasers may also be recommended.
It is very important to avoid sun exposure and use sunscreen to prevent expresstion of Melasma, especially among women who are pregnant, on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or using hormone birth control methods. Melasma often fades within several months of stopping HRT or birth control pills, and after childbirth.