What is melasma?
Melasma is a condition characterized by brown spots on the skin, with the spots usually occurring on the face.
Melasma is best known to happen in pregnant women (pregnancy mask), but it also occurs in women who are not pregnant. Though not as common, melasma happens in men as well. This condition is also more common in patients with darker skin and in people who live in warmer climates.
What does melasma look like?
It classically looks like brown patches on the skin, overlying the cheeks. These patches could also affect other parts of the face including the forehead, nose, chin and lips.
When should I see a doctor?
If you notice brown or grayish patches on your skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist to discuss your options. It is important to recognize that there are other types of conditions that can mimic melasma (ie, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, Nevus of Ota, etc) and your doctor can help you sort it all out.
Can I be tested for melasma?
Unfortunately there isn’t a test for the condition, however, the appearance on exam alone should be enough to make a diagnosis.
Are there treatment options for melasma?
The short answer is yes! And your doctor can prescribe creams or oral medication to lighten these dark patches, recommend effective over the counter products, or perform procedures (ie, chemical peels) that can help. Improvement can take several weeks to months to see.
Here is some general advice if you have melasma:
●Wear sunscreen that protects broadly against UVB and UVA rays everyday.
●Practice sun avoidance. Although wearing sunscreen is good, prolonged sun exposure can still have a negative effect on your skin.
Of note, melasma induced by pregnancy can go away in about a year or become a long lasting condition. Even if your melasma completely resolves with proper treatment, your dermatologist may still need to continue you on a maintenance routine to maintain your improvement.