Melasma is a common cause of facial darkening (hyperpigmentation) in women. It is related to hormonal changes and can be worsened by oral contraceptives.
Melasma is a common cause of facial darkening (hyperpigmentation) in women. It is related to hormonal changes and can be worsened by oral contraceptives.
This image displays subtle darkening (hyperpigmentation) of lip in a woman with melasma.
This image displays subtle darkening (hyperpigmentation) of lip in a woman with melasma.
In melasma, which most commonly occurs in females following pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives, the skin is darker, but the lesions are not raised.
In melasma, which most commonly occurs in females following pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives, the skin is darker, but the lesions are not raised.
A frequent location for the increased darkness (pigmentation) seen in melasma is the upper lip.
A frequent location for the increased darkness (pigmentation) seen in melasma is the upper lip.
As displayed in this image, melasma, while usually affecting the cheeks and lips, can also appear on the forehead.
As displayed in this image, melasma, while usually affecting the cheeks and lips, can also appear on the forehead.
This image displays melasma on the lips and cheeks.
This image displays melasma on the lips and cheeks.
In this image, melasma is on the cheeks and extends to the temple.
In this image, melasma is on the cheeks and extends to the temple.
Sun-exposed areas of the face can be affected by melasma, seen on the nose and upper lip in this young woman.
Sun-exposed areas of the face can be affected by melasma, seen on the nose and upper lip in this young woman.
This image displays extensive irregular areas of melasma across the cheeks, nose, and chin.
This image displays extensive irregular areas of melasma across the cheeks, nose, and chin.
Melasma is particularly noticeable in people with darker skin.
Melasma is particularly noticeable in people with darker skin.
This image displays melasma affecting the cheeks and upper lip.
This image displays melasma affecting the cheeks and upper lip.
This image displays extensive melasma on the cheek area.
This image displays extensive melasma on the cheek area.
This image displays a lace-like pattern on the cheeks typical of melasma.
This image displays a lace-like pattern on the cheeks typical of melasma.

Images of Melasma (13)

Melasma is a common cause of facial darkening (hyperpigmentation) in women. It is related to hormonal changes and can be worsened by oral contraceptives.
This image displays subtle darkening (hyperpigmentation) of lip in a woman with melasma.
In melasma, which most commonly occurs in females following pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives, the skin is darker, but the lesions are not raised.
A frequent location for the increased darkness (pigmentation) seen in melasma is the upper lip.
As displayed in this image, melasma, while usually affecting the cheeks and lips, can also appear on the forehead.
This image displays melasma on the lips and cheeks.
In this image, melasma is on the cheeks and extends to the temple.
Sun-exposed areas of the face can be affected by melasma, seen on the nose and upper lip in this young woman.
This image displays extensive irregular areas of melasma across the cheeks, nose, and chin.
Melasma is particularly noticeable in people with darker skin.
This image displays melasma affecting the cheeks and upper lip.
This image displays extensive melasma on the cheek area.
This image displays a lace-like pattern on the cheeks typical of melasma.

Melasma

Melasma is a common disorder of unknown cause that causes dark (hyperpigmented) patches, primarily on the face. The condition is marked by brown patches that worsen in response to increases of the hormone estrogen, such as during pregnancy or with the use of birth control pills. Other medications, such as anti-seizure medications, may also cause melasma. Increased sun exposure can also be a cause.

Who's At Risk?

  • Although the condition is more common in women, men can also have melasma.
  • People with darker skin are generally more likely to have it.
  • Family history increases likelihood of developing melasma.

Signs & Symptoms

The dark patches of melasma most commonly affect the face, particularly the sides (lateral portions) of the cheeks and sometimes the skin above the lips.

Take a picture of your skin condition with Aysa

Symptom checkers like Aysa can help narrow down possible skin conditions by analyzing a skin photo.

Self-Care Guidelines

  • Protect your skin from sun exposure to prevent worsening, and use a combined UVB+UVA sunscreen.
  • Use sunscreen year-round, since the skin is very sensitive to even small amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • With your doctor’s permission, stop using medications that may be causing your melasma.
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Treatments

  • Use bleaching agents (hydroquinone 4%) carefully. Do not apply these agents to the normally pigmented surrounding skin, as normal skin may also be bleached. Use hydroquinone under the supervision of a physician, as side effects, such as darkening of the skin, may occur.
  • Hydroquinone is often irritating and may require the use of 1% hydrocortisone cream, which may also help with the hyperpigmentation. Combination therapy with tretinoin cream may also be helpful.
  • Superficial chemical peels (application of an acid to remove the top layers of the skin) and microdermabrasion (a facial sanding technique) may offer additional help.
  • A topical agent, azelaic acid, may be helpful.
  • Laser therapy has not yet been shown to be satisfactory treatment. Melasma may return and hyperpigmentation may develop in the treated area.

Visit Urgency

Melasma is a benign condition that does not require treatment, but if it becomes bothersome, see your doctor.

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References

Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.975-976. New York: Mosby, 2003.

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.868-869, 1316, 2507. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.