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What is Melasma?

Melasma is a skin condition that is most commonly caused in women when progesterone and/or estrogen levels over stimulate the hormones that cause skin pigmentation. When a melasma outbreak is first seen, dark brown or grey spots erupt on the face creating patches on the skin. It is very typical in dark-skinned woman who are pregnant, but can occur in light-skinned woman as well, and sometimes men.

Epidemiology of Melasma and Chloasma

Many pregnant women who contract this skin oddity are left asking “what is Melasma?”. Expectant mothers are not the only people who come down with melasma. There are several known triggers that bring on a bout of this skin disorder including sun exposure, hormone replacement, intrauterine devices, oral contraceptives, scented or deodorant soaps, certain medications and hypothyroidism. When pregnant women get this disease, it is often referred to as chloasma.

Melasma is More Common to Develop in Women

If a person is asking “What is Melasma?”, the first thing they should know is it is more common in women between the age of 20 and 40. Rarely, it strikes women in childhood that are predisposed genetically to the condition. Only one in 20 men come down with melasma, usually dark-skinned men of Central American or Latin origin who a have a family history of melasma, or an over-exposure to sunlight. Exposure to the sun makes melasma worse and it is advised for patients to limit time outdoors.

The Mask of Pregnancy

By far, the largest group of melasma sufferers is pregnant women that contract chloasma, birth control users and women utilizing hormone replacement therapy. The patches, which can begin as small moles, develop over time and usually first appear over the nose, cheeks and forehead. The small moles become worse, growing in size and forming irregularly shaped patches over the epidermal layer of the skin. In most cases, these patches appear in uniform size across both sides of the face.

Treatments for Melasma and Chloasma

Melasma can be very tough to treat and response times to therapies can be slow and frustrating. A combination of measures is usually employed to reduce the irritation including discontinuing any medications that may be inflaming the condition, use of broad-spectrum sunscreen, topical therapies such as corticosteroids, oral medication or facial peels with alpha hydroxyacids including glycolic acid and lactic acid.

Machine Therapies for Melasma and Chloasma

In addition, machines can be used to slough off epidermal pigmentation caused by melasma. Destroying the pigment is one of the easiest solutions to clearing this skin problem. These machines, known as IPL's, pulse intense light through the skin layers, but results can take time. However, about 30% of melasma sufferers achieve complete healing through this light therapy method.


What is Melasma