Melasma

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Melasma facts

  • Melasma is most common in women 20-50 years of age.
  • Melasma looks like brown, tan, or blue-gray spots on the face (hyperpigmentation).
  • Melasma is characterized by three location patterns (central face, cheekbone, and jawline).
  • Melasma is caused partly by sun, genetic predisposition, and hormonal changes.
  • The most common treatment is topical creams containing hydroquinone.
  • Melasma prevention requires sun avoidance and sun protection with hats and sunscreen.

What is melasma? What are signs of melasma?

Melasma is a very common patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray facial skin discoloration, almost entirely seen in women in the reproductive years. It typically appears on the upper cheeks, upper lip, forehead, and chin of women 20-50 years of age. Although possible, it is uncommon in males. Over 90% of those with melasma are women. It is thought to be primarily related to external sun exposure, external hormones like birth control pills, and internal hormonal changes as seen in pregnancy. Most people with melasma have a history of daily or intermittent sun exposure, although heat is also suspected to be an underlying factor. Melasma is most common among pregnant women, especially those of Latin and Asian descents. People with olive or darker skin, like Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern individuals, have higher incidences of melasma.

An estimated 6 million women are living in the U.S. with melasma and 45-50 million women worldwide live with melasma. Prevention is primarily aimed at facial sun protection and sun avoidance. Treatment requires regular sunscreen application, medications such as 4% hydroquinone and fading creams.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/9/2013

Patient Comments

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Melasma - Causes Question: At what stage in your life did melasma occur, and what was the cause (if known)?
Melasma - Location on Body Question: Please describe where on your body you experienced melasma.
Melasma - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment did you receive for your melasma?
Melasma - Prognosis Question: Describe your experience with melasma. Did it fade or go away?

Melasma Treatment

Who is a good candidate for a chemical peel?

The most common candidate for a chemical peel is a person with sun-damaged skin, uneven pigmentation, and/or actinic keratoses.