Melasma: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 1/29/2021

Melasma is a pigmentation of the cheeks of the face. Ninety percent of cases occur in women. Risk factors for melasma include pregnancy and having a darker complexion.

Signs and symptoms of melasma include brown or gray-brown patches on the cheeks, nose, upper lip, chin, and/or forehead. Occasionally, the darkened areas can appear in other parts of the body such as the forearms, neck, or shoulders. Melasma is not painful and does not pose any health risks.

Causes of melasma

The exact cause of melasma is unknown, but certain triggers for its development include use of birth control pills, sun exposure, and certain skin care products. Increases in hormone levels during pregnancy often trigger the condition, which is termed chloasma or "mask of pregnancy."

Other melasma symptoms and signs

  • Brown or Gray-Brown Patches on the Cheeks, Nose, Upper Lip, Chin, and/or Forehead


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.