What is Melasma?

Also known as chloasma faciei or the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is a condition that most commonly affects women. It appears as grayish brown patches on the face and can often appear on the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin. Melasma also sometimes shows up on the chest and forearms. Only about 10% of melasma cases happen in men.

Signs and Symptoms of Melasma

Melasma doesn’t cause any physical symptoms that someone might feel. It does cause some visible changes to the skin. Brown patches may appear on the:

  • Bridge of the nose
  • Cheeks
  • Forehead
  • Upper lip
  • Chin

While melasma sometimes appears on the neck or forearms, this is not as common.

What Causes Melasma?

There is no known cause of melasma. It is known that people with more active melanocytes are more likely to develop the condition. Risk factors for melasma include having darker skin or a blood relative who has also had melasma. There are some triggers of the condition, including:

  • Exposure to the sun or UV light
  • Hormonal shifts, such as those experienced during pregnancy
  • Birth control pills
  • Skin care products that irritate the skin

How Melasma is Treated

Sometimes, melasma can fade on its own over time. This is particularly true when the trigger is hormonal, such as in pregnancy. When melasma does not go away on its own, there are several treatments patients can consider:

  • Hydroquinone: A topical treatment that lightens the skin. This can be available in OTC and prescription forms.
  • Tretinoin and corticosteroids: Additional skin lighteners, often used in tandem with hydroquinone.
  • Azelaic acid or kojic acid.
  • Dermatological procedures, including chemical peel, microdermabrasion, dermabrasion, laser treatment, or a light-based procedure.

Only a qualified dermatologist should perform dermatological procedures to treat melasma. Consult with your physician to determine your best course of treatment.

Suggested Treatment Options

All cases of melasma are not the same, therefore we recommend seeing a specialist to help determine which treatment option is the best for you.


Hydroquinone works to lighten the skin by reducing the number of melanocytes present. Learn More


A corticosteroid works by suppressing the activity of the immune system and reducing the production of chemicals that create inflammation. Learn More


Microdermabrasion, also known as microderm, uses tiny crystals that are sprayed onto the skin to gently remove the outer layer of the epidermis. Learn More

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