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Melasma is a common skin problem. It causes brown to gray-brown patches on the face. Most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip. It also can appear on other parts of the body that get lots of sun, such as the forearms and neck.

This is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy (sometimes called the ‘mask of pregnancy’) or while on the contraceptive pill. It’s most common in women who have slightly darker skin, but can affect anyone.’ Dark patches caused by pregnancy often fade naturally, and marks from the contraceptive pill may fade if you stop taking it, but in some cases treatment is needed to get rid of it completely. There is also a clear correlation between female hormones and melasma, since not only are pregnant women more susceptible, but so are women on birth control or hormone replacement therapy. Sun exposure makes the development of melasma more likely, so women in tropical climates are more prone to the condition.


Melasma is usually diagnosed through a simple physical examination of the skin. A Wood’s lamp, which uses ultraviolet light, is used to highlight skin discolorations and direct the course of treatment.


Sometimes patients may achieve symptom relief if they stop taking estrogen and progesterone, the hormones linked to the disorder. Other treatments for melasma may include:
• Topical skin-bleaching agents
• Chemical peels
• Topical corticosteroids
• Laser treatment
• Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy
• Microdermabrasion or dermabrasion