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Melasma, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Melasma is a Greek word meaning dark spot. It is a very common skin disorder, particularly prevalent in tropical climates. Brown coloured skin people are at highest risk of getting affected. Melasma is facial skin discolouration of the sun-exposed areas. The pigmented area appears like a mask across the face.

It is particularly common in young pregnant women (also known as pregnancy mask), women taking oral contraceptive pills and women undergoing hormone replacement therapy.


  • Dark brown patches on face which may be irregular in shape
  • The pigmentation which is quite often mistaken for a tan can show up on the fore-arms also, but this is rare
  • These patches do not itch, nor are swollen, nor do they give any other symptom.


  • It is thought that female sex hormones cause the pigment producing cells in our body to be over active and deposit excess pigments. This causes a brown patch on exposure to sun.
  • Anyone can develop it spontaneously, although pregnant women are more prone.
  • Hereditary – if family history of melasma is present
  • Skin inflammations from allergic reactions.
  • Waxing of facial hair particularly above lips.
  • Anti-malarial drugs and antibiotics can activate melasma.


Melasma does not really have a cure. In many cases associated with pregnancy, the discolouration goes away after delivery or with time.

  • Cosmetic treatments include:
    • Over the counter bleaching creams to lessen the visible effects of melasma.
    • Sunscreens with a SPF of 15 or more
    • Chemical peeling done in beauty salons or use of topical steroids.
    • Laser treatment, microdermabrasion
  • All skin lightening creams and formulas should be used only under strict medical supervision, as reaction to any ingredient can make the condition worse or throw up some other skin problem.
  • Melasma usually fades months after stopping birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy or after giving birth. Wait for a few months before you go in for any cosmetic therapy. A word of precaution – it may return if you revert back to these medications or get pregnant again.
  • Women taking birth control pills should go in for another category of pills prescribed by doctor. It will not cure the existing melasma, but will prevent further occurrence.


  • Wear sunscreen with a high SPF all day if you are prone to getting melasma. Minimizing sun exposure can prevent darkening of existing spots and occurrence of new ones.

Melasma is neither risky not contagious. You just need to avoid the harmful ultraviolet rays of sun to prevent getting it. Once you have successfully lightened up your melasmic areas, all you need to is regularly maintain it to keep clear


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