Melasma Causes Treatment

Melasma: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Melasma is a common skin disorder causing dark pigmentation on your skin. The condition can cause brown or gray patches to appear on your skin. It occurs commonly on the face, making you feel embarrassed. Compared to men, women are more likely to get skin condition. The condition is common during pregnancy. Therefore, the condition is also known as the mask of pregnancy. The problem is mostly triggered due to the abnormal hormonal levels in the body. Women who suffer from the condition can feel self-conscious due to the dark pigmentation on their face. It can affect their visual appearance, making them feel bad about meeting people. But, you have medications and other options to lighten the spots on your skin. Read ahead to know about the condition and the ways to manage them.

What Is Melasma?


It is the common pigmentation disorder causing gray or brown patches to appear on the skin. It primarily develops on the face. The common areas the patches can appear on the face include:

  • Your forehead
  • The bridge of the nose
  • Your upper lip
  • The cheeks

In some people, melasma can appear in other regions of the body. It is more susceptible to appear in areas exposed to sunlight. So, the areas with increased risk of developing dark pigmentation are:

  • The shoulders
  • Your neck
  • The forearms

Studies suggest that only 10% of the total cases of dark pigmentation develop in men. So, the condition is common among women. It is prominent in women with dark complexion (mostly Asians) and who are pregnant. The risk increases with fluctuating hormones and sun exposure.

Causes Of Melasma

Causes Of Melasma

The main question that comes to your mind is the underlying reason triggering the condition. Unfortunately, the doctor has no clear answers to why the condition occurs. It is speculated that the malfunction of melanocytes can result in it. Melanocytes are the color-making cells in your body. The malfunction of the cells can result in excess production of color. It can result in grey or brown spots on the face. It affects people with a darker skin tone as they have more melanocytes compared to people with lighter skin. The condition is triggered when certain factors come into play. The potential triggers for the problem include:

Change Of Hormones

Women experience hormonal changes in their body due to different condition. The hormone fluctuation can trigger the production of melanocytes leading to dark spots. You can experience hormonal fluctuation during the following events:

  • Undergoing hormone treatment (for menopause or other condition)
  • Pregnancy (Chloasma)
  • Taking birth control pills (to stop menorrhagia or as an oral contraceptive)
  • Excess sun exposure
  • Allergic reaction to certain skincare products that cause irritation

In some cases, the genetic component also can result in skin pigmentation. So, people with close relatives experienced or experiencing the condition can develop it.

Symptoms Associated With Melasma

The dark pigmentation is the only change occurring due to the condition. You will not see any other physical symptoms associated with the problem. The primary symptom of the condition is the development of grey or brown patches on your skin. But, the development of the discolored patches can make you feel bothered. It can affect the way you look since it appears on your face. The condition causes no serious health complications. The symptoms associated with melasma are:

  • Change in skin color in your cheeks, forehead or upper lip
  • Brown patches with no itching or irritation
  • Symmetrical, even brown/grey patches on the skin

If the condition bothers you, then visit a dermatologist to get treatments. It will lighten the skin tone. So, you can see the pigmentation fading away.

Diagnosis Of Melasma

In most cases, people visit their doctor for the condition when it affects their self-confidence. The spots on your face can make you feel self-conscious. So, with assistance from the dermatologist, you can manage the skin condition. But, melasma can resemble other skin conditions. Therefore, your doctor diagnoses the problem to rule out other problems.

Visual Examination

Your doctor first performs a visual examination to see the changes occurring on your skin. Since skin pigmentation can indicate any number of skin condition, your doctor suggests other tests to conclude the problem.

Wood’s Lamp Examination

During the test, a special kind of light is held up on your skin for testing. It allows your dermatologist to check for infections caused by bacteria or fungi. It is also helpful in determining the number of layers of skin the condition has affected.

Skin Biopsy

It involves taking a sample of skin from the affected area and sending it to the lab for testing. It is examined in the laboratory to check the presence of other serious skin problems.

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor can suggest the ideal treatment plan to manage the condition. You need to remain patient as the treatment may take time to show positive results.

Treatment For Melasma

In some cases, people who suffer from pigmentation disorders can see changes without any treatment. So, the condition can reverse without medical intervention. Depending on the underlying reasons, you need appropriate treatment. Dark spots caused due to hormonal changes (due to pregnancy or taking birth control pills) reverse themselves once the hormones return to normal. So, it can clear after delivery or by stopping the birth control pills. In other cases, the condition can last for many years. If you find the pigments bothersome, you need to seek treatment. The treatment options focus on removing the spots or fading them. Remember, the treatment options can take some time to show results. So, you need to remain patient.

As each person is different, the treatments may show different results. One method may work well for one person while others may not see visible results. Once you see results from the treatment, you need to follow the doctor’s guidelines. In some cases, you need maintenance therapy to prevent the condition from recurring. But, some people may see the problem returning even after successful treatment. So, the treatment option available for melasma are:

Topical Treatment For Melasma

Multiple options of topical treatments are available. So, your doctor can suggest one of the options for managing the conditions. The management of melasma needs a long-term plan. It is challenging and needs suggestion from your doctor. Topical treatments are mostly suggested due to the low risk of side effects compared to other options.


Hydroquinone is the first line of treatment opted by a dermatologist to manage dark pigmentation of your skin. You can apply lotion or cream containing hydroquinone directly on the skin. It works by reducing the number of melanocytes present at the affected site. The dark skin patches contain several numbers of melanocytes, which makes melanin. Melanin can make your skin dark. So, the cream, gel or lotion can bleach the skin. Applying creams containing hydroquinone for a few weeks can even the skin tone. The results appear only slowly. You can get the product over-the-counter. Stronger prescriptions of the product are also available, which your doctor can prescribe.

Corticosteroids And Tretinoin

The combination of corticosteroids and tretinoin offers faster and effective management of the dark spots. So, applying products that contain both corticosteroids and tretinoin can lighten the dark patches on the skin. You can get the product that comes in lotion, gel, and cream form.

Combined Creams

In some cases, your dermatologist can select creams that have a combination of ingredients. The creams contain a potent combination of corticosteroids, hydroquinone, and tretinoin. The creams are also known as triple creams. Tretinoin is the form of Vitamin A. It is effective in the renewing of your skin cells quickly. While corticosteroids and hydroquinone reduce the melanin content. So, it helps manage the dark pigmentation on the face.

Other Topical Medications

Apart from the above mentioned medicated creams, your doctor can also prescribe the following medications to lighten the pigmented skin.

Azelaic Acid

Azelaic Acid

It is the natural acid found it in grains. You can find the acid in the rye, wheat, and barley. It is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. So, it is effective in treating several skin conditions. Azelaic acid inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase. It is the enzyme that stimulated melanin production. So, by blocking the enzyme, your skin can achieve even tone.

Kojic Acid

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid is formed when certain products ferment (like rice wine, soy sauce, Japanese sake). It is a combination of different type of fungi. The acid prevents the formation of tyrosinase enzyme. So, it offers skin lightening effects.

Medical Procedures For Melasma

In some cases, topical medication offers no relief to people. So, your dermatologist can recommend other procedures that show results. The following procedures can show visible results for conditions like melasma.



It is the minimally invasive procedure to eliminate the dark spots. Your doctor can suggest it to renew the overall skin tone as well as texture. The procedure involves using a special applicator. The applicator with an abrasive surface can gently sand off your thick outer layer of the skin. It will rejuvenate the skin and brighten it. Another technique involves spraying the fine particles of sodium bicarbonate or aluminum oxide with suction/vacuum to get the same result as microdermabrasion with an abrasive surface.

Chemical Peel

A chemical peel is effective for people with lighter skin tone who suffer from dark pigmentation or spots. The procedure improves the appearance of your skin. During the treatment, your doctor applies a chemical solution to the skin. The solution causes your skin to blister and peels off eventually. The new skin has a smoother texture and looks bright. The new skin has lightened spots.

Laser Treatment

Laser treatment is effective in treating different dermatological conditions. It is the revolutionized treatment option can offer relief for people suffering from pigmentary disorders. The treatment option has variable success in different pigmented condition. But, people suffering from melasma can see visible results with laser treatment.

Light Therapy

Light Therapy

Your doctor can also suggest intense pulse therapy for removing the dark spots or pigmentation from your skin. IPL is a form of light therapy that can also treat wrinkles, age spots or broken blood vessels. During the procedure, multiple lights of different wavelength of light (instead of a single wavelength of light focused on the area) are scattered on the affected area. It penetrates deep into your skin layers and lightens the skin. The procedure causes no harm to the epidermis.


It is the procedure that uses a diamond wheel or wire brush to remove the upper layers of your skin. The rough edges of the brush or wheel remove the skin. Once the treated area heals, you can see the new skin growing in its place. It can lighten dark spots.

Before undergoing any of the treatment, you need to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons associated with each procedure. Some of the above-mentioned pigmentation treatment options have side effects or cause further skin issues. Therefore, it is better to gather all the information about the risks associated with the problem and make an informed decision.

Home Remedies For Melasma

You can try some home remedies that can prove effective in lightening the discolored patches on your skin. So, you can try any of the suggested home treatments. Check which one offers you visible results to continue it. Here are the effective home treatments you can try:

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a well-known lightening agent. It has astringent properties that will lighten the brown patches appearing on your skin. The acidic nature of the skin can remove the outer layer of your skin. So, you can get rid of the hyperpigmented skin. Just apply the lemon juice directly on your skin affected by melasma. Rub on the spot gently for at least two to three minutes. Apply lemon juice daily on the pigmented skin twice for at least three weeks to see results.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a common product used for several home remedies. It has acetic acid, which has bleaching properties. So, it can reduce the pigmentation of the skin. Your skin will glow and look radiant with the use of ACV. Mix water and ACV (equal parts) and apply on the skin. The application of the solution on the affected areas regularly will remove the spots.


Turmeric has known medicinal properties. It is effective in curing several ailments in your body. You can use the product for curing different skin problems with ease. It can effectively reduce your skin’s melanin. So, turmeric can help combat pigmentation problems with ease. Make a paste of turmeric with water and apply to the spots. Wash it after some time.

 Onion Juice

Applying onion juice on your skin is another effective home remedy. It is the simple home treatment option that can restore your natural skin tone without any side effects. Onion has sulfur compounds like cepaenes and sulfoxides, which effectively clears the dark spots on the skin. The wide range of Sulphur compounds can help face the spots on the skin. Onion juice is also good for providing nourishment to your skin cells. So, you can see the glow on your skin due to the brightening properties.

Coping And Living With Melasma

Some cases of the skin condition can clear up on its own or with appropriate treatment options. But, other cases may not show any visual changes on the skin. In such cases, you must not lose heart. You can take steps to prevent worsening of the condition. You also have some techniques to minimize the appearance of the discoloration on your skin. The methods to cope with the condition are:

Use Makeup

You can use a concealer for mild discoloration. It can obscure the smaller imperfection on your skin perfectly. For severe cases, you can use specially designed full-coverage camouflage makeup. It will cover up the dark patches on your skin perfectly, giving you a flawless look. You need to choose the best brand of makeup that suits your skin perfectly. Else, it can cause skin problems or allergic reactions.

Protect Your Skin From Sun

Protect Your Skin From Sun

Exposing your skin to the harmful radiation of the sun can trigger several problems. Apart from experience the worsening of discoloration due to melasma, you can also suffer from sun rash poisoning as well as other issues. So, you need to take precautions to ensure the condition does not worsen. Follow the steps suggested below to protect the skin:

  • Always wear sunscreen before going out. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to ensure the ultraviolet radiation does not cause any problem on your skin.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat. It will help you shield the face and protects from the sun.
  • If you stay outside in the sun for extended periods, then you need to wear protective clothing. It will offer protection to the exposed parts of your body from UV rays.

Take Prescribed Medication

It is important to consult a dermatologist to get the proper treatment to ensure good outcomes. The skin discoloration on your skin can show stubbornness. So, the treatment can take a few months to show a positive result. It is important to take the medication properly as prescribed by the doctor. You can see happy results when you take the medications religiously as suggested.

Coping With Skin Discoloration

You can feel self-conscious about the skin discoloration, then talk to your doctor about it. You can get support from the counselors or local support groups. Most people give importance to their physical beauty. Problem with skin can cause problems in visual appeal. Therefore, you need to get assistance from support groups to deal with the mental stress caused due to the skin problem. It will help you feel better.


Melasma can cause dark patches to form on your skin. While the condition may not trigger any health complications, you can feel embarrassed about it. The dark patches though harmless can mar the beauty of your skin. Its appearance can negatively affect your negative appeal. Some people feel bothered about it. Therefore, you need to see a dermatologist to get a solution to the problem. The problem can fade on its own when hormones cause the condition. When the abnormal hormone levels return to normal condition, the problem goes away. Others need to seek the appropriate treatment to see changes. You need to have patience while undergoing treatment. The skin problem fades after some sessions. You can also opt to make techniques to cover the patches and get your self-confidence back.

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