Melasma: the Mask of Pregnancy

Melasma is frequently referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.”  This is because it frequently occurs in women who are pregnant. However, don’t let the term fool you.  Melasma can last after the pregnancy, and it can occur in people who are not pregnant.

So what is melasma? It’s a condition where brown or tan patches appear on the face. It is usually symmetric and most commonly affects the cheek, temple and forehead areas.

Why does melasma occur? We don’t really know.  It predominantly occurs in women, and its occurrence with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives implies a hormonal factor.  However, it can occur without an apparent hormonal change as well.  It also frequently affects Hispanics and Asians as well, suggesting a demographic or genetic connection as well.

So how do you treat melasma? Well, first off, make sure to sun protect!  Melasma worsens with sun exposure and sometimes it doesn’t take all that much sun (e.g. just from walking to and from work) to set it off.  Get a broad-spectrum sunscreen for your face.

But how do you get rid of melasma if you already have it? Well, it is TOUGH.  First, I’d recommend that you see a dermatologist.  It would be important to make sure that your dark patches are melasma and not something else.  Your dermatologist may then recommend products to use on the skin or certain procedures. Keep in mind that melasma is hard to “cure” and these techniques may be variable in their effectiveness.

So, do you have melasma? And if so, what has or has not worked for you?

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