Everything You Need to Know about Melasma

Melasma, sometimes known as the "mask of pregnancy," is a skin condition that manifests as brown or gray-brown patches, primarily on the face.

Melasma, sometimes known as the "mask of pregnancy," is a skin condition that manifests as brown or gray-brown patches, primarily on the face. Although melasma can affect anyone, it is particularly common among women, especially pregnant women or those who are taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

What Causes Melasma?

The exact cause of melasma remains unclear, but several factors are known to trigger the condition. Sun exposure is a significant trigger because ultraviolet (UV) light stimulates the melanocytes, which are the cells in the skin responsible for producing color. Therefore, even a small amount of sun exposure can cause melasma to return after fading. Hormonal changes in women, whether due to pregnancy, oral contraceptives, or hormone therapy, are also linked to the development of melasma, suggesting that estrogen and progesterone sensitivity are also triggers. Other potential triggers include stress and thyroid disease.

Treatment Options for Melasma

While there is no cure for melasma, there are several treatments that can help manage the condition and reduce the appearance of dark patches. These include:

Topical Creams

Prescription bleaching creams containing hydroquinone alone or in combination with other ingredients like tretinoin, corticosteroids, or kojic acid can lighten the skin. These creams may need to be used for several weeks to notice a significant change.

Sun Protection

Since sun exposure can trigger melasma, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, even on cloudy days, is crucial. Hats and sunglasses can also help protect the skin from UV rays.


For some patients, dermatologists may recommend procedures like chemical peels, dermabrasion, or laser therapy. These treatments should be approached with caution, as they can sometimes worsen melasma, especially in patients with darker skin tones. Learn more about laser therapy specifically for hyperpigmentation here.

Oral Antioxidants:

Dietary supplements containing antioxidants like Vitamin C, E, and polyphenols may provide some benefit, although more research is needed in this area.

Expectations for Melasma

It’s important to have realistic expectations and to understand that melasma can be a stubborn condition. For many dealing with melasma, treatment is a long-term commitment. Consulting with a dermatologist is the best step towards choosing the most appropriate treatment and managing expectations. With patience and consistent care, many people find their melasma can be effectively managed, leading to an improved quality of life and self-esteem.

Additionally, making healthy lifestyle choices such as wearing sun protection and managing stress can help prevent melasma from worsening or recurring. While there may not be a "one size fits all" solution for melasma, understanding the potential causes and available treatments can help those affected take control of their condition and confidently navigate their skincare journey.