What is Melasma? We Asked the Experts

Blog by Dr. Vishakha Iyer

Melasma is a common skin condition that causes brown or gray-brown patches on the face. It is more common in women than in men, and it affects people with darker skin tones more often than people with lighter skin tones. This article will provide an overview of melasma, including its causes, triggers, treatment options, and preventive measures.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a condition that causes the skin to develop patches of discoloration, typically on the face. These patches can be brown, gray-brown, or blue-gray in color. Melasma is most commonly found on the cheeks, forehead, nose, and upper lip. It can also appear on other parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the forearms and neck.

What are the Causes of Melasma?

The exact cause of melasma is unknown, but several factors are believed to play a role. These include:

- Hormones: Fluctuations in hormones, such as those that occur during pregnancy, menopause, or while taking birth control pills, can trigger melasma.
- Sun exposure: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can trigger the production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. This can lead to the development of melasma.
- Genetics: If you have a family history of melasma, you are more likely to develop the condition yourself. - Cosmetics and skin care products: Some cosmetics and skin care products can irritate the skin and trigger the development of melasma.

What Triggers Melasma?

Several factors can trigger the development of melasma, including:
- Sun exposure: As mentioned above, exposure to UV rays from the sun can trigger the production of melanin and lead to the development of melasma.
- Hormones: Fluctuations in hormones can also trigger melasma. This is why the condition is more common in women, who experience hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, menopause, and while taking birth control pills.
- Cosmetics and skin care products: Some cosmetics and skin care products can irritate the skin and trigger the development of melasma.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options for melasma, including:
- Topical medications: These are creams or gels that are applied directly to the skin to lighten the patches of melasma. The most commonly used topical combination is hydroquinone , tretinoin & moderate potency topical steroid which work by reducing the amount of melanin produced by the skin. Other topical agents used alone or, more commonly, in combination are :
Azelaic acid , Kojic acid Ascorbic acid,Methimazole,Tranexamic acid,glutathione Soybean extract.
- Chemical peels: Chemical peels use a solution to remove the outer layer of skin, revealing new, undamaged skin underneath. This can help to reduce the appearance of melasma.
- Microdermabrasion: This is a procedure that involves removing the outer layer of skin using a special device. Like chemical peels, microdermabrasion reveals new, undamaged skin and can reduce the appearance of melasma.
- Laser treatments: Laser treatments can be used to target the patches of melasma and break up the excess melanin in the skin. This can help to lighten the patches and improve the overall appearance of the skin.
-microneedling -in this treatment tiny micro needles attached to a device called as a dr pen pierce the skin and break the blood vessels just beneath the surface. Breaking these vessels causes an increased blood supply to the wound area where new collagen and healthy cells form, allowing your skin’s texture to improve and reducing the appearance of melasma It's important to note that not all treatment options are suitable for all people. You should speak with your dermatologist about which treatment option is right for you.

Preventive Measures

There are several preventive measures you can take to help reduce your risk of developing melasma, including:
- Wearing sunscreen: Wearing sunscreen with a high SPF can help to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV rays.
- Wearing a hat: Wearing a hat can provide additional protection for your face and help to prevent melasma.
- Limiting sun exposure: Limiting your exposure to the sun can help to reduce your risk of developing melasma.
- Avoiding irritants: Some cosmetics and skin care products can irritate the skin and trigger the development of melasma. Avoiding these products can help to reduce your risk of developing the condition.


In conclusion, melasma is a common skin condition that affects many people, especially women. While the exact cause is not known, it is believed to be linked to hormonal imbalances, sun exposure, and genetics. Treatment options include topical creams, chemical peels, laser therapy, and a combination of these treatments may be necessary for best results. It is important for individuals with melasma to also take steps to protect their skin from further sun damage, such as wearing sunscreen and avoiding prolonged sun exposure. With the right treatment plan and skin care regimen, those with melasma can successfully manage their condition and achieve clearer, more even-toned skin.

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