Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation (also known as “chloasma”) that causes dark patches of discoloration on the skin. Most commonly appearing on the face, melasma is sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy” due to hormone sensitivity linked with its occurrence. Women and men are susceptible to this form of hyperpigmentation, as well as people of all skin types and colors.
When melasma occurs in pregnant women, the symptoms will often disappear on their own after birth. This is due to changing and re-adjusting hormone levels during pregnancy. Other medications containing hormones can also trigger the discoloration, such as birth control pills or some hormone therapies. However, melasma can also be triggered simply by overexposure to the sun.
Topical steroids can be used to lighten the affected skin. In the case of stubborn dark spots, resurfacing techniques such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion may be employed to remove the discolored skin on the surface. Unfortunately, some instances of discoloration cannot be lightened or removed completely.
Methods of coping with melasma include limiting sun exposure or wearing sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats and protective clothing where sun exposure is necessary. Additional follow-up visits to a skin specialist may be required to ensure the melasma does not return or worsen.