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What is Melasma?

Commonly identified as a “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is the darkening of skin on the face. Usually melasma appears as patches of brown, tan or blue-gray discolorations. Although anyone can develop melasma, this condition most frequently affects pregnant women, those taking certain hormones or oral contraceptives. Sun exposure and genetics can also play a part in melasma. People with darker skin tones, like anyone with a Latin, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean or North African ancestry tend to be more prone to melasma.


What are the signs and symptoms of Melasma?

Melasma is a skin condition that causes dark, discolored patches on the face or other areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. The patches are usually symmetrical and have irregular borders. Melasma does not cause any physical symptoms, such as pain or itching, but it may affect a person’s appearance and self-esteem. Some possible causes of melasma are hormonal changes, sun exposure, stress, and thyroid disease. Melasma may fade on its own or with treatment, such as sunscreen, skin lightening creams, or other procedures.

What are the causes of Melasma?

Experts have yet to determine the exact cause of melasma, but they believe that certain factors can trigger the condition. Pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, progesterone, heredity, race and medications can make the skin more prone to pigmentation after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) lights. Over exposure to the sun is the leading contributor to the development of melasma. Also, products that cause irritation to the skin may speed up melanin production and lead to an increased risk for melasma.

What treatments are available at the dermatologist for Melasma?

The most effective therapy for melasma combines sunscreen, bleaching and time. Without an all encompassing layer of sunscreen on the face, no treatment will succeed. Use sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, a light cover-up of make-up and a wide brimmed hat.  For bleaching, the applications will include two or four percent hydroquinone-containing creams or gels and a three percent hydroquinone solution. Treatment can take up to two months to start working and up to six months for the complete process.  There are also certain fractional laser systems that can help improve melasma. Often, melasma will start clearing up after childbirth or once oral contraceptive use has stopped.

Laser treatment for melasma



FAQ About Melasma

Are there different types of Melasma?

There are three main types of melasma: epidermal, dermal, and mixed, depending on where in the skin the pigmentation occurs. Epidermal melasma is the most common and is characterized by pigmentation that occurs in the uppermost layer of the skin. Dermal melasma is characterized by pigmentation that occurs in the deeper layers of the skin, and mixed melasma is a combination of the two.

How is Melasma diagnosed?

Melasma is typically diagnosed by a dermatologist, who will examine the skin and ask about the patient’s symptoms and medical history. A skin biopsy may be done in some cases to rule out other skin conditions.

Can Melasma be cured?

Melasma is a chronic condition, and while it can be treated, it may not be fully cured. It’s important to work closely with a dermatologist to develop an individualized treatment plan, and to maintain sun protection to prevent recurrence of the pigmentation.

Is there a dermatologist near me in New Orleans that offers treatment for Melasma?

Yes. At our New Orleans dermatology office we offer treatment for Melasma to patients from New Orleans and the surrounding area. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.