The Good News About Melasma

Henri P. Gaboriau, MD

Article by
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon

Melasma is a skin condition that appears as tan or dark facial skin discoloration on the face. Usually, both sides of the face are affected. The most common places for Melasma to appear are on the cheeks, the bridge of nose, the forehead, and the upper lip. People of Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Northern African descent tend to have higher incidence of Melasma than people from other ethnic groups. Interestingly enough, Melasma can afflict any ethnic group and has been recorded in numerous instances among people who have a very fair complexion.

The precise cause of Melasma still has not been found. There are genetic factors--people with a family history are more likely to develop Melasma themselves. Melasma has been triggered by pregnancy and is called chloasma, or the "mask of pregnancy." Some birth control pills may also cause Melasma.

Melasma has the characteristic appearance of tan or dark facial skin discoloration, and most patients can be diagnosed simply by a skin examination. Treatment and management of Melasma require the professional intervention of a plastic surgeon or dermatologist. Avoidance of sun and irritants, the habitual use of sunscreens, the application of approved depigmenting creams containing agents such as tretinoin, steroids, and glycolic acid are available in combination with hydroquinone to achieve a depigmenting effect. It takes several months to see a substantial improvement.