What Effect Does Sun Exposure Have on Melasma?

While on vacation at my in laws beach house in North Carolina and also while in Antigua I noticed I was getting brown patches that looked like a mustache above my upper lip. When I got home it slowly faded, even after I had continued to be in the sun (I do always use sunblock). This year we went back to Antigua and the brown patches increased and seemed darker. I went to a dermotologist and found out I have Melasma caused by birth control pills. I have stopped using the pills and have been using a lightening cream.

It is summer and I miss being able to go to the beach or outside for a gathering with friends. The doctor told me to stay out of the sun or it would return.

I live in NY and have never seen the mustache appearance here- only when I was in Antigua and NC. Does the stronger sun there affect Melasma more or would it appear again if I was in the sun in NY? Thanks so much for your help and advice!

Doctor Answers 2

Melasma: Four main causes of hyperpigmentation of the face

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Understanding the causes of melasma is important to its treatment. Melasma is mainly caused by:

  • Sun exposure
  • Genetics
  • Hormones (Estrogen and Progesterone)
  • Inflammation

Treating melasma is difficult as few of the causes can be completely eradicated. Although sun exposure should be minimized, quality of life is equally important and moderation is key. Patients with melasma should consider longterm treatment with topical skin lightening agents. Consult with an experienced skin health expert knowledgeable in melasma.


I recommend beginning with Melaquin AM and Melaquin PM followed by MelaPeel treatment once monthly.

Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Sun and Melasma

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Sun is bad for melasma! Just bad! And you are right, if the sun is stronger and you have a longer exposure to it you are more likely to have discoloration associated with the sun. You can get a cute and fancy hat to protect your face while visiting your friends. Wear sunscreen and reapply if you are out often. There are many treatments for melasma but none are "instant and great!" Have a great time and enjoy your friends but don't let direct sun exposure ruin your face for months to come after!

Tanya Kormeili, MD
Los Angeles Dermatologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.