What is Melasma: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is Melasma: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Published : May 01, 2024
Last Updated : May 01, 2024

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a skin disorder that causes dark brown or grey patches to form on the skin. It is widespread among pregnant women and is considered the 'mask of pregnancy.' The most common areas for melasma include the bridge of the nose, forehead, upper lip, cheeks, and chin. It is more common in women than men. 

What are the symptoms of melasma?

Hyperpigmentation is the primary indicator of melasma, which is present as patches of skin and becomes darker than the natural skin tone. These patches are mainly found on your face and are symmetrical & uniform. 

Melasma is commonly present on the forehead, chin, cheeks, and upper lip. In some cases, it is also found in other areas of the body that are frequently exposed to sunlight, like the neck, forearms, and shoulders.

The discoloration is caused by melasma, which tends to lighten and darken with time. Several patients report that their patches darken during the summer and get better in the winter. 

Read also - Dark spots on the skin: Causes, treatment and remedies

Types of melasma 

If we talk about melasma, there are mainly three types:

Epidermal melasma

Epidermal melasma is a type of melasma that causes dark brown coloured patches with a well-defined border. However, this type of melasma responds better to melasma treatments. 

Dermal melasma

Dermal melasma causes light brown or bluish patches on your skin and might be challenging to treat. 

Mixed melasma

Mixed melasma is mainly a combination of two types that cause dark and light brown patches or grey patches of discolouration on the skin. 

What are the causes of melasma?

Medical professionals have yet to determine the exact cause of melasma. It is often associated with a failure of melanin-making cells known as melanocytes in the skin that cause the production of excessive melanin. 

Apart from this, several factors can cause melasma, like using birth control pills, exposure to the sun, hormonal imbalance during pregnancy, stress, and thyroid disorders. 

Possible causes of melasma include:

Antiseizure medicines 

Medications such as Clobazam, which prevents you from suffering from seizures, can also be a cause of melasma. 


When it comes to melasma, genetics play a vital role in its occurrence. Almost 50% of people with this skin disorder report their close relatives also suffer from melasma. People with light brown skin type have more chance to develop melasma when exposed to sun too often. 

Contraceptive therapy or birth control pills

It is observed that melasma is common in individuals who take oral contraceptive pills containing progesterone and estrogen.

Exposure to sunlight 

UV radiation is responsible for bringing free radicals that further encourage melanocytes to produce additional melanin. 


Hormones such as progesterone and estrogen play a role in some individuals. Sometimes, progesterone is given to postmenopausal women, due to which they have a high chance of developing melasma. 

Pregnant women are likely to have raised levels of estrogen receptors, which are present in melasma lesions.

Thyroid problem 

In melasma patients, there is an increase in thyroid disorder. This further causes melasma marks to spread all over the facial skin.


Some women's melasma disappears on its own, caused by birth control pills or pregnancy. However, several treatment options help to treat melasma and lighten skin. 

A topical combination of Hydroquinone cream is considered the best treatment for facial melasma disorder. Medicinal creams with tretinoin and corticosteroids are also effective in lightening the skin. Dermatologists also recommend triple creams containing hydroquinone, tretinoin, and corticosteroids, all in one, to treat melasma. Along with these topical creams, avoiding sun exposure and using SPF formulation to prevent melasma development is necessary. 

Medical procedures 

Various skin procedures, such as dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, and laser treatment, can also partially or wholly treat melasma. 

When melasma results from UV damage to the skin, laser and light therapies are highly effective. Green light therapy is often used to treat UV damage and lighten the skin.

Melasma supplements 

Melasma on your upper lip or the entire face might be challenging to manage. Along with topical treatments, dermatologists also recommend adding the right vitamins to your diet to achieve precise and even-toned skin. If you wish to manage melasma, make sure to have zinc supplements, as they are beneficial. However, to know the best supplements for melasma, you can consult a nutritionist. 

Medical procedures are considered the last solution for melasma. If they are not performed correctly according to the skin type, medical procedures can cause side effects such as recurrence of melasma and skin irritation. Before you decide to undergo any medical treatment for melasma, please consult your doctor once to ensure it is safe for you.

Therefore, to deal with melasma, you must limit your sun exposure and use effective sunscreen along with topical treatments.