Melasma is a skin condition that appears as dark, pigmentation on the skin. It may appear on the forehead, cheeks and other areas around the face. The exact cause of melasma is unknown, although individuals with a family history of the condition are more likely to develop melasma.
Melasma and Pregnancy
Melasma is common during pregnancy and is even called the 'mask of pregnancy'. However, the condition is not exclusive to women who are pregnant. In fact, men may also develop melasma.
Hormone levels may play a role in melasma, which may explain why it is common during pregnancy and is found on some women taking birth control pills. Hormone therapy may also cause melasma.
Melasma and the Sun
Sunlight may trigger melasma in many patients. The ultraviolet rays from the sun may stimulate melanocytes (pigment producing cells) in the skin, which may lead to excess pigmentation in the skin.
Patients who have had melasma are often encouraged to avoid sun exposure as much as possible and/or are advised to wear sunscreen during excessive sun exposure to prevent the condition from reappearing. Most dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen of at least SPF15, although some may recommend greater protection.
It's true that the condition usually goes away on its own following pregnancy or when a woman stops taking birth control pills, but for some, the pigmentation does not fade. Treatments such as creams (over-the-counter or prescription), chemical peels, laser resurfacing and microdermabrasion may be helpful in treating melasma.
Understanding melasma is the first step in successful treatment and prevention. Talk to a skincare professional for more information about melasma and how you can best avoid the condition from reappearing after it fades.