Melasma – symptoms, causes and other associated risk factors

Dark spots home remedy

This is a very common skin problem. Melasma is causing dark and discolored patches on the skin. It is most commonly affecting the face. There are many people who get melasma on their chin, forehead, bridge of their nose, cheeks and above their upper lip. Also this condition can happen on other parts of the body which get a lot of sun such as the neck and forearms. This condition is also known as chloasma or the “mark of pregnancy” when melasma is happening in pregnant women. Melasma is happening more in women than men but men can also get it. There was one study which was done by the American Academy of Dermatology in which is said that 90% of people who develop melasma are women [1]. The sun protection is one of the most common treatments that is used for melasma. This means that you should wear sunscreen every day and you should re-apply the sunscreen every two hours. Your dermatologist will recommend you to wear a wide – brimmed hat when you are outside because the sunscreen alone will not give you the needed protection.

Melasma symptoms

This condition is causing patches of discoloration. These patches are darker than the typical skin color of some individual. Usually, it is happening on the face and it is symmetrical with matching marks on both sides of someone’s face. Also other parts of the body which are often exposed to sun can develop melasma. Brownish and colored patches are usually appearing on the:

  • Chin
  • Bridge of the nose
  • Forehead
  • Cheeks
  • Above the upper lip

Also this condition can happen on the forearms and neck but this is happening less common. This condition is not causing any symptoms (we know that symptoms are something which we feel). The skin discoloration will not do any physical harm but it can lower your self – esteem because you can feel uncomfortable with your look [2]. In the most cases treatment and sun protection can help in the treatment of these patches. If you have noticed some of the mentioned symptoms of melasma, then you should talk with your doctor. Your doctor will look at your skin and your medical history can help him to determine any factors which may have caused melasma. Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist which is a doctor who is specialized in the treatment of skin disorders.


Melasma causes

It is still not clear what the cause for melasma is. This condition is likely to happen when melanocytes (color – making cells in the skin) produce too much color. People who have darker skin are having bigger chances of getting melasma compared to people who have light skin because people who have darker skin are having more active melanocytes compared with people with light skin [3]. Here are some triggers of melasma:

  • Skin care products: If some skin care product irritates your skin, then melasma can worsen.
  • A change in hormones: It is known fact that melasma is affecting pregnant women. When melasma is happening in the pregnancy, then it is known as chloasma or “mark of the pregnancy”. Hormone replacement medicine and birth control pills can also trigger this condition. [4]
  • Sun exposure: It is known fact that the UV light from the sun can stimulate melanocytes. You should know that even a small amount of sun exposure can make the melasma to return again after fading. Sun exposure is a reason why this condition is often worse in the summer. Also this factor is the main reason why many people who had melasma are getting it again and again. [5]

Risk factors: There are many studies in which are shown that women are having increased chances of getting melasma on their skin compared to men’s skin. It is known fact that only 10% of people who are affected with melasma are men [1]. Also it is known fact that people who are having darker skin are having increases chances of getting melasma and here are included: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, Asian, African – American, North African and Latin/Hispanic descent [3]. Also, people who have some blood relative who had melasma, are having increased chances of developing it. Also when you use medications which make you sensitive to the sun, can increase your risk of getting melasma.


[1] American Academy of Dermatology Association. Melasma: Diagnosis and treatment. Retrieved from

[2] Jiang J, Akinseye O, Tovar-Garza A, et al. The effect of melasma on self-esteem: A pilot study. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. 2018;4(1):38-42.

[3] Harvard Women’s Health Watch. Unmasking the causes and treatments of melasma. 2020. Retrieved from

[4] Moin A, Jabery Z, Fallah N. Prevalence and awareness of melasma during pregnancy. International Journal of Dermatology. 2006;45(3):285-8.

[5] Lee AY. An updated review of melasma pathogenesis. Dermatologica Sinica. 2014;32(4):233-9.


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