Melasma is a common skin condition that appears as brown or gray spots on the face and sometimes neck and forearms. Usually, melasma is found on cheek, nose, forehead, and upper lip. But it can occur on other parts of the body, anywhere that is exposed to the sun on a regular basis.

Melasma does not cause any symptoms that you feel, there is no discomfort or secondary symptoms, but many people dislike the effects on their appearance that it causes. It’s more common in adult women, only about 10% of the cases are men. The most common melasma triggers are sun exposure and hormones. Pregnant women tend to get it a lot, so much in fact that melasma has the nickname “the mask of pregnancy”. That’s because the hormones can effect the level of pigmentation that happens. Certain skin care and cosmetic products can worsen melasma if they are irritating your skin.

Sun exposure triggers melasma.


Melasma is an acquired hypermelanosis of sun-exposed areas. It can be difficult to treat. The pigment develops gradually, so by the time you’re coming to a doctor about it, it’s probably been a problem for a while. Some cases resist treatment while other cases are recurring no matter how the pigmentation is removed.

The best treatment remains a topical hydroquinine cream, sun avoidance, and no estrogen exposure. Boosters are only of limited benefit. A chemical peel or laser treatment may help in about one third of the cases, one third of cases remain the same, and another one third of cases show hyperpigmentation. Our VI Peel is also a great treatment for melasma. Wearing sunfaders or having chemical peels are options to lower the amount of pigmentation.


 The best thing to do is strike early.

Wear sunscreen everyday.

Prevent melasma before it has a chance to happen.


The best and most common treatment of melasma is sunscreen and sun protection. Not only sunscreen, but wearing hats when you know you’ll be in the sun and reapplying sunscreen after a few hours or when you get wet, will help preventing melasma. If you have melasma, you may also want to only use gentle skin care products and avoid waxing in areas that have the pigmentation. For more information on melasma, or to know if the brown spots on your face is really melasma, contact our office for a consultation visit.

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Dr. Timothy Jochen Medical Director, Contour Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Center
Dr. Jochen specializes in Mohs Surgery for skin cancer removal, facial rejuvenation including cosmetic laser technology, Botox® and facial fillers, soft tissue augmentation, leg and facial vein treatment, tumescent liposuction and hair restoration/transplants.

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