Pigmentation and Melasma

Pigmentation and Melasma
Pigmentation and Melasma

What is melasma?

Melasma is a common pigmentation disorder that causes brown or gray patches to appear on the skin, primarily on the face. Melasma is a skin condition that causes patches to appear, typically on the face, that are darker than a person’s skin tone. It may affect between 1.5–33%Trusted Source of people depending on the population. Melasma can be found primarily in individuals with light brown skin to darker skin tones, especially in areas with high sun exposure. Women are particularly susceptible to melasma, and it can appear as brown patches on the face, especially the cheeks, nose bridge, and forehead.

The most common areas for melasma to appear on the face include:

  • the bridge of the nose
  • the forehead
  • the cheeks
  • the upper lip
  • the chin
  • Melasma may also appear on other areas of the body, especially those exposed to a lot of sunlight. These areas may include:

  • the forearms
  • the neck
  • the shoulders
  • Symptoms of melasma

    The primary symptom of melasma is hyperpigmentation — the development of discolored patches of skin or uneven skin tone. These patches are typically flat and appear darker than an individual’s skin tone, often brown or gray in color.

    While melasma does not cause any other physical symptoms, some people may find the appearance of these patches bothersome. Patches caused by melasma should not cause physical pain.

    Patches most commonly appear on the face. Common locations include the upper lips, bridge of the nose, cheeks, and forehead.

    Less commonly, a person may also have patches on their arms and neck.

    It is important to note that melasma is not a form of skin cancer, though it may sometimes look like other skin conditions. It is best to consult a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment.

    Melasma causes and risk factors

    Doctors do not fully understand why melasma occurs. It may be due to the malfunction of the melanocytes (the color-making cells) in the skin, causing them to produce too much color in certain spots.

    As a result, people with light brown skin to darker skin tones may be more likely to develop melasma as they have more melanocytes than people with lighter skin do.

    Risk factors

  • Sun exposure. Frequent exposure to UV rays can trigger melasma.
  • Skin color. Melasma occurs most commonly in people with light brown skin tones, particularly if they live in areas with high levels of sun exposure.
  • Female sex. Melasma affects females about 9 times more than it does males.
  • Pregnancy. Melasma is more common during pregnancy, affecting 15% to 50% of pregnant people. This may be due to pregnancy hormones.
  • Genetics. Up to 50% of people with melasma report that close relatives also have the condition.
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