Melasma, often recognised as a condition characterised by tan or dark discolouration of the skin, is notably prevalent among women. It frequently affects those who are pregnant, as well as those on contraceptive pills or undergoing hormone replacement therapies.

What is Melasma?

Melasma presents itself as patchy dark brown or greyish pigmentation on the face, particularly on the cheeks, nose, upper lip, and forehead. These patches usually emerge gradually and are more common in women experiencing hormonal changes, such as those approaching menopause.

Recognising the Signs of Melasma

The discoloration associated with melasma develops over time and is particularly evident on facial areas exposed to the sun. The condition is not uniform and can vary in appearance across different individuals.

Factors Contributing to Melasma

The stimulation of melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin in the epidermis, leads to melasma. This overproduction of melanin is often triggered by female sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, particularly when the skin is sun-exposed. Women with lighter brown complexions who face frequent sun exposure are more prone to this condition, although genetic factors also play a crucial role.

Diagnosing Melasma

A straightforward examination of the affected skin areas or the use of a Wood's lamp are common methods for diagnosing melasma. These non-invasive techniques allow for a clear observation of the pigmentation changes.

Managing and Treating Melasma

While the discoloration from melasma may lessen or disappear within 2-3 months post-pregnancy, or after stopping oral contraceptives or hormone therapy, it is prone to recurrence upon subsequent sun exposure. Consulting with a dermatologist is advisable to explore treatment options, which may include:

  • Topical and oral medications to manage pigmentation
  • Chemical peels to improve skin texture and tone

The outcomes of these treatments are typically temporary, making ongoing management and preventive measures essential, especially in relation to sun exposure.