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What Is Melasma? Those Discolored Patches on Your Skin That Darken in the Sun

The common skin condition is hormone-related.


Have you noticed grayish skin discoloration on your face or other areas like your neck and forearms? Does it seem to get darker in the sun? It could be melasma, a common skin condition most prevalent in women, that’s not generally much cause for concern.

What is melasma?

Melasma is a hyperpigmentation of the skin that appears as darker patches on areas of the face like the forehead, chin, cheeks, above the lip, and bridge of the nose. While scientists don’t know the exact cause, things like pregnancy, hormonal changes, stress, and thyroid issues could be at the root of it. Women of color are more likely to struggle with melasma, and while it may not be dangerous, it can be distressing to deal with.

Melasma is also sometimes called chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy,” since it can happen when a woman gets pregnant and undergoes changes in her levels of estrogen and progesterone. According to the professionals, this condition is typically harmless with no reason for medical concern.

While pregnancy causes melasma for some, it’s said that it can also be caused by hormonal changes that occur if you’re taking birth control pills, under a lot of stress, or dealing with thyroid disease. Additionally, excessive sun exposure can make melasma appear worse.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If your melasma has been caused by pregnancy or birth control pills, chances are that it will go away on its own. Otherwise, it can stick around for many years. If it’s bothersome to you, you can seek advice from a doctor about lightening the marks. Your doctor or dermatologist can diagnose melasma by doing a visual examination of your skin, and prescribe you a cream, lotion, or gel to help with skin lightening. There are lightening products available over-the-counter, but it’s best to get one prescribed from your doctor to make sure it’s effective and safe.

There are preventive products specifically formulated to put on before you go out in the sun that will help physically block the rays from darkening your skin. Your derm might also recommend an at-home chemical peel or microdermabrasion, which both help to remove dead skin cells and reveal fresh, smooth, healthy skin.

On top of those interventions, always make sure that you’re wearing a quality sunscreen with at least SPF 30 everyday, especially when you’re going out in the sun. Minimizing sun damage will help to keep your skin glowing and youthful for years to come!

This story originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.

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