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Melasma: Causes, Symptoms, and Dermatologist Support

A common skin condition we treat at Revival Dermatology is Melasma. The discoloration associated with this condition can be frustrating for patients and hard for them to identify before an evaluation from one of our board certified physicians.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a common pigmentation disorder that causes darker patches on the skin, primarily on the face. It affects between 1.5–33% of people, depending on the population. This condition is especially prevalent in individuals with light brown to darker skin tones, particularly in areas with high sun exposure. Women are particularly susceptible to melasma.

Causes and Risk Factors

Malfunction of Melanocytes

Melasma occurs due to the malfunction of melanocytes, the color-making cells in the skin. These cells produce too much pigment in certain spots, leading to darker patches. Individuals with light brown to darker skin tones have more melanocytes than those with lighter skin, making them more prone to melasma. Being aware of the risk factors may help you identify or even prevent melasma.

Risk Factors

  • Sun Exposure: UV rays can trigger melasma, making sun protection crucial.
  • Skin Color: People with light brown to darker skin tones are more susceptible.
  • Female Sex: Women are more likely to develop melasma, especially during hormonal changes.
  • Pregnancy: Often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is common during pregnancy.
  • Genetics: A family history of melasma can increase the risk.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormone treatments and birth control pills can trigger melasma.
  • Certain Skin Care Products and Medications: Some products and medications can exacerbate melasma.

Symptoms of Melasma

The primary symptom of melasma is hyperpigmentation, leading to the development of discolored patches of skin or uneven skin tone. These patches are typically darker than the individual’s skin tone and often appear brown or gray. Commonly affected areas include:

  • Face: Upper lips, bridge of the nose, cheeks, and forehead.
  • Other Areas: Less commonly, patches may appear on the forearms, neck, and shoulders.

It is important to note that melasma is not a form of skin cancer, though it can resemble other skin conditions. Consulting a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is recommended.

Diagnosis and Treatment


At Revival Dermatology, we can typically diagnose melasma through a visual examination. However, to rule out other conditions that melasma may resemble, a dermatologist may take a small biopsy during the initial visit. This involves removing a very small portion of the skin for further examination in a laboratory.

Treatment Options

Once diagnosed, dermatologists can provide a personalized treatment plan for managing melasma. Treatment options may include:

  • Topical Medications: Creams containing ingredients like hydroquinone, tretinoin, and corticosteroids.
  • Sun Protection: Regular use of sunscreen with high SPF to prevent further pigmentation. (
  • Procedures: Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, SkinPen microneedling with PRP, or sometimes laser therapy, performed by a dermatologist, can help reduce pigmentation.

Melasma is a common and manageable skin condition. Understanding its causes, risk factors, and symptoms can help individuals seek appropriate treatment. Book an appointment with us if you have any concerns about dark pigmentation on your skin and we can help develop an effective treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Revival Dermatology today.

Revival Dermatology is a comprehensive dermatology practice, family owned by two board certified physicians delivering a patient-centered, fully transparent approach to practicing medicine. We offer superior medical, surgical, and cosmetic procedures and treatments in a family friendly boutique-style environment. Our customized approach ensures the most effective, personalized skin care for patients of all ages.

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