Dark patches on the skin are often considered as summer tan but this is not always true as some brown or grayish-brown blotches on the chin, cheeks, upper lip and forehead may signal a condition called melasma. This is a challenging skin condition causing dark patches on the skin and it might last for years. Most of the people experience this problem usually on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin and above the upper lip. Though common in the face but can also appear on other body parts that are mostly exposed to the sun like forearms and neck. It is also sometimes referred to as the mask of pregnancy because it gets triggered with the increase in hormones in pregnant women. While the condition is a common problem in pregnant women but is not limited to them only and can affect women at all stages of life.
Melasma isn't painful and doesn't has any health risks but generally cause significant emotional distress among women who develop dark patches on their faces. Women with darker skin type are more likely to get melasma because their skin has more active pigment-producing cells. These cells become hyperactive and produce too much pigment in certain areas of the skin that leads to melasma. Melasma's causes and mechanisms are somewhat similar to brown age spots and freckles but these patches tend to be larger. Though it is more common in women but can also affect men and it may have a genetic component, as it often runs in families.
Causes of Melasma
Melasma causes patches or discoloration and these patches are darker than the normal skin color. Few causes lead to melasma but the following two causes particularly stand out:
Hormones or Hormonal Medications - When one either start or stop taking hormonal contraception or when one is going through hormone replacement therapy, then there is a chance for melasma to occur. In addition to this, even fluctuation in certain hormones can cause melasma so it commonly occurs during pregnancy.
Sun exposure - Melasma is caused or worsened not only by the sun's rays but also due to heat and visible light. Even sunscreens that protect against skin cancer is not enough to prevent melasma. Thus, it makes treating melasma a challenge, especially in the summer months.
The first and foremost step in the melasma treatment is that one should immediately fix an appointment with a skin specialist to confirm that their darkened skin patches are indeed melasma. If it is melasma then one should determine the exact cause behind melasma because treating melasma is unlikely to be effective if the actual reason for the problem is not properly addressed. If one keeps exposed to exacerbating factors then its treatment becomes more challenging. For successfully treating melasma is to prevent the sun from aggravating the condition and this can be done by using a strict sunscreen regimen that not only blocks the sun's rays but also its heat and light. The skin specialists can even prescribe creams that can lighten the skin or might also prescribe topical steroids that may lighten the affected areas. If these options do not work then the skin specialists might also recommend chemical peels, dermabrasion, and microdermabrasion. These treatments options must be carried out by an expert and experienced dermatologists.