Melasma is a common skin problem that appears as dark irregular patches on the face (and occasionally on the neck.) Sun exposure can trigger the condition but it does not cause any physical problems or symptoms beyond the discoloration. Birth control pills and pregnancy can also trigger the condition which primarily affects women while only a few men are affected (probably < 10% of men develop the facial discoloration.)
- Sometimes melisma fades on its own but some individuals can have it for years or even a lifetime.
- Skin lightening medications can be effective (hydroquinones) in treating the discoloration but must be accompanied by physical sunscreens (i.e. ones with only titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) and also avoidance of sun as much as possible.
- Chemical peels (glycolic acid peels, and/or salicylic acid) as well as laser rejuvenation are helpful. Topical retinoids are also very beneficial.
- Treatments should be used under the supervision of a Dermatologist and although effective, must be maintained on a regular basis for long periods of time.