Melasma

Melasma is a common and non-harmful skin condition that causes darker patches on the skin, most often on the face. Because melasma is so common among pregnant patients, it is often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.” While melasma poses no health concerns, it can cause patients to feel self-conscious about their appearance. Thankfully, treatment options are available to restore a more even skin tone. Patients facing melasma in Glenview Illinois and the surrounding area can turn to Dr. Liz Damstetter and the Reserve Dermatology team for effective care.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin condition that causes dark and discolored patches on the skin. This condition often occurs during pregnancy, in which case it may be referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.” Overall, as many as 90% of melasma patients are women. Patients of color are also more likely to experience melasma. Melasma is occasionally referred to as “chloasma.”

Reviews

“Dr. Liz is truly the best dermatologist I’ve ever been to. She is attentive, kind, and genuinely cares about her patients and their overall skin health. I can not recommend her enough!!!”

“Wonderful experience here! The doctor took the time to educate me on a variety of cosmetic options and gave her candid opinion resulting in just the right amount of cosmetic adjustments! Her staff was delightful and attentive! I would highly recommend for general derm needs and cosmetic adjustments.”

“Dr. Damstetter was the first dermatologist I trusted to do my Botox. She is both knowledgeable and professional and did a fantastic job. I will be using her for any and all of my future needs.”

What Causes Melasma?

The cause of melasma is unclear. Generally speaking, melasma occurs when the melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, produce too much color in the skin cells. Certain triggers are known to cause melasma. These include:

  • Excessive sun exposure and chronic sun damage
  • Hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy or through taking birth control
  • Irritation from skin care products or other skin conditions
  • Other light sources, such as infrared and blue light

Melasma is most commonly seen between 20-40 years of age. Patients with fair skin tones are less likely to experience melasma, though any skin tone and any age can develop melasma.

Your Expert

Liz Damstetter, MD

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Melasma Symptoms

Typically, melasma presents as symmetric brown or dark grayish patches on the face. These are most commonly located on the cheeks, forehead, bridge of the nose, upper lip (“melasma mustache”), or temples. In some cases, patients will also see melasma patches on the forearms, neck, or back. Most patients will notice that their melasma grows darker in the summer and lighter in the winter. Melasma does not cause any symptoms aside from this hyperpigmentation.

Can melasma appear suddenly?

Melasma is a darkening of the skin, usually on the face, and it may appear suddenly after recent sun exposure. Melasma is usually patchy and light brown gray in color, affecting the forehead, cheeks, upper lip and occasionally forearms. Melasma is chronic and will subsequently flare seasonally with increasing sun exposure or UV intensity.

Can Melasma be caused by stress?

Melasma is caused by damage from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, as well as bright artificial lights including blue light and infrared light. It is also triggered by hormonal fluctuations, including pregnancy and with estrogen therapies including birth control pills. It is unknown if stress worsens melasma, but it is not thought to be the main source.

How do you get rid of stubborn melasma?

Melasma is a chronic condition that benefits from an ongoing maintenance skin care regimen that includes diligent sun protection and products to lighten pigmentation in the skin. A board certified dermatologist can recommend prescription lightening creams in addition to possible oral and cosmetic options to lighten melasma. It is important to stay consistent with these therapies as melasma will often flare seasonally if treatment is discontinued.

What chemical peel is best for melasma?

Glycolic acid, trichloracetic acid, and retinoic acid are common medical grade peels used to treat melasma in the office.

Melasma Treatment Options

In some rare cases, Dr. Damstetter may need to rule out other dermatological conditions by taking a biopsy. However, this is rarely necessary, and melasma can usually be diagnosed simply by visually examining the skin.

Treatment for melasma is not necessary, and the condition will occasionally resolve on its own. However, some patients do opt for treatment for cosmetic reasons. If this is the case, you have several options.

Topical lightening creams can be applied to the skin to reduce hyperpigmentation. These include hydroquinone, which is available with a prescription and applied directly to the skin. Products containing tretinoin, corticosteroids, azelaic acid, or kojic acid can also help lighten dark spots and reduce melasma. A number of skincare products have more natural ingredients to aid in lightening, including an amino acid called cysteamine.

Finally, cosmetic procedures designed to rejuvenate the skin or break apart pigmented cells can be beneficial for melasma patients. These include chemical peels, microneedling, and highly selective laser treatments. Great care should be taken to avoid worsening melasma with treatments.

During a consultation, Dr. Damstetter will review your personal goals for melasma treatment, your skin type, and other factors to determine the appropriate treatment plan for you.

Schedule an Appointment

If you are struggling with melasma and want to achieve a more even skin tone, schedule an appointment with Dr. Damstetter. Call Reserve Dermatology in Glenview, Illinois to schedule your first appointment or contact us online.

Contact Us

We look forward to meeting you soon!

Promo Signup