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.”


“I had a recent visit to Dr Damstetter’s clinic and would like to share my experience. I am a Navy vet(corpsman) and usually get seen at the VA but since we don’t have a Derm provider right now, I was fortunately sent out to her clinic to be evaluated. It’s a nice clinic in a nice area and was relatively easy to find. A pleasant Ms. Nancy at the front desk was helpful in completing the check-in process. Easy day. I did not have to wait long and was soon met by Dr. Damstetter’s assistant, who for classified reasons I will refer to as “Agent 8”. I am sure if she gets tired of providing excellent medical care, her slick-ninja skillset could get her a job with the CIA or MI6 maybe. Short story long, Agent 8 brought me back to the patient area, where I was introduced to Dr Damstetter, who was all the things you would want in a doctor: a knowledgeable provider with a great bedside manner. She gave me a thorough exam which did end up showing that I needed a minor procedure. No worries. I felt well taken care of throughout my visit. No one likes to have to see the doctor, but if you have a dermatological concern, this is a good place with good people who did great by me, and I am thankful to have been sent here.”

“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.

Liz Damstetter, MD

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Meet the Doctor

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 can I treat melasma at home?

Using lightening skincare products and avoiding excessive sun exposure are the two main ways to reduce melasma. If at-home remedies dont work, a dermatologist can help you find the right treatment plan for your melasma.

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.

How long does it take for melasma to fade?

To go away on its own, the sun damage needs to be repaired, which requires intervention or the cessation of certain activities, such as avoiding sun exposure and other UV light sources.

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.

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