What Causes Melasma?

Sep 01, 2023
What Causes Melasma?
There are several skin conditions that range from mild inconvenience to fairly harmful. Melasma is a common skin problem that can be chronic and can resemble some skin cancers. Read on to find out what causes it.

Your skin is one of the most remarkable and multifunctional organs your body has and is responsible for many different tasks important to how your body works, from regulating temperature to keeping out viruses and bacteria. It sheds itself monthly, responds to stress, and changes in your skin can be an indication of possible health issues. 

A common change to look out for is a difference in your skin pigmentation. Normally, the color of your skin is determined by the amount of melanin, which is made by melanocytes (specialized skin cells found in your epidermis), but damage to your skin or various diseases can lead to changes in pigmentation.

Some pigmentation changes can be fairly harmless, but some may be an indication of health conditions that can be life-threatening if not treated. Melasma is a skin condition that forms from the overproduction of melanin and, while generally not harmful, can be mistaken for certain cancers. 

If you live in the Denver, Colorado, Chicago, Illinois, San Diego, California, or Tampa, Florida, area, and you’re dealing with skin pigmentation problems, the experienced team at Ice Cave Body Sculpting can help you remove these blemishes.

To get a better understanding of melasma, let’s look at what it is, the causes and risk factors, and how it can be treated.

Understanding melasma

Also referred to as chloasma or mask of pregnancy, this skin problem typically appears as dark, discolored patches on your cheeks, forehead, chin, and the bridge of your nose, though it can also appear on your neck and forearms. 

The patches are often symmetrical and happen far more frequently with women than men (hence the nickname “mask of pregnancy” when it happens in pregnant women).

This condition causes your melanocytes to create more melanin, resulting in darker pigmentation, and comes in three types:


This type of melasma appears as a dark brown patch with a well-defined border and sometimes responds to treatment.


This patch is deeper in your skin and appears light brown or bluish with a blurry border. It doesn’t respond as well to treatment.


This is the most common version of melasma and presents in both brown and bluish patches that show some response to treatment.


Melasma is a chronic condition (lasting three months or more), but it can go away after pregnancy or other hormonal changes. It isn’t itchy or at all painful, and the patches are the only symptoms.

Causes and risk factors

Malfunctioning melanocytes are thought to be the root cause of this condition though the reasons for this malfunction aren’t completely understood. Common factors that increase your risk include overexposure to sunlight, light brown skin tones in areas with overexposure to sunlight, being female, being pregnant, and having a family history of the illness. 

Other factors can lead to melasma, such as hormone changes during pregnancy, hormone treatments, skin care products that irritate your skin, and some medications (certain drugs for seizures, blood pressure, as well as retinoids and antibiotics).

Treatment options 

Melasma doesn’t always require treatment, as hormonal changes from birth control or pregnancy aren’t permanent. 

For people who deal with long-term melasma, medications like corticosteroids, tretinoin, triple creams, as well as procedures like microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser therapy, and dermabrasion can treat this condition. Using sunscreen, avoiding direct sunlight, and wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also help to reduce problems with melasma.

Melasma isn’t harmful, but because some cancers can mimic the signs, you should have your dermatologist examine any hyperpigmentation for possible treatment. If you’re ready to be rid of the blemishes of melasma, make an appointment with our team at Ice Cave Body Sculpting today to get started. Call our location closest to you or book a visit online today.