Melasma / Chloasma or “the mask of pregnancy” and is defined as the tanning or darkening of facial skin. Melasma does not only occur in pregnant women but can also appear in those taking an oral or patch contraceptive. In addition, women taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) medication can also have an increased risk of melasma.

Dark Spots and Discoloration Symptoms include dark irregular patches on the:

* cheeks
* nose
* lips
* forehead

There are methods of treatment which can correct this discoloration. Often after pregnancy, the spots will often disappear spontaneously or after stopping the use of oral contraceptives and HRT medications. Other treatments for melasma can include the use of a topical depigmenting agent. Such medications can include hydroquinone (HQ), which inhibits an enzyme which produces melanin.

Facial acids (such as tretinoin) can increase skin cell turnover but cannot be used during pregnancy. Other acids, such as azelaic acid or facial peels using alpha hydroxy acids, have shown effectiveness. The use of laser treatment may or may not be effective, depending on the diagnosis. If the melasma is dermal, lasers will darken or worsen the discoloration. Dermal melasma can only be lightened with mandelic acid.

Other skin conditions such as hypermelanosis or hyperpigmentation are also caused by sun exposure and create skin discoloration. These can be diagnosed by a dermatologist and treated similarly. With skin conditions the best tip or remedy to problem is prevention. Caring for your skin should include minimizing sun exposure and using a high quality SPF. There are also cosmetics you can easily use which contain SPF for daily skin care health and beauty. If you have skin discoloration, plan a visit to your dermatologist and have a clear diagnosis made. Melasma is nothing to fear and is not much more than an inconvenience!