Melasma: The Mother’s Day Present Nobody Wants

Melasma is a skin pigmentation darkening of the face often associated with pregnancy. With Mother’s Day celebrated this coming Sunday, we’re sharing some tips and treatments for this common skin issue.

Who Gets Melasma?

There are several types and causes of melasma, and it can occur in men as well as in women. But the condition is so closely associated with hormonal changes in some pregnant women that it’s sometimes known as the mask of pregnancy. A typical masklike pattern of freckling and brown spots occurs on the forehead, nose, cheeks, and upper lip. It usually clears up a few months after giving birth, but in some women it can linger.

You may also develop melasma as a consequence of not being pregnant. Using hormonal contraception–pills, implants–can trigger the same skin darkening as pregnancy in susceptible women.

All forms of melasma are most common in people with olive or medium dark skin, and some types tend to run in families. Doctors think hormonal signals or other issues trigger overproduction of the melanin (brown pigmented) skin cells. In some people, skin affected with melasma takes on a faint bluish cast. People with either very fair or very dark skin do not commonly develop hormonal melasma, but sun damage can trigger skin darkening.

Can Melasma Be Prevented?

If you are at risk for melasma, you can take some protective measures. Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear a hat and protective clothing; avoiding sun damage is your first line of defense no matter what the skin issue. Step up your sun protection while you are pregnant. If you are a woman of childbearing age and avoiding pregnancy, talk with your health care provider about non-hormonal contraception.

How Is Melasma Treated?

If you have melasma, use a mild, non-irritating cleanser followed by a light moisturizer (and sunscreen!) daily. You may wish to wear a tinted moisturizer or sunscreen to help even out or conceal the pigmentation. Avoid harsh peels or mechanical dermabrasion, which can cause inflammation.


A treatment plan for your melasma should be determined in consultation with your dermatologist. Melasma can be stubborn, and skin susceptible to melasma may also react to some treatments by developing lasting UV sensitivity, irritation, or post-treatment inflammation. Your doctor may recommend peels containing azoleic acid (which is mild enough to be used during pregnancy), or topical skin lighteners or retinols in some cases.

For melasma that lingers after pregnancy, or to treat more stubborn or widespread cases, your doctor may recommend treatment with intense pulsed light (IPL) or with fractionated lasers that can target the overpigmented skin while preserving healthy skin cells.

This Mother’s Day, come out from behind the mask of melasma. Contact us today for a personalized treatment plan, and brighten your life!