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2022 Jul

What is Melasma?

Find out how to treat this pregnancy-related skin condition.

Melasma is a skin condition that causes patches and spots, usually on the face, which are darker than your natural skin tone. Many women first see these blotchy patches and freckle-like spots appear on their face during pregnancy or when they start taking birth control pills. Melasma is so common during pregnancy that it’s sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy.” For some women, the melasma goes away after their baby is born or they stop taking birth control pills. Women who have medium to dark skin tones are most likely to develop melasma.

When melasma appears, it can cause tan, brown, grayish brown, or bluish gray patches and freckle-like spots. These usually appear on certain areas of face like the cheeks, forehead, chin, and even above the upper lip. While less common, melasma can develop on the arms, neck, or elsewhere.

While melasma may go away on its own, this skin condition can also last for years. If you dislike the discoloration on your skin caused by melisma, certain treatments can sometimes help. Dermatologists recommend treating melasma sooner rather than later. It can be difficult to get noticeable results from treatment if you’ve had melasma for many years.

However, if you are pregnant, wait until you have your baby to treat melasma. If you use a melasma treatment that you can buy without a prescription, it can be difficult to know whether it’s safe to use during pregnancy. Also, melasma may improve and sometimes even go away after you give birth.

Treatments such as creams can help fade the discoloration, but treatments cannot make melasma go away forever. This skin condition can come back. It’s common for melasma to return when you spend time outdoors without protecting your skin from the sun. In fact, many people who have melasma say the dark spots and patches become more noticeable during the summer and fade in winter. For this reason, it is important to use sunscreen every day and wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the spots from getting darker or returning.

A board-certified dermatologist can tell you whether melasma or another condition is causing the skin discoloration. If you have melasma, a dermatologist can create an individualized treatment plan for you. Treatment usually begins with sun protection and creams that you apply to the melasma.

Dermatologists understand that treating melasma in darker skin tones requires a different approach from treating melasma than in lighter skin tones. For example, some melasma treatments can irritate darker skin, which can worsen melasma and make it darker. Dermatologists know which precautions to take to prevent treatments from worsening melasma in darker skin tones. They also understand that it usually takes longer to see results from treatment if you have a dark skin tone.

It’s important to know that no matter your skin tone, melasma can be stubborn. Some people need a prescription-strength cream, procedure, or both. If you use a non-prescription melasma treatment, dermatologists recommend using it for no longer than three to six months and if you don’t get the results you want by then, see a dermatologist for treatment. While common, melasma can be mistaken for another skin condition. Board-certified dermatologists have the expertise required to give you an accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment plan.

There are some things that you can do yourself to make melasma less noticeable. First, protect your skin from the sun by wearing sun-protective clothing or hats, sunglasses, and a face cream with SPF 30 or higher before going out into the sun. Apply 15 minutes prior to going out and reapply every 2 hours. Secondly, choose gentle, fragrance-free skin care products. If your products burn or sting when you use it, they are causing skin irritation, which can worsen melasma. Finally, avoid waxing the body part with melasma. This can cause skin inflammation, which will worsen the dark spots.

Melissa Waddell, WHNP

Melissa Waddell, WHNP, practices obstetrics and gynecology at Atlantic Ob/Gyn located in Va. Beach and Chesapeake. Please visit www.atlanticobgyn.com.

Website: www.atlanticobgyn.com

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