When brown spots on our skin appear out of nowhere, it is easy to get anxious that it could be skin cancer. There are other skin conditions that can be worrisome, but melasma is not one of them. So, you may be wondering: what is it, what does it look like, why does it occur, and when to see a dermatologist.
What Is Melasma?
Melasma is a skin condition that causes light or dark brown patches on our skin. They are darker than our skin making them noticeable, but they are harmless. They are caused by an overproduction of the cells that make up the color of our skin.
You can find them on areas of the body like the face, cheeks, and forehead, and other places exposed to the sun like the forearms and back. They can fade over time, especially in the winter, and then darken again during summer.
More women than men develop melasma with only 10% of men having this skin condition.
The Mask Of Pregnancy
Sometimes melasma is known as chloasma, or the “mask of pregnancy”, because it seems to appear when a woman is pregnant. Most of the time, the discoloration will go away after birth.
15 to 50 percent of pregnant women will get melasma during pregnancy.
Causes Of Melasma
It isn’t entirely clear what causes this skin discoloration. Those with darker skin are more at risk to develop it. Taking birth control pills, pregnancy, hormone treatments, stress, and thyroid disease can be triggers. Estrogen and progesterone sensitivity are associated with melasma.
When To See A Dermatologist
Although melasma is not harmful and is not cancerous, many people are dissatisfied with how it looks. Goodless Dermatology, located in Orlando and Celebration, FL, can diagnose melasma by examining the skin and using a Wood’s lamp to determine how deep the condition may be. If there is any concern about a more serious condition, a biopsy may be taken.
Although the condition can come back, topical steroids and creams can be helpful. Hydroquinone by prescription, corticosteroids and treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion are safely performed by dermatologists.
The best way to avoid melasma from returning is to avoid sun exposure. Wear protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and use sunscreen.