Unmasking Melasma

Over the years, it’s common for new blemishes to appear and disappear. Dark spots, in particular, are a common consequence of the aging process. However, not all dark spots are the same. Melasma is a common but little-discussed skin condition that can mar an otherwise clear complexion.

What is Melasma?

Skin tone is determined by the amount of melanin the body produces. Melanin production is influenced by several factors – genetics, environment, sun exposure, age and hormones all play a role in determining how much melanin is created. The overproduction of pigment can create spots and patches that are a darker color and stand out against the rest of the skin.

Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation, usually developing as moderate to large patches of discoloration that appear across the face and arms. Usually, the condition appears in one of three forms – either in the top layer of skin as a brown mark with well-defined lines; as blue-grey patches deeper under the skin and with less defined borders; or as a combination of spots of varying brown and grey shades.

While these characteristics may sound distinct, melasma is often mischaracterized by patients as either age spots or freckles. Some key distinguishing signs of melasma include:

  • Brown, blue-gray, or brownish grey patches
  • Spots that develop on the cheeks, forehead, nose, chin and arms
  • Symmetric patches that develop on both sides of the face

Who Develops Melasma?

Like other forms of hyperpigmentation, melasma development is triggered by several environmental and internal factors. However, hormone fluctuation plays a significant role in condition development; an estimated 90% of patients with melasma are women. The condition’s tendency to develop during and after pregnancy has also earned it the nickname, “the mask of pregnancy.” Similarly, the use of birth control, hormone therapy, and other instances where patients experience a rise in estrogen and progesterone have been shown to increase the likelihood of melasma development in women.

While men may not face the additional risk of melasma via pregnancy, they can still develop the characteristic patches as a result of sun exposure, stress and even thyroid disease.

Is Melasma Serious?

Like most other forms of hyperpigmentation, melasma is a benign condition that is not medically indicative of something more serious. Rather, the blemishes caused by melasma are generally considered to be more of a cosmetic nuisance for male and female patients alike. As there is no cure for totally removing the discoloration, cosmetic dermatology procedures like chemical peels have been an effective way for men and women to lessen the appearance of their discoloration.

Treating Melasma

Popularly used to rejuvenate and reinvigorate dull or damaged skin, chemical peels are a tried and tested non-surgical option for men and women looking to diminish the appearance of their melasma discoloration. As chemical peels come in different strengths, patients can control the depth of their treatment based on where the hyperpigmentation appears in the skin column.

During your initial consultation visit with the Etre Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center team, Dr. Donofrio and Dr. Coleman will walk you through your condition and help you determine the appropriate type of treatment as well as a topical regimen to achieve your ideal appearance. A good home regimen is necessary to speed results as well as prevent recurrences of melasma.

Restore Even Skin Tone at Etre Cosmetic Dermatology

Are large melasma patches marring your complexion? Take your skin care to the next level – call (504) 227-3873 to schedule a melasma treatment consultation at our New Orleans dermatology practice. We’ll help you find the perfect solution that yields long-lasting results.


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