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What is Melasma?


Melasma is a common skin condition that most often occurs in women between the ages of 20 to 50, with over 90% of reported cases being female. Melasma is identified by brown, tan, or blue-gray (hyperpigmentation) patches that most often appear on the skin of the face, usually on the cheeks, nose, on the forehead, along the jawline, or the upper lip. Occasionally it develops on the neck or forearms. Although not a serious condition, melasma may impact your appearance and cause self-consciousness. At Georgia Dermatology Center, we can help diminish the visible signs of melasma and help you regain your self-confidence.

What Causes Melasma?

While the exact cause of melasma is unknown, the condition has been associated with fluctuations in hormone levels, specifically the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. There is a higher risk of developing melasma among women who take birth control pills, who are receiving hormone replacement therapy, or people taking other medications containing hormones. Sometimes referred to as “the mask of pregnancy,” or the skin discoloration often suddenly appears during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. There also is a relationship between sun exposure and the potential to develop melasma, with greater risk to those who live in warmer climates. As well, the condition appears more frequently among people with olive or darker skin, such as Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern individuals, as the level of pigmentation in the skin is higher.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Melasma

Our professional dermatologist, Dr. Alexander Gross, will examine your skin to determine if you have melasma. In cases present with pregnancy, the diagnosis may be relatively clear cut. In other situations, in order to more closely examine your skin and rule out other skin disorders, they may use their Reveal Imager. This device analyzes the skin’s surface and underlying skin to evaluate hyper-pigmentation,  sun damage, textural issues, rosacea and more.

Melasma is typically not a permanent condition, and may slowly grow fainter with the cessation of external hormone supplements and normalization of hormones following pregnancy. To assist in the gradual fading of the hyperpigmentation, and help prevent additional patching, regular application of sunscreen and avoidance of lengthy periods of sun exposure is recommended. At Georgia Dermatology Center, for the most effective results we offer in-office chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser therapy treatments in conjunction with home cream applications.

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