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Melasma: Causes & Treatments

Let’s face it: There’s no such thing as “perfect skin”. Try as we might, there are always little things we’d adjust about our complexion, whether it’s the wrinkles near our eyes or acne scars. If you’ve been diagnosed with melasma, you might be wondering what you can do to treat it.

Melasma is a common skin condition; while it won’t cause damage, it can make someone feel embarrassed about their skin. It may appear as large, dark patches or small, freckle-like blotches. 

We’re going to cover what causes melasma and how you can treat it:


What Are the Signs of Melasma?

The main symptom is skin pigmentation. Melasma is a skin condition characterized by discoloured patches of skin. Patches of darker skin may be blue-grey or light/dark brown; sometimes, they may get inflamed or red. The dark patches may be symmetrical, appearing on both sides of the face (this is known as lateral cheek pattern melasma)

Areas where melasma appears most commonly include:

  • Face (cheeks, nose, forehead, and upper lip)

  • Neck

  • Shoulders

  • Jaw

  • Forearms


Causes of Melasma

The cause of melasma isn’t always clear; it varies from person to person. The following can trigger melasma:

  • Birth control pills. Contraceptives that contain estrogen and progesterone can increase your sensitivity to this condition

  • Sun exposure. UV rays can affect the pigmentation of the skin. If you love spending time in the sun, protect yourself with a high SPF sunscreen.

  • Pregnancy. Due to fluctuating hormone levels, many pregnant women develop melasma. It primarily appears on the face and is referred to as chloasma. 

  • Skin color. If you have dark or light brown skin, you may be at a higher risk of melasma. 

  • Genetics. There’s a genetic component at play here, too. If you have family members with melasma, you are more likely to develop it as well.


A common misconception is that melasma is a sign of skin cancer. This skin condition is not cancerous; however, we still recommend that you visit a dermatologist to be properly diagnosed. 


Who gets Melasma?

The number one factor that affects the likelihood of developing melasma is your race. While people from all cultural groups can be diagnosed with melasma, it affects mostly Asian and South Asian people.

Another risk factor is your sex. 90% of people with melasma are women. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to developing melasma (hence the nickname “the mask of pregnancy”). 

Men also develop this condition, but it’s less common; 10% of those with melasma are male.


How To Treat Melasma?

Even though melasma doesn’t cause harm to your body or skin, it can be a source of self-consciousness for many. In some cases, melasma can be a chronic disorder that recurs. 

Trying to prevent melasma from getting worse? Here are a few things you can try:

  • Put on protective clothing. Minimize your sun exposure by wearing protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat, windbreaker, and long pants. 

  • Wear sunscreen. Wondering why your skin darkens when you spend a long time in the sun? It’s due to UV rays. Protect your skin by applying sunscreen before you leave the house. 

  • Change contraceptive methods. If your current form of birth control is causing your melasma, consider talking to your doctor about non-hormonal contraceptive methods.

  • Avoid irritants. Do you have sensitive skin? Try to avoid any skincare products with fragrances or other ingredients that may irritate your skin. 

  • Take vitamin D. For your overall skin health, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency may not cause melasma, but it is correlated with it. The sun is one way to get vitamin D, but since you’re trying to limit your exposure to UV rays, you’ll be glad to know there are other ways to get more of it. We suggest eating more fish, eggs, and meat to increase vitamin D within your diet. Alternatively, you can take a daily supplement. 

  • Avoid spicy food. When you eat hot foods, it causes your body temperature to increase, and inflammation to flare up. This can trigger and worsen melasma. 

For some women, melasma will clear up naturally once they stop taking birth control or give birth. But while you wait for it to fade, you may be looking for ways to conceal it. 


Tips To Make Melasma Less Noticeable

Treating melasma can be a long process; it can take a few weeks or months before you notice improvements. For pregnant women, your treatment options are limited. The darker patches typically fade a few months after giving birth. 

If you’d like to reduce the visibility of brown patches, try the following treatments:


Topical medications

If you meet with a dermatologist, they may prescribe certain medications to target discolouration. These creams are designed to prevent your skin from producing more melanin, the pigment that’s responsible for the darker patches. A few common ingredients include azelaic acid and kojic acid. 


Laser Therapy 

If you have melasma primarily on your face, you can try various skin treatments that target the top layer of skin. We suggest one of the following: 

  • Nano (Q-switch) Nd:Yag treatment 

  • Pico Laser Treatments 

  • Clear & Brilliant Permea 


Chemical Peels

Exfoliate the outer layer of your skin and encourage new skin cell growth with a chemical peel. This is an effective and minimally-invasive way to treat melasma. We offer this treatment at our medical clinic. See the results for yourself by scheduling a chemical peel at Spotless Laser Medical Aesthetics today.



When melasma appears on your face, you can use foundation or concealer to cover it up. Makeup will not treat the cause of melasma, but it can help you feel more comfortable and confident about your skin. 

We suggest choosing a foundation with SPF for protection against sun exposure. Cosmetics can be a great help to pregnant women, who may be ineligible for other treatment options. 


Book Your Appointment Today

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. As such, it has a pretty important job to do; it protects you from UV rays, bacteria, and extreme temperatures. And every year, millions of people deal with melasma. Even so, it’s not something you should have to live with. 

Interested in trying a laser treatment? At Spotless Laser Medical Aesthetics, we offer skin treatments, microneedling, and hair removal in Burnaby. You’ll be in good hands with our team of professionally trained estheticians. To schedule your consultation, contact us today.