A closer look at Melasma

Melasma affects many people, particularly pregnant women. Though unpainful, Melasma does affect the appearance of the face, making it detrimental to self-esteem and body image. There are many things sufferers can do to reduce the symptoms. Wearing sunblock every day and avoiding aggravating cosmetic treatments can make a difference. However, dermatological treatments may be necessary to achieve the desired results.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation. It’s characterised by brown or grey patches on the forehead, cheeks, bridge of the nose, upper lip and chin. The condition can also extend to other parts of the body prone to sun exposure. Common areas are the forearms, neck, and shoulders.

What causes Melasma?

Hormonal fluctuations typical of the female body can trigger Melasma. Though men can develop it too, making up about 10% of cases. The reason for the patch development is still debatable. But it’s clear that the colour-making cells in the skin (melanocytes) produce too much colour, causing the patches. Melasma is, therefore, more prevalent among people with darker skin, due to these individuals having more active melanocytes than people with lighter skin. Sun exposure and stress worsen symptoms of the condition. And there is also evidence to suggest there is a link between Melasma and thyroid disease. 

Protecting your skin 

Sun exposure can cause and worsen hyperpigmentation. So it’s imperative that sufferers of Melasma protect their skin from the sun’s harsh rays. Melasma sufferers should wear sunscreen with a higher SPF (30 or more) every day. And repeat the application every two hours. A large-brimmed hat can also be beneficial in this regard. Melasma sufferers should also avoid possible irritants that can cause inflammation, like waxing. Other hair removal alternatives are available. If you need advice, your dermatologist should be able to make a recommendation.

What treatments are available?


Hydroquinone is a common first resort in the treatment of Melasma symptoms. It’s applied to the skin in gel or liquid form to lighten the darker patches. This medication is available over the counter, though prescribed versions are preferable.

Tretinoin and corticosteroids

Sometimes a more intensive skin lightening treatment is necessary. A dermatologist could prescribe a Tretinoin and corticosteroids medicine. This can be a second treatment, or combined with the first (Hydroquinone) as a ‘triple cream’. 

Other topical medicines

As an alternative topical skin-lightening treatment, azelaic acid or kojic acid may get prescribed.

Cosmetic procedures

If skin-lightening medications don’t improve the condition, dermatological procedures are usually considered. Procedures that have proven effective in the treatment of Melasma include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, dermabrasion, laser treatment, or light-based therapy.

For a proper diagnosis, book a consultation with Dr Noks

If you are suffering from symptoms of hyperpigmentation, book an appointment with Dr Noks. She will give you a proper skin assessment. And diagnose your condition – whether it be Melasma or another type of hyperpigmentation. It’s always best to consult a medical professional before self-treating a skin condition. And you might require a prescription for your specific case.