What Is Melasma? Can I Get It?

Do you have brown patches on your face? If so, you may have melasma. Melasma is a skin condition that can manifest anywhere on the body but typically appears on the face. There’s no cure for melasma, though treatments are available to help improve the look of affected skin. This blog post will discuss how it develops and the treatment options available to help reduce its symptoms.

How Common is Melasma?

It is a relatively common skin condition, affecting an estimated 6 million Americans. While it can occur in both sexes, it is more common in women, particularly during pregnancy or when taking certain hormone medications. The condition is also more common in people with darker skin tones.

What Are the Signs of Melasma?

The most common sign is brown or grayish-brown patches on the face, although they can also occur on other body parts exposed to the sun. These patches are usually symmetrical, meaning they occur in the same place on both sides of the face. They may be small or large and can occur on the forehead, cheeks, nose, chin, or upper lip. Melasma can also occur on the forearms and neck.

What Causes Melasma?

The exact cause is unknown, but it is theorized to be related to hormones and sun exposure. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays stimulate the production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Melanin helps protect the skin from damage by absorbing UV rays. However, when there’s too much, it can accumulate in patches on the skin, resulting in melasma.


There are several reasons why pregnancy may cause or worsen melasma. Pregnancy is a prevalent time for women to develop this skin condition. Over 50% of pregnant women will develop the condition. Additionally, some pregnant women may be more sensitive to sunlight, further triggering the condition.

Hormone Levels

Pregnancy causes a significant increase in hormones estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones stimulate pigment cells to produce more color. This increase in pigmentation is what leads to Melasma development.

Blood Flow & Circulation

Pregnancy also causes an increase in blood flow and circulation. This increased blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to the skin. It also helps to remove waste products from the skin. The increased circulation can cause the skin to produce more pigment.

Melanin-Stimulating Hormones

Other hormones can stimulate the production of melanin. These are called melanocyte-stimulating hormones (MSH). The pituitary gland produces MSH, and MSH levels increase during pregnancy. This increase in MSH leads to an uplift in melanin production, which can cause melasma.

What Are The Types of Melasma?

There are three types: epidermal, dermal, and mixed.

  1. Epidermal is the most common type. It occurs when there is an overproduction of melanin in the outer layer of skin (the epidermis). This type tends to be more responsive to treatment among the various types.
  2. Dermal is less common. It occurs when there is an overproduction of melanin in the middle layer of the skin (the dermis). This type is usually more challenging to treat than epidermal melasma.
  3. Mixed is a combination of epidermal and dermal.

What Are the Treatment Options for Melasma?

There are several treatment options, including both medical and cosmetic approaches. Medical treatments typically involve the use of lightening agents such as:

  • Hydroquinone – is an ingredient in some prescription and over-the-counter skin products.
  • Tretinoin – is a prescription cream or gel applied to the skin. 
  • Corticosteroids – are drugs that can be taken orally or applied to the skin. 
  • Azelaic Acid – is an ingredient in some prescription creams or gel products.
  •  These treatments all work similarly by decreasing the amount of melanin (brown pigment) your skin produces.

Many people also find that sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 can help prevent this skin condition from worsening. Cosmetic treatments can also be used to lighten the skin, including:

Chemical peels 

Chemical peels are one of the most common treatments. They use a chemical solution to remove the top layer of the skin, which helps improve the skin’s appearance. Chemical peels can be done at home or in a doctor’s office. The type of peel and strength is determined by your doctor based on the individual’s skin type and the severity of the skin condition. 


It is a cosmetic procedure that uses a mechanical medium for exfoliation to remove the outermost layer of dead skin cells from the epidermis. In combination with other treatments, microdermabrasion can help diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, superficial age spots, acne scars, and melasma.

Laser Therapy

A treatment that uses pulses of light to remove the top layer of skin, helping to improve the appearance of melasma by lightening the affected areas. Some studies have shown that it can be effective, primarily when combined with other treatments such as hydroquinone.

All these treatments can be effective, but your doctor may need to repeat the treatment to keep melasma under control. Talk to your doctor about which option might be best for you.

Red Light Therapy Treatment

Red light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses LED light to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and other skin concerns. Red light therapy for melasma can help fade dark patches by increasing cell turnover and stimulating collagen production.

SolaWave offers a red light face wand used at home to help improve the look of melasma. The device is portable and easy to use, making it an excellent option for individuals affected by this skin condition. By combining the power of red light therapy with a good skincare routine, individuals can achieve better results in treating melasma.

Red light therapy can be an effective treatment that’s worth considering. It’s safe and done in the comfort of your own home. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.