Understanding the causes of Melasma and four ways to prevent and treat it.
Dr. Perricone Discusses: Melasma Melasma, sometimes referred to as the "mask of pregnancy", is characterized by blotchy, gray-brown spots or patches on the face, jawline and neck. Much like rosacea, Melasma typically appears on the planes of the face - nose, forehead, chin and above the upper lip, and it may also appear on other parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the décolleté and arms. Melasma is also similar to rosacea in that it is more common in women than in men. Hormones and sun damage are the most common triggers of Melasma. While the actual causes of are not known, factors that increase one's likelihood of having Melasma include:

  • A blood relative who has Melasma
  • Excess sun exposure
    Ultra violet light stimulates skin's melanocytes (part of the cell responsible for pigment production). Even a small amount of sun exposure can make Melasma return after treatment. This is perhaps why Melasma appears worse in the summer months and why it seems to come and go.
  • Darker skin tones
    Darker skin has more melanocytes and therefore more pigment, which makes it more susceptible to developing Melasma.

Common triggers include hormone fluctuations (pregnant women often experience chloasma or "the mask of pregnancy") and certain cosmetic products. Anything that irritates the skin can potentially worsen Melasma.


Melasma can be one of the slower skin conditions to resolve itself. It is best to start gently, particularly if you are using a prescribed medication or have sensitive skin. If the treatment is too aggressive, an increase in irregular pigmentation sometimes occurs. The best non-prescription option to correct the appearance of discoloration like Melasma is a multi-tiered approach:

Have you struggled with Melasma or other forms of hyperpigmentation? Ask your questions and share your tips with the Perricone MD community on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

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