Melasma is a dark pigmentation of the face, most commonly seen on the cheeks, nose bridge, forehead and lips that mostly affects women. It's associated with hormonal changes and often affects pregnant women - therefore known as "the mask of pregnancy". Risk factors for developing the melasma include sun exposure, hormonal changes, and genetic predisposition.

Melasma is a dermatological condition characterised by dark skin discolouration found on sun-exposed areas of the face. Patches of darker pigmentation can develop around the upper lip, nose, cheekbones, and forehead and sometimes appear in the shape of a mask.

While it can affect anyone at any point in life it usually presents in women of reproductive age. People with darker skin, pregnant women, women on oral contraceptives, or women taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications, are more commonly affected by melasma.

While the exact cause of melasma is not known it is linked to sun exposure and is associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. (Which is why it is more common in pregnant women, women on the pill or those taking HRT medication.) Other risk factors include a family history of melasma, race (those with olive or darker skin, such those of Asian or Middle Eastern backgrounds, have higher incidences of melasma), and medication (some medications make skin more vulnerable to pigmentation after exposure to ultraviolet light).

When melasma occurs during pregnancy it's known as "the mask of pregnancy". It occurs because of hormonal changes during pregnancy that stimulate an increase in the body's production of melanin. Areas of dark pigmentation usually fade after a few months after birth although sometimes they never completely disappear.

While melasma doesn't cause any other symptoms other than skin discolouration, it can cause embarrassment, distress or depression.

Prevention of melasma is very difficult, but reducing sun exposure and using a high SPF sunscreen are ways to help reduce the risk of developing or worsening melasma.

The condition may improve with time. However in many instances, it worsens with age. Long-term use of Hydroquinone topical creams may help treat mild cases of melasma, however the success rate is poor, and there may be associated side effects such as skin irritations.

MD Cosmedical Solutions Sydney utilizes the state-of-the-art Fraxel Repair Dual CO2 Laser that is the gold standard treatment for melasma & sun damage pigmentation, achieving excellent results in most patients. A free consultation is available with Dr Buddy Beaini.