Melasma is a condition that causes hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the skin. Melasma can occur anywhere on the face, including the cheeks, above the upper lip, nose, chin and forehead. The darker-colored patches can range from tan to deep brown. Melasma develops more often in women than men. These skin changes are associated with hormonal changes such as pregnancy, use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. Other causes can be exposure to sunlight and use of medications that cause sensitivity to sunlight or cosmetics.
Azelaic acid cream can slow melasma and stop the production of pigment that is making the skin darken. Hydroquinone is another treatment. Hydroquinone, though, blocks the chemical process that creates melanin. It removes pigment from the skin.
Use sunscreen daily. Sunscreen is extremely important–even on cloudy days or indoors–because sunlight on unprotected skin can trigger more melasma. Select a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more and offers protection against UVA and UVB rays. The two ingredients, titanium oxide and zinc oxide, block sunlight from entering the skin. Use sunscreen when driving or sitting next to a window. Continue to wear sunscreen even after melasma clears to prevent the condition from reappearing.
Try chemical peels if melasma doesn’t fade with other treatments. Applied to the skin, these liquid solutions create a mild chemical burn that is similar to a sunburn. The burned layer will peel off, and the new skin will remain. The chemical peel can vary in strength. Glycolic acid is the mildest substance. You can also try microdermabrasion or laser surgery.
Skin discoloration will fade after several months of treatment. For women who develop dark patches during pregnancy, it will disappear after they give birth. Darkened skin can disappear after hormones stabilize or if medications such as birth control are stopped. Sometimes, though, the patches will never disappear.