by EBSCO Medical Review Board


Melasma is a skin condition that leads to brown patches on the skin. These patches usually appear on the face. Patches can also appear on the neck and forearms.

Melasma is common in pregnant people. It is not a harmful condition.

Common Sites on the Face for Melasma
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The level of melanin increases in the body and cause the patches. It is not clear why this increase happens. Things that may play a role include:

  • Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone
  • Being in the sun
  • Genetics
  • Makeup

Risk Factors

Melasma is more common in women during their reproductive years. It can occur in men. Other things that may raise the risk of melasma include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Family history of melasma
  • Having a darker skin tone
  • Getting too much sun exposure
  • Using products that irritate the skin, such as cosmetics
  • Certain medicines, such as antiseizure drugs or hormone therapy


Dark patches of skin.


You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. Your skin will be examined. The doctor can often make the diagnosis based on how the skin looks.


Melasma may go away on its own. If it does not go away, it may need to be treated. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

Addressing Cause

  • Melasma during pregnancy may slowly fade after giving birth. It may appear again or darken with later pregnancies.
  • Stopping birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy may help melasma fade. Talk to your doctor about medicine or treatment options.
  • Do not use makeup, creams, or cleansers that irritate your skin. That can lead to melasma.
  • Protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) light. Avoid sun exposure and tanning beds. Wear sunscreen, clothing, and hats when outdoors.


Creams may be given to lighten the patches. It may take several months to see an improvement.

Other Treatments

The patches may also be lightened with:

  • Chemical peel
  • Microdermabrasion—removing top layer of skin
  • Laser therapy


To help reduce your risk of getting melasma:

  • Limit how long you spend in the sun. Avoid tanning booths.
  • Use sunscreen every day. Wear sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It should also have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.


American Academy of Dermatology 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 


Canadian Dermatology Association 

Public Health Agency of Canada 


Kwon, S.-H., Na, J.-I., et al. Melasma: Updates and perspectives. Experimental Dermatology, 2019; 28(6): 704-708.

Melasma. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2022.

Melasma. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2022.

Melasma. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2022.

Melasma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 21, 2022.

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