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What is melasma? What are its clinical treatments and home remedies?

What is melasma? What are its clinical treatments and home remedies? Melasma is a common skin problem in which dark discolored patches appear on the skin. Most of the people get these on their cheeks, chin, forehead, and upper lips. It can also appear on sun-exposed areas of the body.

Women are far more likely to get melasma. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, ninety percent of the melasma patients are women. Majority of the melasma patients are in third or fourth decades of their life. Women taking oral contraceptive pills and exogenous hormones are more likely to get melasma.

In this article, you’ll also get to know more about melasma, its clinical treatments and, home remedies.

Know More About Melasma

To define melasma in medical terms, it is a skin hyperpigmentation disorder in which brown to gray-brown patches appear on the skin of the face. Because most of the pregnant women suffer from melasma, this condition is also called ‘chloasma’ or ‘mask of pregnancy’. It most commonly appears on the forehead of pregnant ladies. This is an acquired condition attributed to UV exposure and hormonal imbalances.

How melasma occurs?

Although the exact mechanism of melasma occurrence is still unknown, yet it is known that certain cells present in the skin called melanocytes are stimulated. These cells produce a pigment called melanin which causes skin hyperpigmentation. How these melanocytes are stimulated is yet to be discovered.

What causes melasma?

Many factors influencing melasma formation have been identified. Some of those are as follows:

  • Genetic Predisposition: It may be a major factor in melasma formation. It is because females tend to get melasma more than males. Also, people with light-brown skin types are more prone to this condition.
  • UV light exposure: UV light breaks down lipids in our cells resulting in the formation of substances called free radicals. These free radicals then cause skin hyperpigmentation.
  • Hormonal Disturbances: Females who take oral contraceptive pills have high levels of estrogen and progesterone. High levels of these hormones play a role in melasma development.
  • Thyroid Diseases: Researches have shown that thyroid diseases have a great association with melasma.1

Symptoms of melasma

Melasma does not cause symptoms (what people feel when suffering from the disease). As previously stated, melasma causes discolored skin patches. These typically appear on the areas of the face and many people dislike having patches on their face because this makes them look ugly.2

Can melasma be treated?

Melasma is usually a self-resolving disease if it typically occurs due to hormonal imbalances during pregnancy. But some certain medical procedures and medicines that can help treat melasma. These are highlighted under:

  • Use of Topical Depigmenting Agents: Advancements in medicine have led to the development of certain depigmenting drugs that could possibly decrease the pigmentations that occur in melasma.
  • Use of Skin Peels: Skin peels are also used along with depigmenting agents in order to revive the healthy skin cells that are under the hyperpigmented skin epithelium.
  • Use of corticosteroids: Corticosteroids prevent the formation of a pigmenting compound called melanin in the skin cells. Thus, they can be used for treating melasma but under expert medical guidance as corticosteroids also weaken our immune system.
  • Laser Therapy: Nowadays laser therapy is also being done for many dermatologic procedures. Whenever medicinal treatment fails, the doctor refers patients to surgeons for laser therapy.
  • Discontinuance of high-SPF sunscreens: High-SPF sunscreens do more harm than sun screening because of their chemical composition. Thus, melasma patients, having sensitive skin, are advised to not use such chemical products.3

Home Remedies for Melasma

If you have melasma, you can consider one of the following remedies:

  • Polypodium leucotomos: It is a fern present in Central and South America. It is also called calaguala and anapsos. Many people located in those areas use this plant to treat skin problems. A study also showed its effectiveness in resolving melasma.4
  • Glutathione: Many skin problems get cured by the use of glutathione because of its anti-oxidant properties. Melasma is one of those problems.3
  •  Aloe Vera: A research study showed that topical use of liposome-encapsulated aloe vera helps prevent melasma formation. This method was quite effective for melasma occurring during pregnancy.5
  • Skin Protective Measures: There are several methods by which a person can protect his or her skin from harmful UV rays in the sunlight. These include the use of topical sunscreens, covering sun-exposed body areas with clothes, etc.

Take Away Message

You probably would be suffering from melasma if you have gray-brown patches on your skin especially forehead. To confirm it, go and get it check by your doctor. Start the treatment as soon as possible. You need to be patient regarding your treatment as its treatment is time-consuming. Moreover, remember that prevention is always better than cure. Wear sunscreen everyday and always protect your skin with a wide-brimmed hat when going outside in daylight.


1.        Dessinioti, C. & Katsambas, A. Melasma. in Hyperpigmentation 23–29 (CRC Press, 2017). doi:10.1201/9781315162478.

2.        Melasma: Signs and symptoms.

3.        Ogbechie-Godec, O. A. & Elbuluk, N. Melasma: an Up-to-Date Comprehensive Review. Dermatol. Ther. (Heidelb). 7, 305–318 (2017).

4.        Nestor, M. et al. Polypodium leucotomos as an Adjunct Treatment of Pigmentary Disorders. J. Clin. Aesthet. Dermatol. 7, 13–17 (2014).

5.        Ghafarzadeh, M. & Eatemadi, A. Clinical efficacy of liposome-encapsulated Aloe vera on melasma treatment during  pregnancy. J. Cosmet. laser Ther.  Off. Publ. Eur. Soc.  Laser Dermatology 19, 181–187 (2017).

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