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About Melasma

What is Melasma?


What is Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin disorder in which an individual develops patchy brown, tan or blue-gray facial skin discoloration. It appears on the forehead, upper cheeks, upper lip and chin. Although, this condition is common in women aged 20-50 years, but it is also possible in males. There are several factors that contribute to the Melasma condition including hereditary predisposition, hormonal changes, thyroid disease, hot weather, sun exposure and medications affecting hormonal levels.


There are no bodily symptoms of melasma, but visible brown or grayish patches over face, neck or forearm may make you feel self-conscious. Sometimes, melasma may look like other skin diseases. In that case, a dermatologist can safely and quickly perform a biopsy or use Wood’s light to diagnose melasma. Melasma occurs when hormonal changes or sun exposure causes melanocytes to produce more melanin pigment. Melasma increases with exposure to sunlight, so the best way to stop melasma from occurring or worsening is either avoiding excessive sunlight or wearing sunscreens of sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or more every day. There are various other treatment methods for melasma:


  1. Topical Therapy: This therapy uses Tyrosinase inhibitors to inhibit formation of melanin by the melanocytes. Sometimes, a combination or specially formulated creams with hydroquinone, azelaic acid, retinoic acid and nonphenolic bleaching agents are recommended by dermatologist to treat melasma. Creams or lotions that contain Tyrosinase inhibitor are used to treat melasma patients. These are:

  • Hydroquinone as cream or lotion: It is applied accurately to pigmented areas at night for 2–4 months.

  • Azelaic acid as cream, lotion or gel: It can be used on long term basis for reducing brown patches over face, neck or forearm.


  1. IPL Treatment: Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a broadband light source that can be used to target a wide range of cutaneous structures, deeper pigmentation and vasculature. The IPL treatment involves absorption of light energy by melanin in present melanocytes. Absortion of light causes epidermal coagulation due to photothermolysis followed by the formation of microcrust. These crusts which contain melanin are shed off later on.

  2. Microdermabrasion: This treatment eliminates the dead cell layer present in the top dermis of skin. Microdermabrasion also stimulates skin exfoliation. This procedure utilises vacuum suction and abrasive materials to exfoliate the top layers of the skin. The vacuum pressure is adjusted based on different sensitivity and tolerance of the skin.

  3. Laser Resurfacing or Fractional RF Treatment: In this technique, high-energy beams of light are delivered to remove the outermost layers of damaged skin and create a more youthful appearance.


Who is the best candidate?

Melasma does not cause any physical discomfort, but it definitely causes psychological stress in patients. Melasma can rarely fade on its own. People who have brown patches over face or neck areas and want to restore self-confidence are ideal candidates for melasma treatments.

Side effects:

No adverse effects have been found in the above mentioned treatments. However, some patients may notice irritation, redness, swelling and inflammation after the treatments. One should consult a dermatologist or a skin care specialist to know more about the side effects associated with different treatments available for melasma. People should also discuss their skin specific concerns with their dermatologist.

What is the Cost?

Costs for different therapies and melasma treatments depend on the skin area to be treated and location of the dermatologist. Each Microdermabrasion treatment can cost approximately $100–$300. It may take five or six treatments to get the melasma under control. IPL treatment can around $200-$1200. Prescription creams and gels typically cost $40-$200, depending on whether one buys a brand name or its generic equivalent. Laser resurfacing can cost $100-$5,000, depending on the area of the skin being treated, the type of laser used, the individual center and its regional location.

Possible Alternatives: