Melasma is a chronic skin condition which causes symmetrical, blotchy brown to grey-brown patches on the face. Most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip. It also can appear on other parts of the body that get lots of sun, such as the forearms and neck. It is usually more noticeable in the summer and improves during the winter months.
The affected skin is not itchy or sore. It is not an infection, it is not contagious and it is not due to an allergy. It is not cancerous and will not change into skin cancer.
Women are far more likely than men to get melasma. It is can worsen during pregnancy and seems to be related to hormones changes. People with darker skin and people who have a blood relative with melasma are much more likely to develop the condition.
Melasma is difficult to treat, and can be very distressing for a patient. One of the most important treatments is sun protection. This means wearing sunscreen every day and reapplying the sunscreen every 2 hours. Topical and laser therapies are available. Systemic (tablet) medications are currently being researched.