Other names: Chloasma; Melasma; Mask of pregnancy; Pregnancy mask
Chloasma, also known as melasma, appears as a blotchy, brownish pigmentation on the face that develops slowly and fades with time.
Chloasma usually affects women but occasionally is seen in young men who use after-shave lotions, scented soaps, and other toiletries.
Chloasma is especially common in women aged 20-40. It affects the forehead, cheeks and upper lips. It occurs frequently during pregnancy and is more common in dark skins than in fair skins. Often called "the mask of pregnancy", chloasma is more pronounced during the summer months as a result of sun exposure. It usually fades a few months after delivery. Repeated pregnancies, however, can intensify the pigmentation.
Chloasma also occurs as a side-effect of taking contraceptive pills and injected depot contraceptive preparations. It may also be noticed in apparently healthy, normal, non-pregnant women where it is presumed to be due to some mild and harmless hormonal imbalance.
Sun exposure, following the use of deodorant soaps, scented toiletries, and various cosmetics can also produce this mottled pigmentation. This is called a phototoxic reaction and is due to ultraviolet radiation being absorbed by the chemical substance (perfume, cologne and other types of fragrance) on the skin. This pigmentation often extends down to the sun-exposed areas of the neck and may be more pronounced on the right side of the forehead, face and neck due to sun exposure while driving a car (or the left side - if you drive on the right).
Melasma is a dark skin discoloration found on sun-exposed areas of the face.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Melasma is a very common skin disorder. Though it can affect anyone, young women with brownish skin tones are at greatest risk.
Melasma is often associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is especially common in pregnant women, women who are taking oral contraceptives ("the pill"), and women taking hormone replacement therapy during menopause.
Sun exposure is also a strong risk factor for melasma. It is particularly common in tropical climates.
Melasma doesn't cause any other symptoms besides skin discoloration but may be of great cosmetic concern.
A uniform brown color is usually seen over the cheeks, forehead, nose, or upper lip. It is most often symmetrical (matching on both sides of the face).
Signs and tests
Your physician can usually diagnose melasma based upon the appearance of your skin. A closer examination using a Wood's lamp may help guide your treatment.