Common pigmentation problems include brown age spots known as lentigos, freckles, photo-damaged skin irregularities and melasma.
Melasma is also referred to as ‘chloasma’ and ‘pregnancy mask’ and is a common skin condition which occurs in adults in which brown or greyish patches of pigmentation (colour) develop, usually on the face. The name comes from melas, the Greek word for black, or cholas, from the word green-ish.
Pigmentation is more prevalent amongst women, with up to 50% of women developing pigmentation during pregnancy due to the body creating more melanin. Although less common, men may also be affected by the sudden appearance of brown spots.
Melasma is more common in people of colour and those who are prone to tanning quickly as exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun and the use of sun-beds or phototherapy can trigger melasma or make it worse. Unfortunately, these issues can arise in anyone at any time during our lives.
Melasma usually becomes more noticeable in the summer and improves during the winter months. It is not an infection; therefore, it is not contagious, and it is not due to an allergy. It is not cancerous and will not develop into skin cancer.
The exact cause is not known, but it is thought to be because of pigment-producing cells in the skin (melanocytes) producing too much pigment (melanin). Several factors can contribute to developing melasma, including pregnancy and using hormonal drugs such as birth control pills and hormone replacement. Rarely, other medical problems that affect hormones (such as thyroid problems) may cause melasma, as well as some other medications, such as anti-epileptics.
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