Melasma is a condition that causes flat, dark patches and spots on the skin, typically on the face. The spots can appear as freckles or blotches.

Melasma is more frequently seen in women, but is also possible in men. It’s so common during pregnancy that it’s sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy.” Women who start taking birth control pills are also more likely to have this condition.

It can cause tan, brown, grayish brown, or bluish gray patches and freckle-like spots. These usually appear on the cheeks, forehead, chin or above the upper lip. Melasma can develop on the arms, neck or elsewhere, but that’s less common.

Melasma is not a type or sign of skin cancer.

Though melasma often goes away after pregnancy or when a woman stops taking birth control pills, it may continue and may require treatment by a dermatologist.

With or without treatment, unprotected sun exposure can increase the chances that melasma will come back or worsen. That’s why it’s important to practice preventive skin care and to see a dermatologist.

For example, people with a darker skin tone often find that some treatments irritate their skin or make the melasma darker. A board-certified dermatologist will know how to avoid this scenario.

At Surgical Dermatology Group, a dermatologist can provide answers and an individualized treatment plan.

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