Known as the “pregnancy mask,” or chloasma, melasma is characterized by an irregular, patchy facial pigmentation. It commonly affects women with darker skin and can have a huge impact on one’s appearance and self-esteem.

If you’re affected by this condition, schedule a consultation with dermatology experts who understand that melasma can be extremely frustrating. The board-certified dermatologists and staff of skin specialists at Pima Dermatology understand this and can answer questions, diagnose the condition, and recommend customized treatments that match your budget, life, and aesthetic goals.

What is Melasma?

Melasma often develops in gray or light-to-dark brown patches of skin on places like the forehead, cheeks, and chin – even the arms and neck. Because these discolorations occur in areas that get a lot of sun, Arizona residents are especially vulnerable.

Although melasma can develop in men, it’s estimated that up to 90% of all cases involve women, particularly during pregnancy. If irregular skin pigmentation has begun to affect you, contact a skin expert at Pima Dermatology.

Reliable Treatment Options

Pima Dermatology offers a range of gentle, effective treatments that can be customized to meet your needs and goals.

One thing to remember is that melasma is unpredictable. In some cases, it disappears with no treatment, especially when triggered by pregnancy or birth control pills. In many other cases, however, melasma can last for a long time. Furthermore, it can take many years to fully develop, making treatment an ongoing process.

Depigmentation Treatment

A skin lightening melasma cream with hydroquinone is one of the most common treatments available. Common hydroquinone products include Hydroquinone 4%, Clinicians Complex® 6% Skin Bleaching Cream, and Groot’s cream. In many cases, these are more effective when combined with treatments like:

  • Glycolic Acid
  • iS Clinical® Pro-Heal Serum
  • Finacea
  • Topical Vitamin A (retinoids)
  • Topical Vitamin C
  • TCA and Jessner’s Peel treatments
  • Sunscreen SPF 40+

Glycolic acid and retinoids (Tretinoin/Retin-A®, Renova®, Differin®, Tazorac®) exfoliate the skin to remove surface pigment and balance skin tone.

If the above options don’t work as well as you’d like, several cosmetic procedures could be more suitable:

Chemical Peel

Glycolic acid, as well as Jessner’s and TCA. are types of peel solutions that Pima Dermatology offers. They entail very little or no downtime and can be administered at intervals of 2-6 weeks to improve discoloration.

Laser Therapy

Often a last resort, lasers such as green red light (Q-switched Alexandrite) or infrared lights (Q-switched 1064nm) can be administered.

Most of all, though, patience is a necessity. Although a laser or peel can be more effective than other solutions, they’re not a guarantee either that your melasma will be wholly erased or that it won’t return.

That’s why follow-up sessions at Pima Dermatology are often necessary.

Risk Factors and Causes of Melasma

Though commonly associated with pregnancy, no consensus about the exact causes of melasma exists. Patients with fair skin are known to be less susceptible than their darker skinned counterparts, though, and if you have at least one family member with melasma, you’re also more vulnerable as it can be a genetic predisposition.

Sun Avoidance and Sunscreen Protection

Being out in the sun heightens the risk of melasma because the ultraviolet (UV) rays adversely impact the body’s melanocytes, the cells that control pigmentation and color. Wearing sunscreen every day is extremely important in the prevention of melasma and other forms of sun damage. The sunscreen needs to be Broad-Spectrum (UVA/UVB) and be an SPF of 40 or higher to be effective. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours if it has been washed off due to exposure to water or perspiration.  Be sure to wear clothes that cover up your arms, legs, face, and neck; also, UVA- or UVB-protective window tinting on your car is recommended.

Previous Cases

If you’ve had a case that seemingly disappeared, you’re susceptible to a recurrence, especially with even a little sun exposure.


Skin inflammation for any reason can increase the risk of development or recurrence of melasma.

Hormone Issues or Therapy

Hormone changes, such as during pregnancy, can cause melasma to develop. Moreover, hormone therapy and birth control pills can trigger the condition as well.

Other Complications

Stress and certain skin care products, especially those with skin irritants, can either worsen or trigger melasma.

What are the Symptoms of Melasma?

Symptoms of melasma don’t involve anything you can feel, such as stinging, tingling, or pain. There’s no fatigue to signify it, either.

The development of skin discoloration, usually darker than your normal skin color, is the only sign of the condition. If you develop this irregular pigmentation, contact Pima Dermatology.

Don’t Suffer from Melasma – Contact Pima Dermatology

Melasma may be superficial or deep – or a combination of the two – so don’t hesitate to contact Pima Dermatology for a consultation. We can administer a visual exam with a special light or Visia Complexion Analysis to determine the scope and depth of your condition. We can then customize a safe, effective solution for you. Schedule a consultation by contacting us online or calling our practice in Tucson.

Next, read about micro needling.

By Pima Dermatology | © 2023 All Rights Reserved. Design & Development by Goldman Marketing Group | Sitemap | The information available on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace a medical consultation where a physician's judgment may advise you about specific disorders, conditions and or treatment options. We hope the information will be useful for you to become more educated about your health care decisions.