Melasma: Who gets and causes

Who gets melasma?

Melasma appears on women’s skin much more often than men’s skin. Just 10% of people who get melasma are men.

People with darker skin, such as those of Latin/Hispanic, North African, African-American, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean descent are more likely to get melasma. People who have a blood relative who had melasma also are much more likely to get melasma.

What causes melasma?

What causes melasma is not yet clear. It likely occurs when the color-making cells in the skin (melanocytes) produce too much color. People with skin of color are more prone to melasma because they have more active melanocytes than those with light skin.

Common melasma triggers (what starts it) include:

  • Sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun stimulates the melanocytes. In fact, just a small amount of sun exposure can make melasma return after fading. Sun exposure is why melasma often is worse in summer. It also is the main reason why many people with melasma get it again and again.
  • A change in hormones: Pregnant women often get melasma. When melasma appears in pregnant women, it is called chloasma, or the mask of pregnancy. Birth control pills and hormone replacement medicine also can trigger melasma.
  • Cosmetics: Skin care products that irritate the skin may worsen melasma.

Learn more about melasma:

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