Understanding the Different Types of Facial Melasma: A Comprehensive Guide

February 19, 2024

Facial melasma is a common skin condition that causes dark, discolored patches on the face. These patches are typically brown or grayish in color and can vary in size and shape. Melasma is a result of the overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives color to our skin. This condition usually affects women more than men, and it is often triggered by hormonal changes, sun exposure, or certain medications.

Causes of Facial Melasma

The exact cause of facial melasma is still unknown, but there are several factors that can contribute to its development. Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or while taking birth control pills, can trigger melasma. Sun exposure is another major factor, as UV rays can stimulate the production of melanin in the skin. Certain medications, like hormone replacement therapy or anti-seizure drugs, can also increase the risk of developing melasma.

Types of Facial Melasma

There are different types of facial melasma that can affect individuals. Understanding these types can help in determining the appropriate treatment approach.

Epidermal Melasma

Epidermal melasma is the most common type of melasma and affects the top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. This type of melasma is characterized by brown patches that are well-defined and appear on the surface of the skin. Epidermal melasma is usually responsive to treatment and can be effectively managed with topical creams and professional treatments.

Dermal Melasma

Dermal melasma affects the deeper layers of the skin, known as the dermis. This type of melasma is characterized by gray or blue-gray patches that are less defined and appear more blurred. Dermal melasma can be more challenging to treat compared to epidermal melasma, as the pigment is located deeper in the skin. However, with the right combination of treatments, significant improvement can still be achieved.

Mixed Melasma

Mixed melasma is a combination of both epidermal and dermal melasma. This type of melasma presents with patches that have characteristics of both types, typically with a combination of well-defined and blurred edges. Mixed melasma can be more complex to treat, as it requires a tailored approach that addresses both the superficial and deeper layers of the skin.

Pregnancy-Induced Melasma

Pregnancy-induced melasma, also known as chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy,” is a type of melasma that occurs during pregnancy. This type of melasma is attributed to hormonal changes and can appear on the face, particularly the cheeks, forehead, and upper lip. Pregnancy-induced melasma usually fades on its own after childbirth, but it can be managed with topical treatments and sun protection during pregnancy.

Sun-Induced Melasma

Sun-induced melasma, also known as solar lentigines, is a type of melasma that is triggered by sun exposure. UV rays stimulate the production of melanin in the skin, leading to the development of dark patches. Sun-induced melasma is typically seen on areas of the face that are exposed to the sun, such as the cheeks, forehead, and nose. Prevention, through the use of sunscreen and sun protection, is key in managing this type of melasma.

Treating Facial Melasma

While melasma cannot be cured completely, there are various treatment options available to manage and reduce its appearance. The choice of treatment depends on the type and severity of melasma, as well as the individual’s skin type and medical history.

Topical Treatments for Facial Melasma

Topical treatments are often the first line of defense in managing facial melasma. These creams or gels contain ingredients that help to lighten the dark patches and even out the skin tone. Popular ingredients in topical treatments include hydroquinone, retinoids, corticosteroids, and kojic acid. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the healthcare professional and to use sunscreen regularly to protect the skin from further damage.

Professional Treatments for Facial Melasma

In some cases, professional treatments may be recommended to achieve optimal results in treating facial melasma. These treatments are typically performed by doctors or skincare professionals and can include procedures such as chemical peels, microdermabrasion, laser therapy, or light therapy. These treatments work by targeting the pigment in the skin and promoting the growth of new, healthier skin cells. It is essential to consult with a qualified professional to determine the most suitable treatment option for your specific condition.

Preventing Facial Melasma

Prevention is key when it comes to managing facial melasma, especially for individuals who are prone to developing this condition. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help prevent the formation or worsening of melasma:

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Facial Melasma

  1. Sun Protection: Protecting your skin from the sun is crucial in preventing melasma. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF, wear protective clothing, and seek shade during peak sun hours.
  2. Avoid Hormonal Triggers: If you are susceptible to hormonal melasma, discuss alternative birth control options with your healthcare provider. Avoid hormone replacement therapy unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Gentle Skincare Routine: Stick to a gentle skincare routine that includes mild cleansers and moisturizers. Avoid harsh exfoliants or scrubs that can irritate the skin.
  4. Avoid Irritating Products: Certain skincare products, such as those containing fragrances or alcohol, can aggravate melasma. Opt for gentle, non-irritating formulations.
  5. Manage Stress: Stress can trigger hormonal changes, which can worsen melasma. Practice stress management techniques, such as meditation or yoga, to keep stress levels in check.


Understanding the different types of facial melasma is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment and prevention strategies. Whether you have epidermal, dermal, mixed, pregnancy-induced, or sun-induced melasma, there are various options available to manage and minimize its appearance. From topical treatments to professional procedures, working closely with a healthcare professional can help you create a personalized plan that suits your specific needs. Remember, prevention is key, so protect your skin from the sun and make healthy lifestyle choices to keep facial melasma at bay.

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