What is Melasma / Chloasma?

Melasma / Chloasma

Characterised by a butterfly-shaped mark, melasma (chloasma) is a type of hyperpigmentation which is more prevalent among people with a darker skin tone. When melasma occurs during pregnancy, it is also known as ‘the mask of pregnancy’ or ‘chloasma’. Patchy brown discolouration spreads across certain parts of the face, making the overall skin tone look dull.

Where does it appear?

Melasma on the face typically appears across the upper cheeks. However, other areas such as the forehead, upper lip and the chin area may be affected as well.


  • Pregnancy: About 50-70% of pregnant women are said to be affected by chloasma. While the exact mechanism by which pregnancy affects the development of melasma has yet to be found, UVA and UVB are known to be capable of stimulating the production of melanin, the colour pigment responsible for most pigmentation problems.

  • Hormonal changes: Some medication (such as birth control pills) may make the skin more prone to pigmentation after exposure to UV rays. Thus, applying sunblock to protect your skin against these harmful rays may be a good way to prevent the onset of melasma. When choosing sunblocks, it is recommended to go for those containing physical blockers (such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) because of their broader range of protection.

  • Genetics: One is at an increased risk of developing melasma when there is a known family history. Thus, to avoid stimulating further production of melanin, sun care is even more important for these individuals. Applying sunblock diligently and avoiding staying outdoors in the noon are some prevention methods that one may want to consider.

Types of Melasma

  • Epidermal (surface layer): Tends to be dark brown in colour and is characterised by well-defined borders

  • Dermal (inner layer of skin): Tends to be light brown or even bluish in colour and is characterised by ill-defined borders

  • Mixed: This is the most common type and it comes in a combination of bluish, light and dark brown patches

Is treatment necessary?

  • Pigmentation problems, if left untreated, may become darker or bigger overtime. As a result, the brownish patches cause one’s skin tone to become dull and uneven, making him/her look tired or even older than the actual age! Thus, treatment for melasma on face is recommended for those who wish to retain clear, youthful skin.

How to cure / treat / lighten melasma?

  • Topical: Hydroquinone (HQ), with a concentration level of 2% – 4%, can be applied once daily and it is recommended to continue this treatment for 3 months – 1 year for best results. However, side effects include skin irritation, skin redness, skin dryness or even stinging,

  • Lasers: More than one session is usually needed to get rid of melasma. However, as laser facial procedures usually involve heat being penetrated into the skin, repeated treatments could make your complexion more sensitive to the sun, which in turn makes it more vulnerable to sun damage, one of the main culprits of skin pigmentation.

  • Facials: Non-invasive in nature, facial treatment is a milder approach that can lighten melasma while repairing and rejuvenating the skin. The intensity of the treatments can be adjusted accordingly based on the professional judgment of the skin care consultant. Click here to find out more about the benefits of facial treatments in the removal of melasma.

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