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What Is Melasma? Inside the Common Skin Condition Blowing Up on Social Media

The topic of melasma is hitting social media platforms, with women of all ages talking about their experiences

Though many of us feel young at heart, our bodies may be showing signs of aging. . Everything from the way our body moves to the way it looks eventually alters over time, especially our skin. In recent years, there’s been a much greater push for skin health and preserving youth, but for some women, no matter how much sunscreen or anti-aging serums they might use, they may still experience melasma. So what exactly is this extremely common skin condition that is blowing up on social media?

What is melasma?

Melasma is a skin condition in which blotchy dark patches and spots appear on the skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, melasma may appear tan, brown, or have gray and blue hues as well. Most often, these spots appear on the face.

Woman with melasma
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Social media is ablaze with videos about melasma, with many dermatologists taking to TikTok to explain what melasma is and what can be done about it. Dr. Daniel Barrett, a California-based plastic surgeon, told followers on TikTok that the best course of action when discussing melasma is to first identify what is causing it. Treatment options, from there, can then be determined.

Who is at risk for melasma?

Melasma is a condition that is common amongst pregnant women, but not exclusive. Hormonal changes and fluctuations can play a big part in the appearance of melasma, and women, both pregnant and not, experience these types of fluctuations throughout their lives for many reasons.

Outside of pregnancy, women who are taking hormonal birth control or taking hormonal replacement therapy could also develop melasma over the course of their life.

How do you diagnose melasma?

While melasma might be easily recognizable when you know what it looks like, it’s best to seek out your dermatologist for a definite diagnosis. Melasma is not cancerous, nor is it a sign of skin cancer, but being that in certain cases it may mimic the looks of certain skin cancers, it is best to consult with your doctor. As Dr. Barrett explained on TikTok, it’s important to ascertain what is causing the melasma in your life. Common causes are birth control use, pregnancy and sun exposure.

Toa55/Getty Images

Can melasma be prevented or treated?

If you’re pregnant or taking certain medications, melasma can’t technically be prevented. However, protecting your skin from the sun might help minimize the appearance of these spots, as the American Academy of Dermatology Association says that “many people who have melasma say the dark spots and patches become more noticeable during the summer and fade in winter.”

Dr. Barrett noted that such product options like an exfoliation treatment, a retinol program or a professional skin resurfacing can help with melasma.

Can melasma go away on its own?

Melasma permanency varies from person to person. In some instances, when a hormonal trigger like pregnancy or medication stops, the spots may fade. In other cases, the spots may last a while or be permanent. While it can at times be difficult to determine the cause for the condition, speaking with your dermatologist is the first step.

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