Young, Hispanic, and Pregnant: risk factors for melasma

Melasma is a vary common condition of skin discoloration that most often affects the cheeks, nose upper lip and forehead. Anyone can experience the disorder, but it is typically seen in people with darker skin and especially those who have spent significant time in tropical climates. Sun exposure and dark skin combine with hormonal imbalance to cause hyper-pigmentation.


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Perfect Storm of Risk Factors

Risk factors for any condition need to be understand as contributors instead of direct causes. The presence of each risk factor increases the cumulative risk of experiencing the disorder. Even one risk factor is sufficient for diagnosis. For young, Hispanic women going through pregnancy, the likelihood of experiencing melasma is significantly greater than other similar populations.

Underlying Processes

Hormonal imbalance is the one factor present in every case of properly diagnosed melasma. Similar disorders may be caused by skin fungus, and these can be ruled out by looking for symmetry in discoloration. True melasma presents in symmetrical fashion. The hormonal balance is often significant and easily identifiable. Pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy, puberty, and birth control pills are commonly implicated.
Melasma does not directly result in other symptoms, but the underlying process of oxidative stress can result in other symptoms. Any damage to areas of hyperpigmentation, for instance, heals with persisting, dark scars. Oxidative stress may also increase the risk of skin cancer, but there is no direct link. Hormonal imbalance may also effect fat metabolism and sugar levels. Fatigue due to adrenal stress from excess hormone production is another possibility.

Treatment Potential

Hyper-pigmentation is one of the skin’s possible responses to oxidative stress caused by excess hormones. Sun block will not prevent melasma. For people voluntarily taking hormones, ceasing treatment under the doctor’s care should end hormonal imbalance and discoloration. Excess hormones over the long-term will increase the risk of serious diseases, such as breast cancer and osteoporosis. Pregnancy, puberty, or unknown causal factors can be treated in several ways.
Pharmaceutical creams containing several acids are used to strip excess oils from the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation. Natural acids, including apple cider vinegar and white vinegar, can similarly be used to achieve the same result. Internal treatment of symptoms is accomplished with large doses of vitamin C, which is important for reducing oxidative stress and building collagen. Vegetable lecithin is an powerful antioxidant, and it can remove excess fats from the blood. Some studies have shown licorice extract can support adrenal function and whiten skin when taken internally.

It is extremely important to discuss treatment alternatives with the doctor. This is even more true during pregnancy. Some remedies may introduce the risk of later complications. Melasma tends to clear on its own after hormones return to balance.

Peter Wendt lives in Austin, Texas. He enjoys writing and researching topics related to dermatology. He recommends his readers go here to learn more about this topic.


  1. rose ann rulona says:

    The term Melasma is sometimes uncommon to us, especially that most pregnant women just treat their skin discoloration as a normal phenomena brought by pregnancy. This post really help us understands more about melasma, its causes and risk.

  2. jason Flores says:

    on this case we should take a regular check up to our nearest doctors and we should be aware on this serious melasma. the question is , Is this a communicable decease?

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