Pregnancy mask, discoloration, brown patches, mustache—whatever you call it, melasma is a common skin condition that affects around six million women in the United States.
Melasma is a pigmentation disorder characterized by brown or grey-brown patches on the skin. You can develop melasma anywhere, but it most commonly appears on the forehead, around the mouth (especially upper lip), or along the outer perimeters of the face and cheeks.
Essentially, melasma is an overproduction of melanin. Melanocytes are cells that live in the dermis (the deepest layer of the skin) and produce melanin (pigment). Melanin is bundled up in melanosomes, which move up to the surface of the skin and disperse. This then shows up as color on the skin.
No one is quite sure what actually causes melasma, but there are a few well-known triggers. Hormones are the most common trigger, but other possibilities include UV exposure and skin irritation. Melasma doesn’t pose any medical risk, but once the melanin factory turns on, it can be hard to calm fussy pigment cells back down.
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