Nili N. Alai, MD, FAAD
Dr. Alai is an actively practicing medical and surgical dermatologist in south Orange County, California. She has been a professor of dermatology and family medicine at the University of California, Irvine since 2000. She is U.S. board-certified in dermatology, a 10-year-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and Fellow of the American Society of Mohs Surgery.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- What is melasma? What are signs of melasma?
- What causes melasma?
- Where is melasma seen on the body?
- What are the types of melasma?
- How is melasma diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for melasma?
- What melasma treatments can I have at my doctor's office?
- Do lasers work for melasma?
- How does hydroquinone work in melasma?
- Are there non-hydroquinone alternative treatments for melasma?
- What is Tri-Luma?
- What SPF is recommended for melasma?
- Can melasma be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for melasma?
- Melasma At A Glance
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
Where is melasma seen on the body?
Melasma is characterized by discoloration or hyperpigmentation primarily on the face. Three types of common facial patterns have been identified in melasma, including centrofacial (center of the face), malar (cheekbones), and mandibular (jawbone).
The centrofacial pattern is the most prevalent form of melasma and includes the forehead, cheeks, upper lip, nose, and chin. The malar pattern includes the upper cheeks. The mandibular pattern is specific to the jaw.
The upper sides of the neck may less commonly be involved in melasma. Rarely, melasma may occur on other body parts like the forearms. One study confirmed the occurrence of melasma on the forearms of people being given progesterone. This was a unique pattern seen in a Native American study.
What are the types of melasma?
Four types of pigmentation patterns are diagnosed in melasma: epidermal, dermal, mixed, and an unnamed type found in dark-complexioned individuals. The epidermal type is identified by the presence of excess melanin in the superficial layers of skin. Dermal melasma is distinguished by the presence of melanophages (cells that ingest melanin) through out the dermis. The mixed type includes both the epidermal and dermal type. In the fourth type, excess melanocytes are present in the skin of dark-skinned individuals.
How is melasma diagnosed?
Melasma is usually readily diagnosed by the typical appearance of brown skin patches on the face. Dermatologists are physicians who specialize in skin disorders and often diagnose melasma by visually examining the skin. A black light or Wood's light (340-400 nm) can assist in diagnosing melasma. In most cases, mixed melasma is diagnosed, which means the discoloration is due to pigment in the dermis and epidermis. Rarely, a skin biopsy may be necessary to help exclude other causes of this local skin hyperpigmentation.
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