Melasma is thought to be the stimulation of melanocytes or pigment-producing cells by the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone to produce more melanin pigments when the skin is exposed to sun. Women with a light brown skin type who are living in regions with intense sun exposure are particularly susceptible to developing this condition.
Genetic predisposition is also a major factor in determining whether someone will develop melasma. The incidence of melasma also increases in patients with thyroid disease. It is thought that the overproduction of melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) brought on by stress can cause outbreaks of this condition. Other rare causes of melasma include allergic reaction to medications and cosmetics.
Melasma—which is most common in women and affects about 45 million people worldwide—appears as irregular patches of brown skin on the forehead, cheeks, upper lip and nose. Like most other pigmented lesions, Melasma is not dangerous, but it can be a self-confidence crusher, prompting many women to hide behind a mask of make-up.
Melasma is most common during hormonal fluctuations associated with pregnancy, oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy. So instead of celebrating the beauty of motherhood, women with Melasma must wear what's often called "the mask of pregnancy".
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