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How to make melasma less noticeable

Tips from a board-certified dermatologist

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Sept. 12, 2023) — Melasma is a skin condition that causes patches or freckle-like spots on the face that are darker than a person’s natural skin color. Melasma has many causes, including sun exposure, pregnancy, stress, a medical condition, or taking certain medications, such as oral contraceptive pills.

Because the cells that give the skin its color — melanocytes — are more active, melasma can be more noticeable in people with darker skin tones.

“While melasma may go away on its own, it can persist for years,” said Rebecca Kazin, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Rockville, Md. “Although melasma is not harmful, people often want to treat it. A board-certified dermatologist can create a personalized treatment plan from a number of different therapies to address each patient’s concerns.”

In addition, Dr. Kazin and the AAD recommend people with melasma follow these tips for a more even skin tone:

  1. Protect your skin from the sun. Sunlight triggers melasma, so it’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Seek shade when you are outdoors and wear sun-protective clothing, such as a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label. Remember to apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing whenever you’re outdoors, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours to be effective - or sooner, if you have been swimming or sweating.

  2. Protect yourself from the visible light with tinted sunscreen. Visible light has been shown to worsen melasma, especially for people with darker skin tones. Use a tinted sunscreen that contains iron oxides in addition to having an SPF of 30 or higher.

  3. Choose gentle, fragrance-free skin care and makeup products. If a product burns or stings when you apply it, that means the product is irritating your skin. This may cause dark spots to get darker.

  4. Cover up with makeup. It takes time for melasma treatments to work. Covering an uneven skin tone caused by melasma may make your melasma less noticeable if the appearance bothers you. If you choose to cover your melasma, a dermatologist can give you tips for getting natural-looking results.

“Keep in mind that other conditions can also cause an uneven skin tone,” Dr. Kazin said. “For an accurate diagnosis, partner with a board-certified dermatologist.”

These tips are demonstrated in “Melasma: Self-care,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Your Dermatologist Knows” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair, and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

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Rhys Saunders, rsaunders@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

Melasma: Causes

Melasma: Diagnosis and Treatment

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,800 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care because skin, hair, and nail conditions can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow @AADskin on Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest and YouTube and @AADskin1 on Instagram.

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.