Melasma is a very common patchy brown, tan, or blue-gray facial skin discoloration, usually seen in women in the reproductive years. It typically appears on the upper cheeks, upper lip, forehead, and chin of women 20-50 years of age. It is uncommon in males. It is thought to be primarily related to external sun exposure, external hormones like birth control pills, and internal hormonal changes as seen in pregnancy. Most people with melasma have a history of daily or intermittent sun exposure, although heat is also suspected to be an underlying factor. Melasma is most common among pregnant women, especially those of Latin and Asian descents.
The exact cause of melasma remains unknown. Experts believe that the dark patches in melasma could be triggered by several factors, including pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, family history of melasma, race, and anti-seizures medications. Sunlight is considered the most important factor in the production of melasma, especially in individuals with a genetic predisposition to this condition.
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