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What is Melasma? And what causes us to get it on our face, forehead, lips and more

Melasma is a skin condition that is most commonly identified by brown and/or blue-gray patches and freckles. Although it is common, harmless, and treatable, this can be a cause of much stress and anxiety for those who suffer from it. In this article, we’re going to take you through what Melasma is, and what some of the most common causes of it are. 

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a fairly common skin disorder that loosely translates to “black spot”. It sounds more ominous than it is. Again, it is harmless and can be treated. It can be identified by brown, dark brown, and blue-gray patches and freckles on the skin. The most commonly affected areas tend to be the face, cheeks, upper lip, and forehead, including the neck and forearms as well. 

Melasma is often referred to as “the mask of pregnancy” as it is highly common in pregnant women. It can fluctuate between light and dark over time, often getting worse during the summer months, and in the winter. 

Again, whilst this is a harmless skin condition, the change in appearance can be stressful, particularly if you have never had it before. 

What are the signs of Melasma?

If you are unsure, we recommend visiting your doctor. However, if you have light brown, dark brown, and bluish-grey patches on your skin, then there is a good chance that it is Melasma. Again, it’s always worth getting this confirmation from a specialist for your peace of mind. Here are the most common locations for melasma:

  • Neck (appearing on all sides)
  • Centrofacial (forehead, cheeks nose)
  • Lateral cheek (appearing on both cheeks) 
  • Mandibular (on the jawline)
  • Malar (cheeks and nose)
  • Brachial (shoulders and upper-arms)

If you are struggling with melasma in Australia, whether on your face, neck, or forearms, QR8 Mediskin is a reputable skincare website that has some great advice and treatments available. 

What causes Melasma?

If you have woken up to discover what appears to be melasma, the first thing on your mind will be what is causing the issue. Let’s take a look at what is believed to be some of the most common causes of this skin condition: 

  • Genetics: We’ll start with the main one that you have very little control over. Unfortunately, about 33% to 50% of people that have melasma have reported another family member having had it before as well. For example, most identical twins will suffer from melasma at some point. If you think that’s bad, just remember that for most men, if their dad is bald, they’re not going to have the best of times either. Swings and roundabouts. 
  • Contraceptive therapy/birth control: if you are currently using oral contraceptive pills that contain estrogen and progesterone, it could be that the cause of your melasma flaring up. 
  • Antiseizure medicine: Any drugs that prevent you from having seizures can cause melasma. For example, Clobazam has been associated with melasma in users. 
  • Synthetic estrogen (Diethylstilbestrol): Man-made forms of the hormone estrogen (which is often used to treat prostate cancer) has been shown to increase the risk of suffering from melasma. As you can see, there is a pattern with estrogen and melasma forming. 
  • Phototoxic drugs: Phototoxic drugs have a side effect that makes you more sensitive to UV light. These include diuretics, anti-inflammatories, retinoids, antibiotics, antipsychotics, and other targeted therapies. 
  • Hypothyroidism: This is a condition where your thyroid is underactive. If you are struggling to find the cause of your melasma, speak with your doctor and explore all options. 
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy is one of the most common causes of melasma. It isn’t entirely clear why this is the case, though most signs point toward the increased levels of estrogen, melanocyte hormones, and progesterone. 
  • LED screens: This isn’t directly linked, but it could be that too much exposure to LED lights from cell phones and television may be causing your melasma to flare up. 
  • Tanning beds: Too much exposure to UV light damages your skin. In fact, if you overdo the tanning beds, it can be often worse than the UV light from the sun, causing melasma to flare up. 
  • Soaps: Some different forms of scented soaps and the overuse of such products can both cause and worsen your melasma. 
  • Skincare products: Any synthetic skin care products that irritate your skin can cause melasma and worsen the condition.
  • Makeup: Makeup and the overuse of certain cosmetic products have been linked to causing melasma. 

When treating your melasma, often the best approach is to identify what is causing it and try finding a way to filter that out. For example: if you haven’t been pregnant before, you don’t use tanning beds, and you aren’t on any form of contraception, it may be a skincare product or cosmetic that you are using. Adopting a process of elimination and ruling out certain potential causes could be the key to clearing up your melasma altogether. 

What causes Melasma on the face?

All of the potential causes listed above can cause melasma to flare up in any one of the most common places. However, certain cosmetics on your face, or applying various skincare products may well be the cause. 

What is Melasma on the forehead?

Again, it could be any one of the causes listed above which are causing melasma to flare up on your forehead. Try switching out certain cosmetic and skincare products and progress with your process of elimination from there. 

What causes Melasma around the mouth and lips? 

Melasma around the mouth and lips may be caused by any number of different things. Once again, be mindful of any synthetic products that you apply to these areas and try refraining from using them for a few weeks to see if the skin condition begins to clear up. 


The main thing to remember is that melasma is practically harmless. Yes, it can make you feel anxious and unconfident about your appearance—particularly if it flares up during pregnancy when you’re already suffering from nausea, bloatedness, and all manner of other ailments associated with carrying a child in your belly. 

Try not to panic. Simply book yourself in with your doctor, or a specialist dermatologist, and they will be able to help you to identify the cause and prescribe the appropriate melasma treatment.

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