Hormones are the powerful little messengers of the human body, according to Medline Plus, an online resource of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of health. Among other vital body functions, hormones regulate growth and development and metabolism.
As women, we know that the hormones we produce, most notably estrogen and progesterone, hold the key to life itself. This pair of hormones triggers the development of our sexual organs starting in puberty, and the two make human reproduction possible as they govern our monthly cycles.
We also know that fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone are responsible or thought to be responsible for conditions that aren’t as pleasant to think about as a new baby. One of those is melasma, aka cholasma, aka “the mask of pregnancy.”
Melasma presents as areas of dark skin usually on the cheeks, forehead and above the upper lip. It can also appear on the neck, chest, shoulders and upper arms. Caused by overactive pigment cells called melanocytes, melasma can show up as brown freckles, bigger spots and/or large, blotchy patches. The dark color appears gradually and, unfortunately, fades just as slowly.
Melasma is much more common in women than in men, and the condition usually makes its appearance during reproductive years. It affects more women with dark skin and those who tan easily rather than those who have very fair complexions. Melasma is often associated with the hormonal swings of pregnancy and birth control medication. It can also be caused or exacerbated by sun exposure, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
If you have melasma, it’s not surprising if you’re uncertain what approach to take to improve your condition. There are many choices, and the methods you decide to try may depend on the color of your skin, whether your skin is highly sensitive or not and if you’re pregnant. While you’re bound to find varied and even conflicting advice as you research melasma, experts agree on a couple of things: try a combination of approaches for the best chance of fading your brown patches and be patient.