Slide show: Sun damage
Image of melasma
Previous Next 7 of 10 Melasma

Also referred to as "mask of pregnancy," melasma (muh-LAZ-muh) is a brown darkening of facial skin. Melasma likely occurs from a combination of factors, including exposure to sunlight and an increase in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Melasma often affects women who:

  • Have dark skin
  • Take oral contraceptives or hormone therapy
  • Are pregnant

The dark patches usually occur on the cheeks and forehead. Melasma usually fades during winter months in northern latitudes but returns in spring. It also tends to fade after pregnancy or when you stop taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy.

See more Multimedia