Melasma is a common skin disorder characterized by gray-brown discolored patches of skin on areas of the face exposed to the sun.

Melasma can affect anyone, but it appears most often in women who have darker complexions. It’s been associated with female hormones. Melasma is also a common skin disorder for the following groups:

Melasma’s symmetrical dark patches are brown to gray-brown in color. They can occur on the:

  • forehead
  • cheeks
  • chin
  • nose
  • upper lip

If your melasma is triggered by pregnancy or birth control pills, it’s possible the discolored patches will fade on their own after the pregnancy or if you stop taking the pills.

You might consider treating your melasma at home, though. Here are some common home remedies:

Aloe vera

A 2017 study on pregnant women with melasma found using a topical, liposome-encapsulated aloe vera preparation significantly improved their melasma.

Polypodium leucotomos

This is a fern native to Central and South America. It’s sold under the brand names Kalawalla and Heliocare. It’s also called calaguala and anapsos.

A 2014 review of literature found orally taking Polypodium leucotomos can treat melasma. However, researchers don’t include a recommended dosage.

Tranexamic acid

According to a 2017 literature review, tranexamic acid is another promising oral therapy for melasma. This acid is a synthetic derivative of the amino acid lysine.

Glutathione

This antioxidant comprises three amino acids (cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine). It’s found in most mammals.

The same 2017 review found that, when taken in an oral form, glutathione decreased melanin in people with melasma compared to those who took a placebo. An excess of melanin production can lead to hyperpigmentation.

Sun protection

Protect your skin. Wear sunscreen every day, and reapply every two hours. Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outside.

Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist. They can confirm a diagnosis and suggest medical treatments to even your skin tone.

One option may be hydroquinone. This topical treats hyperpigmentation. It’s available in over-the-counter or prescription strength as a lotion, gel, cream, or liquid. Other treatments may include:

  • tretinoin
  • corticosteroids
  • triple cream (combination of hydroquinone, tretinoin, and a corticosteroid)
  • azelaic acid
  • kojic acid

If topicals aren’t working, your dermatologist might recommend a procedure to treat your melasma, such as:

You may have melasma if you have gray-brown patches of skin on your face. Your doctor can confirm a diagnosis and provide treatment.

Be patient during treatment. It often takes months before results are seen. And once your melasma clears, your doctor might recommend maintenance therapy to prevent it from returning.

No matter what treatment is the best option for you, remember prevention is key. Wear sunscreen every day and a wide-brimmed hat whenever you’re outside.