Photomelanosis (Melasma) in India: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Last modified on October 2020
With inputs from

Key Takeaways:
– Photomelanosis, also known as Melasma, is a very common skin condition where brown patches appear on the face, hands, arms and sometimes even the back.
– Photomelanosis is mainly caused by long exposure to the sun and hormonal changes in the body. It is quite common among pregnant women.
– Common Photomelanosis symptoms include pigmentation on the face, forehead, nose, upper lips and cheeks.
– Photomelanosis is mainly diagnosed through a simple physical examination and is treated through topical prescription medicines such as creams and gels, over the counter medicines for mild cases and even in office skin procedures in more severe cases.
– Photomelanosis is not fully curable, but completely manageable. Limited sun exposure, using sunscreen products and following the dermatologist’s instructions diligently will help manage this condition better.
– Photomelanosis is not dangerous. It does not cause serious problems like skin cancer and is entirely a cosmetic issue which your dermatologist will help you deal with in a positive and effective way. You can consult a dermatologist at MFine to get started!

Chapter 1: What is Photomelanosis?

Photomelanosis is a kind of skin pigmentation induced by the overexposure of the skin to the sun. Usually, the affected areas are the face, neck, back and arms. 90% of Photomelanosis cases reported are in women.

  • Photomelanosis is also known as melasma
  • Melasma on body is common and usually harmless and occurs in a large number of women especially in Tropical, hot climates where exposure to the sun is very high
  • Melasma during pregnancy is very common and also occurs due to the use of oral contraceptives
  • Can become a chronic condition if not attended to
  • Lab tests and imaging are not required to diagnose Photomelanosis

In Photomelanosis, hyperpigmentation or dark patches develop on the parts of the skin that are overexposed to the sun’s radiation. The hyperpigmentation is the result of excess melanin in the epidermis, dermis or both. The main reason for many kinds of pigmentations is vitamin D via too much sun exposure acting as a catalyst in the production of melanin.

A dermatologist will help diagnose and treat Photomelanosis. You can easily book an appointment on the MFine app and consult a top dermatologist.

Consult your city’s top dermatologists on MFine in just one click!

Chapter 2: What are the common Photomelanosis/ Melasma causes?

While the cause of melasma is not fully known, Melasma is attributed to these common causes:
– Birth control pills
– Pregnancy
– Hormone therapy
– Stress and thyroid disease
– Sun exposure

Hormonal changes and Hormone therapy:
Hormonal changes have several effects on your body. Which is why, Photomelanosis during pregnancy is an extremely common occurrence. During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through a myriad of hormonal changes and quite often, these changes manifest as skin conditions, melasma being a fairly common skin condition. Melasma on body also occurs when you either start or stop taking birth control pills. Hormonal contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, when started or halted abruptly, also cause Photomelanosis of the skin. Any change in your body, that disturbs your hormonal system, often leads to skin issues. It’s quite common.

Exposure to the sun:
Sunny days at the beach or spending too much time outdoors to overcompensate for Vitamin D is the real culprit behind Photomelanosis. No matter what the underlying cause of your skin pigmentation, harmful effects of sun exposure exacerbates your melasma and does absolutely no good for your skin. Unfortunately, sunscreen and other sun protection products are not enough to protect your skin from melasma. This makes it particularly hard for people in the summer months because no matter what you do, sun exposed skin is inevitable, especially in a country like India where the sun follows us wherever we go. Even the light and heat produced by the sun is enough to cause Photomelanosis.

If you observe these changes then it’s important to meet a dermatologist in to get it checked. You can easily book a virtual appointment on the MFine app and talk to top dermatologists in from your homes! Your dermatologist will determine the cause of melasma and curate adequate treatment for you.

Pregnancy and birth control:
Melasma is a common occurrence during pregnancy and is also known as Chloasma. Chloasma is very common among pregnant women and occurs because of hormonal changes that take place in the body during pregnancy.
Birth control pills trigger melasma of skin for the same reasons. They too alter the level of hormones in your body that lead to all kinds of fluctuations. Both stopping and starting birth control can lead to melasma. If you’re concerned about dark patches on your skin, talk to your dermatologist as well as a gynaecologist about alternative methods of birth control.

Stress and thyroid disorders:
Thyroid disorders characterized by either overactive thyroid or an underactive thyroid can cause hormonal changes in the body. These hormonal changes can lead to hyperpigmentation of the skin in some cases.
While the extent of stress on melasma formation is still not fully understood, it has been observed that hormonal and physiological changes brought about by stress may sometimes have a role in Photomelanosis.

Do these reasons seem familiar to you? Consult top dermatologists on MFine to get an accurate diagnosis for photomelanosis!

Chapter 3: What are the common Photomelanosis symptoms and risk factors?

Photomelanosis symptoms show up in several ways. Here are some common Photomelanosis symptoms:

  • Pigmentation – If you suddenly develop pigmentation, then it is a sign of melasma. If you develop spots during pregnancy it is known as Chloasma.
  • Patchiness – You will notice patches of dark or brown spots all over the face.
  • Dull skin – Skin dullness is another indicator of this condition. You will notice a reduction in your natural skin glow.
  • Pregnancy – Most pregnant women suffer from this skin disorder. In that case, it will disappear automatically with time.
  • Hormonal imbalance – If you suffer from hormonal imbalance, you may develop these pigments.
  • Thyroid – If you have thyroid, then you may have patchy and pigmented skin. Thyroid medication is another potential cause.
  • UV rays – Harsh sunrays, and artificial UV rays also pave the path for this skin pigmentation.

Melasma on neck and melasma on back are also common symptoms of the skin condition.

Melasma on the body does not have too many symptoms because in most causes, pigmentation of the skin is the most indicative symptom as mentioned above. The patches or pigments formed are darker in color; darker than the surrounding skin. So, it’s quite patent and easy to identify. The skin looks patchy and blotchy, marred with irregular patches across the skin.

Discoloration varies depending on your skin tone and the severity of Photomelanosis. If it’s a mild condition, the melasma spots appear light and almost undetectable. But if it’s in a more severe stage or your skin is extremely sensitive to sunlight, the spots appear much darker and certainly needs to be checked by a dermatologist.

Photomelanosis occurs only on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun. The area above the lips, nose, cheeks, forehead are the most common Photomelanosis hotspots. Arms, back and chest are less frequented by this condition, unless you’re spending a lot of time at the beach or taking a stroll in peak afternoon sunshine.

Chapter 4: How can you diagnose Photomelanosis?

Photomelanosis is diagnosed through simple physical examination. Your dermatologist can study the pigmentation of your skin and determine the presence of melasma. To be more certain, your dermatologist may use a Wood’s lamp to check in more detail. A Wood’s lamp is a kind of black light which highlights and illuminates the skin and allows your doctor to identify melasma spots easily. A Wood lamp enables your doctor to not just see surface level pigmentation but also skin damage on the deeper lever which is not visible to the naked eye.
Photomelanosis is an incredibly common problem around the world. It is not dangerous and is certainly not cancerous. It is not a precursor to cancer. However, if you have sensitive skin, continuous skin exposure to sunlight may lead to cancer because of the harmful radiations of the sun.
If you have melasma on the face or melasma on the body in other parts, you can book an appointment with a dermatologist in on the MFine app and get your skin diagnosed for any underlying issues.

Get a complete diagnostic evaluation for photomelanosis by consulting your city’s top dermatologists now!

Chapter 5: What does Photomelanosis treatment involve?

It’s important to reiterate that Photomelanosis is not a disease. It is a cosmetic skin condition that can also be self-managed. If you are comfortable with skin pigmentation or melasma on the face or body, you have a choice to let it be, especially if it’s mild. However, if the melasma spots are very conspicuous, it’s completely normal to be bothered by it and seek Photomelanosis treatment by a dermatologist.
In many cases, melasma or Photomelanosis fades away on its own. If you reduce sun exposure or move to a less tropical area, chances are it’ll go away on its own.

Melasma during pregnancy is very common too and once a woman gives birth or stops taking birth control, melasma on the skin tends to disappear on its own.

However, some people suffer from Photomelanosis for years and even for life. Here are some Photomelanosis treatment options your dermatologist can suggest:

Topical Prescription Medications: In most cases, your dermatologist will prescribe topical prescription medicines depending on your skin type and severity of the condition.
These include:

  • Hydroquinone – It comes as a gel, lotion or liquid and needs to be applied on the skin like any other regular cream. You can get some forms of Hydroquinone over the counter without a prescription, but the ones your dermatologist will prescribe usually has a higher concentration and you need a prescription to buy those.
  • Topical Corticosteroids – These are mainly skin lightening creams that help reduce the conspicuousness of the pigmentation spots on your skin
  • Other topical creams – Your dermatologist may prescribe other creams such as Azelaic Acid or Tranexamic acids for light melasma of skin

Some over the top options for Photomelanosis:
Over the counter creams and medicines for Photomelanosis treatment may work only for very mild cases and will help maintain your skin post recovery but they’re not suitable for severe cases. Here are some products you can try:

  • Glycolic acid – It allows dead cells to fall off rapidly leaving your skin more clearer. Works quite well for mild cases of melasma
  • Licorice extract
  • Vitamin C – Supplements are easily available across pharmaceutical stores

Always check for side effects before using these products. If you’re experiencing dry skin or skin peeling, talk to a dermatologist.

Procedural treatments:
Based on your condition, your dermatologist can also recommend some in-office procedures to help relieve you of melasma on face, arms or body. Here are some common procedures and some of the best treatments for melasma especially when severe:

  • Microdermabrasion
  • Chemical peeling
  • Laser treatment

These are some common Photomelanosis treatment options. If you’re seeking to be free from this condition, book an appointment with a dermatologist near you in on the MFine app and get treated!

Find a suitable photomelanosis treatment plan by consulting a dermatologist on MFine now!

Chapter 6: How can you cope and live with Melasma on body?

Melasma removal is not fully possible, but there are several preventive measures you can take to keep your Photomelanosis controlled and prevent it from getting much worse.

  1. Sun Protection:
    The sun is the single most, biggest culprit that can make your condition much much worse. Sun protection will have to become an integral part of your lifestyle even after your meslama is cured, because it may come back if you don’t take precautions. Melasma cure can only happen through adequate protection from the sun.
    You can apply a strong sunscreen lotion,ideally SPF 30+, approved by your dermatologist whenever you step out and avoid things like going for walks when it’s hot, working out outdoors etc. Wearing a hat, carrying an umbrella and wearing sunglasses help from harmful exposure to the sun too.
  2. Stick to your treatment:
    Being disciplined is very important when it comes to treating Photomelanosis. Melasma cure takes time to work, so you need to be patient and listen to your doctor.
  3. Avoid scrubbing:
    Scrubbing your skin will not help the melasma spots on your face or body disappear. In fact constant scrubbing will make your face worse, cause dry skin and cause other skin conditions.
  4. Try some makeup:
    Makeup can help hide your Photomelanosis condition and will help make it less obvious. Corrective makeup will protect your skin from being conspicuous. However, make sure you use good products to avoid skin infections.

Photomelanosis is an incredibly common skin condition, but nevertheless a huge cosmetic problem for many. If you feel like it’s bothering you or affecting your self esteem, it’s always a good idea to visit a dermatologist in on the MFine app by booking an online appointment and get yourself checked.

Need more guidance on living with melasma? Consult top dermatologists on MFine in just 1 click!

Chapter 7: FAQs on Photomelanosis:

1. Can Photomelanosis cause harm to the body?
Photomelanosis or melasma of skin is not a harmful condition. It is a cosmetic condition that can make you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. But that’s the extent of it. It does not lead to serious conditions such as skin cancer.

2. Is Photonmelanosis curable?
Photomelanosis is not 100% curable but is 100% completely manageable. Your dermatologist will recommend the best course of treatment as well as lifestyle changes to manage this extremely common skin condition.

3. Can you prevent Photomelanosis?
While it’s not entirely possible to prevent melasma of skin, you can minimise time spent out in the sun because skin exposed to the sun is the single largest contributor to Photomelanosis.

4. How do I book an appointment with a dermatologist?
You just have to download the MFine app, or log onto MFine, search for a dermatologist near you and book an appointment by filling out your details. You can teleconsult with your dermatologist online on MFine and discuss your Photomelanosis condition comfortably with him/her.

5. Is my information secure on the MFine app?
MFine takes your privacy very seriously. At MFine, we provide the utmost confidentiality to all our patients. No information is exchanged between your doctor and anyone else.

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