Chloasma – What Does It Look Like?

February 3, 2011

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Hormonal stimuli play a major role in the occurrence of chloasma. Chloasma is another name for melasma which is generally associated with pregnancy. In fact, chloasma is also referred to as the mask of pregnancy because it is well known to obstetric patients; however, the precise means by which pregnancy affects skin pigmentation is unidentified. Estrogen, progesterone, and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) levels are generally amplified during the third trimester of pregnancy. The study that postmenopausal woman who are getting progesterone develop melasma, while those who are getting estrogen alone do not have occurrence of it, implies that progesterone has a significant responsibility in the development of chloasma.

Chloasma is characterized by a blotchy, brownish pigmentation on the face that develops gradually. Just as the pigmentation develops slowly, it also gradually fades with time. The pigmentation is due to an overproduction of melanin by the melanocytes. Melanin is the primary color determinant in human skin while melanocytes are the cell producing melanin of the skin. When there is excessive or abnormal production of melanin in the skin, discoloration or hyperpigmentation occurs resulting in skin conditions such as chloasma. As discussed, this condition may be brought about by some factors, topping the list is hormones due to pregnancy.

Chloasma particularly affects women because of the fact it is a regular occurrence during pregnancy. It normally initiates between the age of 30 and 40. It is observed that chloasma is more common in people that have naturally dark skin in comparison with those who have fair skin.

Chloasma involves the forehead, cheeks and upper lips resulting in macules. Macules are freckle-like spots. However,  some cases shows chloasma in larger patches. Sporadically, the sides of the neck are affected when chloasma spreads. Similarly, chloasma may involve the shoulders and upper arms. Chloasma is classified into three types: epidermal (visible in skin surface), dermal (involves deeper skin layer) and mixed type (combination of the two types).

Clinical features of epidermal chloasma are a well-defined border and dark brown in color. This type of chloasma appears more obvious under black light. It is also observed that this type responds well to melasma treatment.

Dermal chloasma is characterized by ill-defined border. This chloasma type is light brown in color. It is observed also that dermal type of chloasma is unchanged under black light. Unlike epidermal, this chloasma responds poorly to treatment.

If the chloasma appears to be the mixed type, generally, visual diagnose is combination of light and brown patches more particularly in the face. This type of chloasma responds with partial improvement to treatment.

ChloasmaChloasma Further Reading:

Melasma What Can I do?

Melasma Treatment Options

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