Everything You Need To Know About Skin Melasma And Its Treatment

Melasma, a common skin condition, manifests as dark, discoloured patches on the skin, significantly affecting one’s appearance and, consequently, their self-esteem. Predominantly observed in women, especially during pregnancy, melasma is not just a cosmetic concern but also a complex skin issue influenced by various factors. This article aims to demystify melasma, shedding light on its causes, how it can be identified, and the various treatment options available in Singapore, for individuals to gain knowledge and seek appropriate care.

What is Melasma?

Melasma is characterised by brown or grey-brown patches, primarily appearing on the face , particularly on the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin, and above the upper lip. It can also occur on parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, such as the forearms and neck. Unlike other pigmentation disorders that might result from acne, injuries, or isolated hyperpigmentation, melasma is distinguished by its symmetrical appearance on the face and its chronic, often recurring nature. The condition is particularly prevalent in women and individuals with darker skin tones, who live in areas with intense sun exposure.

Why Does Melasma Occur?

The development of melasma is influenced by a combination of environmental, genetic, and hormonal factors. Understanding these contributing elements can help in managing and potentially minimising the condition’s impact.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal fluctuations are a primary trigger for melasma. This is particularly evident during pregnancy, where the condition is so common that it’s often termed the “mask of pregnancy.” Similarly, the use of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, which alter the body’s hormone levels, can also lead to the development of melasma. These hormonal changes can increase the activity of melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin, leading to the characteristic dark patches of skin associated with the condition.

Sun Exposure

UV radiation from the sun is a significant factor in the exacerbation of melasma. UV light stimulates melanocytes to produce more melanin, intensifying the pigmentation. This reaction explains why melasma tends to worsen during the sunnier months and why areas of the skin that receive more sun exposure are more commonly affected. It also underscores the importance of sun protection as a crucial part of managing melasma.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetics plays a crucial role in the likelihood of developing melasma. Individuals with a family history of melasma are at a higher risk, indicating a genetic predisposition to the condition. This genetic link suggests that, for some, melasma may be an inherited condition, making them more susceptible to the environmental and hormonal triggers that cause melasma.

Lifestyle and Environmental Factors

Lifestyle choices and environmental factors can also contribute to the occurrence and severity of melasma. Stress, dietary factors, and skin irritants can potentially influence the condition. Additionally, certain cosmetics and skincare products may exacerbate melasma, especially if they irritate the skin. Understanding these triggers is essential for individuals with melasma, as managing these factors can help control the condition’s severity and prevent further pigmentation.

How Can You Identify Melasma?

Identifying melasma involves observing the distinct pattern and distribution of skin discolouration. The patches are usually symmetrical, with a consistent colouration that sets them apart from other types of skin pigmentation, which might be more sporadic or linked to specific causes like acne. Melasma commonly appears in areas of the face that receive more sun exposure.

Professional diagnosis is crucial for distinguishing melasma from other pigmentation disorders, such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or sunspots. Dermatologists often use a Wood’s lamp, which emits black light, to examine the affected areas more closely and assess the depth of the pigmentation. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be performed to rule out other skin conditions, ensuring the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

Available Treatment Options for Melasma in Singapore


Hydroquinone is a leading topical treatment for melasma, known for its ability to lighten dark spots by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which is crucial in the melanin production process. By reducing melanin synthesis, hydroquinone can significantly diminish the appearance of melasma over time. It’s often used in concentrations ranging from 2% to 4%, either alone or in combination with other treatments such as retinoids and corticosteroids, to enhance its skin-lightening effects.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels involve applying a chemical solution to the skin, causing it to exfoliate and eventually peel off, revealing new, less pigmented skin underneath. Solutions used in chemical peels for melasma may include glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid (TCA), or salicylic acid, targeting the melanocytes to reduce melanin production. This treatment can be adjusted in strength to match the melasma’s severity and the patient’s skin type, offering a customisable approach to pigmentation reduction.

Q-Switched Lasers

Q-switched lasers deliver high-energy light pulses that are absorbed by the melanin causing melasma, breaking the pigment down into smaller particles that the body can naturally eliminate. This laser technology is unique because it can target specific pigmentation without damaging surrounding tissues, making it an effective option for treating melasma. Multiple sessions may be required for optimal results, with treatments typically spaced several weeks apart.

Microneedling with Radiofrequency

Microneedling with Radiofrequency combines fine needle penetration with the delivery of radiofrequency energy deep into the skin. This dual action stimulates collagen production and disrupts the melanin in the skin, leading to improved skin texture and a reduction in melasma’s appearance. The treatment is particularly effective for deeper layers of melasma that topical treatments cannot reach, offering an innovative solution for persistent cases.

Pico Laser

Pico laser uses ultra-short pulse bursts of energy to target and break down melanin deposits in the skin without causing thermal damage to surrounding tissues. Its precision and rapid discharge make it highly effective in treating melasma, as it minimises the risk of post-treatment hyperpigmentation — a common concern with laser treatments for darkened skin areas. The pico laser can provide noticeable improvement in melasma after just a few sessions, with minimal downtime required.

Consulting a Professional

Consulting a professional dermatologist or skin care specialist is essential when considering treatment options for melasma. A professional can provide a thorough diagnosis, differentiate melasma from other types of pigmentation disorders, and recommend a course of treatment based on the latest research and technologies. Moreover, they can monitor progress and make adjustments as needed, reducing the risk of adverse effects and ensuring the best possible outcomes.

For those seeking a personalised or tailored approach to melasma treatment in Singapore, Glowwis Aesthetic & Medical Clinic offers expert consultations to address this unique condition. At Glowwis, patients are assessed individually, considering their specific skin type, the severity of melasma, and any underlying factors contributing to the condition.


Melasma, with its complex causes and varied responses to treatment, requires a multifaceted approach. In Singapore, patients have access to a wide range of treatments, from topical agents and chemical peels to advanced laser technologies. Each treatment option offers its own benefits and can be tailored to the individual’s specific type of melasma, skin type, and treatment response. As always, consultation with a dermatologist or skin specialist is crucial to determine the most appropriate treatment plan, ensuring the best possible outcomes in managing this challenging condition.