Hormonal birth control methods are effective in preventing pregnancy, but can cause hyperpigmentation in some women. Hyperpigmentation, also called melasma, occurs when changing hormone levels cause patches of brown or grayish skin to appear on the face. While the problem can be embarrassing, the appearance of dark patches of skin does not usually indicate a serious medical condition.
Melanin is the pigment in the skin that determines skin color. People with dark skin have higher levels of melanin, while people with lighter skin have lower levels of the pigment. When you take birth control pills or use other methods of hormonal birth control, your natural estrogen and progesterone levels are altered to prevent pregnancy. These hormonal changes can spur an overproduction of melanin and cause large, dark patches of skin to appear on the face.
- Melanin is the pigment in the skin that determines skin color.
- These hormonal changes can spur an overproduction of melanin and cause large, dark patches of skin to appear on the face.
What Are the Benefits of Kojic Acid?
If you use hormonal birth control methods and have darker skin, you may have a higher chance of developing melasma 3. Women with darker skin, including those of North African, Latin, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian descent, are more likely to develop melasma. Melasma also tends to run in some families.
- If you use hormonal birth control methods and have darker skin, you may have a higher chance of developing melasma 3.
- Women with darker skin, including those of North African, Latin, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian descent, are more likely to develop melasma.
Diagnosis is usually made by a visual examination. Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history, birth control method and family history of hyperpigmentation. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a skin biopsy to rule out the possibility of skin cancer.
Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin
Treatment can be as easy as changing your birth control method. When you are no longer using hormonal birth control, the dark patches may gradually fade and eventually vanish. If hyperpigmentation continues even after stopping hormonal birth control, prescription creams can be used to diminish the dark spots. You should discuss any medical conditions, including pregnancy, with your doctor before using one of these creams. Improvement may be seen in three to six months after you begin using creams. Doctors also use laser surgery, chemical peels or microdermabrasion to reduce dark spots and remove extra pigment in the skin.
- Treatment can be as easy as changing your birth control method.
- When you are no longer using hormonal birth control, the dark patches may gradually fade and eventually vanish.
No matter what type of treatment option you choose, you should wear sunscreen daily to prevent a return of hyperpigmentation. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Avoid using harsh facial cleaners or makeup if you have dark patches. These products can irritate the skin and worsen your condition.
- No matter what type of treatment option you choose, you should wear sunscreen daily to prevent a return of hyperpigmentation.
What Are the Benefits of Kojic Acid?
Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin
Upper Lip Melasma
Causes of Spider Veins on the Face
Prescription Treatments for Melasma
How to Stop Acne Scarring
How to Use Selsun Blue for Sunspots
How to Remove Betadine Stains From Skin
How to Treat Brown Spots & Melasma
How to Treat Pigmentation on the Face
- Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia: Acquired Hyperpigmentations
- Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologis: Melasma -- A Clinical and Epidemiological Review
- Indian Journal of Dermatology: Melasma -- A Clinico-Epidemiological Study of 312 Cases
- Achar A, Rathi SK. Melasma: a clinico-epidemiological study of 312 cases. Indian J Dermatol. 2011;56(4):380-382. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.84722
- Handel AC, Miot LDB, Miot HA. Melasma: a clinical and epidemiological review. An Bras Dermatol. 2014;89(5):771-782. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20143063
- Plensdorf S, Martinez J. Common pigmentation disorders. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(2):109-116.
- Cestari TF, Dantas LP, Boza JC. Acquired hyperpigmentations. An Bras Dermatol. 2014;89(1):11-25. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20142353
- Yamaguchi Y, Hearing VJ. Melanocytes and their diseases. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2014;4(5). doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a017046
- Ogbechie-Godec OA, Elbuluk N. Melasma: an Up-to-Date Comprehensive Review. Dermatol Ther. 2017;7(3):305-318. doi:10.1007/s13555-017-0194-1
- Basit H, Godse KV, Al Aboud AM. Melasma. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing; 2019.
- Pichardo R, Vallejos Q, Feldman SR, et al. The prevalence of melasma and its association with quality of life in adult male Latino migrant workers. Int J Dermatol. 2009;48(1):22-26. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2009.03778.x
- Sarkar R, Ailawadi P, Garg S. Melasma in Men: A Review of Clinical, Etiological, and Management Issues. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(2):53-59.
- Passeron T, Picardo M. Melasma, a photoaging disorder. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2018;31(4):461-465. doi:10.1111/pcmr.12684
- Rivas S, Pandya AG. Treatment of melasma with topical agents, peels and lasers: an evidence-based review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2013;14(5):359-376. doi:10.1007/s40257-013-0038-4
- Jadotte YT, Schwartz RA. Melasma: insights and perspectives. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2010;18(2):124-129.
- Vashi NA, Kundu RV. Facial hyperpigmentation: causes and treatment. Br J Dermatol. 2013;169 Suppl 3:41-56. doi:10.1111/bjd.12536
- Hasegawa K, Fujiwara R, Sato K, et al. Possible Involvement of Keratinocyte Growth Factor in the Persistence of Hyperpigmentation in both Human Facial Solar Lentigines and Melasma. Ann Dermatol. 2015;27(5):626-629. doi:10.5021/ad.2015.27.5.626
- Plensdorf S, Livieratos M, Dada N. Pigmentation Disorders: Diagnosis and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2017;96(12):797-804.
- Shankar K, Godse K, Aurangabadkar S, et al. Evidence-based treatment for melasma: expert opinion and a review. Dermatol Ther. 2014;4(2):165-186. doi:10.1007/s13555-014-0064-z
- Grimes PE, Ijaz S, Nashawati R, Kwak D. New oral and topical approaches for the treatment of melasma. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2019;5(1):30-36. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2018.09.004
- Handa S, De D, Khullar G, Radotra BD, Sachdeva N. The clinicoaetiological, hormonal and histopathological characteristics of melasma in men. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2018;43(1):36-41. doi:10.1111/ced.13234
- Lee A-Y. Recent progress in melasma pathogenesis. Pigment Cell Melanoma Res. 2015;28(6):648-660. doi:10.1111/pcmr.12404
Working at a humane society allowed Jill Leviticus to combine her business management experience with her love of animals. Leviticus has a journalism degree from Lock Haven University, has written for Nonprofit Management Report, Volunteer Management Report and Healthy Pet, and has worked in the healthcare field.