Melasma is a difficult to control facial discoloration that, unfortunately, is often unavoidable. It’s not a sudden tan or a freak accident. It most cases it is classified as darkening around the mouth, under your nose, or on your cheeks. Most often it is seen in pregnant women, new birth control, or hormone replacement therapy. Those pesky hormones! It could appear as brown spots on your jawline or across your forehead. Finding these blemishes can be shocking and throw you off balance. You might work yourself up into a frenzy, trying desperately to get rid of these marks. The good news is you don’t have to panic. There are ways to cope with these blemishes.

To know how to treat it, you first have to have a full grasp of what it is and why it appears. It’s a skin condition that presents as light-to-dark brown patches on the skin. These are caused by an overstimulation of melanocytes.

Recognizing that what you have might be melasma depends on the circumstances around the flare-up. As mentioned previously, these spots or patches appear as a result of hormonal changes. That’s what fuels them. If you’ve not experienced recent hormonal changes, you might not have melasma. It could be a condition known as hyperpigmentation, which will show the long-term residual damage from teen acne or another skin injury. While treatment for both might be similar, only melasma will come back more eagerly later.

There’s also a genetic component to melasma.

If your mother suffered from it, you might struggle with it at some point too. It’s believed that our skin is genetically predisposed to this condition. It also tends to occur in people of color more often than those with lighter skin tone and also affects those who live in sunny locations more often than those that live other parts of the world or country.

If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant soon or know you’ll be starting a hormone replacement therapy, be mindful of any blemishes. Be on the lookout for them.

If you already have it, the harder it can be to treat, but don’t worry, not all hope is lost. The first thing you need to do is find or make a chemical/pollutant free exfoliator and start exfoliating. Also, you may want to consult with your physician for topical prescription medications that can help with the symptoms. Depending on your budget, you may want to look into laser treatments to treat the discoloration.

Chemical peels have also been known to work well to fight melasma. Try some with glycolic, mandelic, or lactic acid to promote a brighter complexion. Avoid skin bleaching products unless prescribed by your dermatologist.

Once you’ve treated your melasma, you’ll want to take steps to avoid a recurrence. Sunscreen is your number one defense against most skin ailments. Use physical sunscreens not harmful chemical sunscreens. Avoid Bikram yoga, infrared saunas, and ditch the hot tub. Turn down the water temperature in your house. Stop cleansing your skin with warm water. If for some reason you do feel the heat on your face, cool off quickly with a refrigerated sheet mask. The whole key is to keep the skin cool to avoid a breakout of new blemishes.