You probably had your share of skincare worries growing up, what with hitting puberty and all that. But that’s the recognizable face of skin worries. There are other things that can mess with your perfect Instagram pout, and not many people would have even heard about them first.

Melasma is one of those skin conditions that it’s likely no one ever told you about. It appears as dark patches on your skin and can be caused by a variety of things like sun exposure, hormonal changes, or even simple genetics. However, it’s women that are more commonly affected by melasma, especially pregnant women. Luckily, because dermatologists know the causes of this condition, they also have some ideas about dealing with it.

1. Eliminate other skin conditions
Firstly, you need to figure out for sure whether the condition you have is melasma, and not general hyper-pigmentation. Though it’s easy enough to spot the visible symptoms, other more mundane, and some more serious, skin conditions can also be mistaken for melasma. You don’t want to be treating your skin for the wrong condition, letting an existing one get worse.

2. Minimize your exposure to harsh sunlight
Melasma is often triggered by exposure to harsh sunlight. So if you find yourself out in the sun often, or have a more outdoorsy job for instance, make sure you protect yourself. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and shades whenever you can, and preferably clothing that limits exposure. In addition, ensure that you always have SPF 30 sunscreen on hand and reapply as required.

3. Skin depigmenting agents
One common way to treat Melasma is by using depigmenting agents like hydroquinone. These are available over the counter, and work by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin, which is what causes the dark patches. Of course, there’s no guarantee this will eliminate your melasma, or even fully reduce it, so speak with your dermatologist about your options

4. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser treatment
All of these methods use a non-invasive procedure to cause minor injury to a person’s face, removing the outer layer of skin. However, this would only work with epidermal melasma, which involves a melanin buildup in the top layer of your skin, and not dermal melasma. Secondly, aside from this not being a foolproof treatment for the condition, it can also harm the fetus in pregnant woman undergoing the treatment.

5. Oral supplements
More recently however, scientists have come to realise the benefit of treating melasma with oral medication and dietary supplements. These also act by attacking the enzymes involved in the production of melanin, reducing the effects of the skin condition from within the body. In studies so far, drugs containing procyanidin have proven to be both effective and safe to consume long term, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

6. Care for your emotional well-being
Melasma can potentially do more than just darken your skin in patches though. Especially among cultures that prize fair skin as being a womanly virtue, it can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health.

In addition, women are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression than men, which itself has been shown to have at least some ties to hormonal changes. You know, the kind of hormonal changes pregnant women experience, that can trigger both depression and melasma. So avoid that vicious cycle before it sets in. If you find yourself feeling down about your skin condition, talk to a friend, or consult your doctor about a support group.

You’re beautiful, and you deserve to feel that way.