The beauty world is stuffed full of terms which are banded about a lot but can be hard to understand, after all there is more to having good skin than sticking a moisturiser on twice a day.
One condition you've probably heard of is melasma, but do you actually know what it is?
In simple terms, it's a common condition which causes light brown or grey pigmentation to develop in patches on the face. Both men and women can get it, but it's most common among females who live in sunny areas and it's usually worse in the summer - only around ten per cent of sufferers are men. It's also important to remember you can't catch it and it doesn't have any links to skin cancer.
Melasma can run in your family, but there are thought to be other reasons behind it too (although there is no definite answer about what causes it, unfortunately). Hormones are thought to be a big one, which is why women sometimes develop the condition when they are on the contraceptive pill or are pregnant. Sometimes products which are very perfumed can bring it on, and it's been suggested stress is another trigger. Prolonged periods in the sun or on sun beds can make the patches more apparent.
So how do you know if you have it? Dark patches are a sign, usually on the forehead, around the top lip, on cheeks or chin. These areas tend to be symmetrical too, which is another tell-tale sign.
There is no cure for melasma, but that doesn't mean you should despair if you have it because there are treatments which can help. Some of them are pretty obvious, like changing contraception if you think that might be to blame and making sure you always use sunscreen when you're outside. Doctors have also used lightening cream to help some people (although you have to be careful with this as it can be irritating and cause the area to darken in some cases), or laser treatments and dermabrasion. Don't discount make-up either, there are some great foundations which can help mask the pigmentation on the market.
The best thing you can do for your skin if you have melasma is be aware of the sun. Don't go outside when it's at its hottest and try to cover up, plus SPF is your friend. However, the body needs vitamin D to be healthy so it might be worth checking out supplements if you put a complete barrier between your skin and the sun.