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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Seborrheic Melanosis: What is it and How can it be Treated?

Updated: Mar 3

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the skin condition known as Seborrheic Melanosis. We will explore the causes behind its development, discuss preventive strategies, and provide an overview of the treatment options available. Additionally, we will explore the specific treatments for seborrheic melanosis around the mouth and on the nose.


Table of Contents


What is Seborrheic Melanosis?

Seborrheic melanosis is a form of dyspigmentation characterized by the emergence of darkening on the seborrheic areas of the face. These areas include the nasal folds and areas around the lips. It primarily affects individuals with darker skin tones and is believed to be influenced by various factors, including sun exposure, seborrheic dermatitis, and genetic predisposition.

Seborrheic melanosis around the lips

The dark patches associated with seborrheic melanosis are typically flat and well-defined, varying in color from brown and black to gray. Although generally non-itchy and painless, these patches can be visually distressing for people who suffer from them.

Seborrheic melanosis of the nasal area is also often accompanied by dry and flaky skin around the nose.

What Causes Seborrheic Melanosis?

The precise cause of seborrheic melanosis remains elusive; however, it is commonly attributed to a combination of contributing factors, including:

  1. Seborrheic dermatitis: Seborrheic dermatitis is a prevalent skin condition characterized by flaking, redness, and dandruff on the scalp, face, and chest. It has been associated with the development of seborrheic melanosis.

  2. Sun exposure: Prolonged sun exposure, especially to ultraviolet (UV) rays, significantly increases the risk of developing seborrheic melanosis.

  3. Genetics: Individuals with darker skin tones are more prone to seborrheic melanosis, suggesting a genetic influence in its development.

How can Seborrheic Melanosis be Prevented?

While it is not possible to entirely prevent seborrheic melanosis, several preventive measures can help reduce the risk:

  1. Sun protection: Consistently apply sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, even on cloudy days, and protect your skin with appropriate clothing and accessories when exposed to the sun.

  2. Avoid skin irritation: Refrain from rubbing or scratching the affected areas, as this can aggravate the condition and increase the likelihood of dark patches.

  3. Manage seborrheic dermatitis: If you have seborrheic dermatitis, seek medical treatment to manage the condition effectively. Proper treatment can help reduce inflammation and flaking, potentially minimizing the development of seborrheic melanosis.

How to Treat Seborrheic Melanosis?

Various treatment options can help fade the appearance of dark patches. :

  1. Topical creams and ointments: The mainstay of treatments is antifungals (like ketoconazole and clotrimazole), given in conjunction with corticosteroids and topical immunosuppressants. Ointments and creams, like topical steroids and calcineurin inhibitors, used in the treatment of Seborrheic Dermatitis have shown effective results. Topical creams and ointments containing skin-lightening ingredients such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, or azelaic acid should be used only after the inflammation and irritation subsides.

  2. Laser treatments: Laser treatments can be highly effective in fading dark patches. By targeting and eliminating the pigment cells in the affected areas, lasers can significantly lighten the appearance of seborrheic melanosis.

  3. Chemical peels: Chemical peels involve the application of a chemical solution to the skin, which exfoliates the top layer and promotes the growth of new, lighter skin. This procedure can be beneficial in reducing the visibility of dark patches.

Needless to say, please consult a dermatologist before following any treatment regimen.

Seborrheic Melanosis around Mouth Treatment

Seborrheic melanosis occurring around the mouth is commonly treated using topical creams or ointments. These topical products can effectively lighten the dark patches, making them less noticeable. In certain cases, dermatologists may recommend laser treatment or chemical peels for more extensive or resistant lesions.

Seborrheic Melanosis on Nose Treatment

Seborrheic melanosis on the nose can be addressed using similar treatment methods as those employed for lesions around the mouth. Topical creams or ointments, laser treatments, and chemical peels are all viable options to lighten dark patches and restore skin uniformity.

Consult a Dermatologist

If you suspect you have seborrheic melanosis, consult with a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment recommendations. Self-diagnosis and action can further exacerbate the condition if the condition is misdiagnosed.


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