It was weird. I was surprised because:
- I used to forget that I have freckles (the past tense is deliberate and will lead to my point)
- I certainly didn't think they could be seen from far away, in the dark
- This woman also had freckles; they were big drops of molasses on her cafe au lait skin
Melasma is hyper-pigmentation of the skin on the face. It is most common with women of color. It often shows up when women are pregnant - hence its nickname "the mask of pregnancy." This is so common, in fact, that when I met up with a male friend of mine who hadn't seen me in a few years, the second thing he said was, "Serene, are you pregnant?" I had acquired the same facial freckling as his pregnant wife. The only upside to melasma, and this is a stretch, is that it tends to be symmetrical. So, giant freckle blob one cheek equals giant freckle blob on the other.
My blobs are above my lips, above my eye brows and on my cheek bones. That's a lot of blobbing. I can no longer forget that I have freckles because the blobs are extremely sensitive. Even 15 minutes in the sun, without sunblock, can turn them into coffee stains, swiftly spreading across my face.
I worry about the blobs because both my mom and her mom had skin cancer. I have seen multiple dermatologists. The derms run their fingers across the blobs and tell me that, so far, I'm ok. They suggest creams and retinols. They insist on sunblock and recommend hats. They do not recommend lasers or lights that White women use to beam away this problem because my naturally tan skin could respond by scarring. That would be even worse.
The best treatment would have been knowing 25 years ago that, as a biracial woman, I was more likely to end up with melasma. If I had known, I like to think I would have been more diligent back when my freckles when cute. More sunblock and hats, less hormonal birth control, which can make melasma appear. Maybe I just would have appreciated what I had (or didn't have) 15 years ago, when that woman surprised me in the club.