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Melasma During Pregnancy, Everything You Need To Know about Skin Darkening

by | November 6, 2018

What is melasma during pregnancy?

Melasma (the “mask of pregnancy”), aka chloasma, is common among women and looks like dark patches on the forehead, cheeks or upper lip. You may also develop dark patches along your jawline, or on your forearms and other parts of your body that are exposed to the sun.

Skin that’s already more pigmented – such as your nipples, freckles, scars, and the skin of your genitals – may become even darker during pregnancy.

Melasma during pregnancy also happens in high friction areas, such as your underarms and inner thighs.

How did I get melasma during pregnancy?

Pigmentation levels sent soaring by your changing hormones, are to blame for this discoloration. Hormonal changes during pregnancy, which stimulate a temporary increase in the amount of melanin your body produces. Melanin is what gives color to hair, skin, and eyes.

Exposure to the sun plays a role too. Women with darker complexions are more likely to have melasma than women with lighter skin.

Genetics can also play a role, as you’re also more likely to develop melasma if it runs in your family.

The same increased production of melanin that causes the facial splotches of melasma also causes the dark line that you may notice running down your belly.
The linea nigra usually fades back to its pre-pregnancy color a few months after you deliver your baby.

melasma during pregnancy
By Carla Nichiata/shutterstock

How can I prevent melasma from getting worse during pregnancy?

All changes in skin pigmentation due to melasma usually disappear on their own after delivery, but there are a few things you can do to safely minimize darkened spots on your skin during pregnancy:

Use sun protection. This is extremely important because exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays triggers melasma and intensifies pigment changes. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day, even if it’s not sunny, and reapply often during the day if you’re outside.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outside as well as a long-sleeved shirt if you have darkened spots on your arms. Limit the time you spend in the sun,  and absolutely avoid tanning salons.
Don’t wax. Waxing to remove hair can cause skin inflammation that worsens melasma.

Use hypoallergenic skin care products. Cleansers and face creams that irritate your skin may make melasma worse. Use mild soaps and cleansers that are oil- and fragrance-free. Try a brand geared toward sensitive skin.

Will I still have melasma after my pregnancy?

Melasma during pregnancy generally fades without any treatment after you have your baby.

If your skin is still patchy a few months after giving birth, talk to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist about treatment options for melasma. She may suggest using a bleaching cream that contains hydroquinone (and possibly sunscreen), a topical medication that contains tretinoin (Retin-A), or a chemical peel such as glycolic acid.

For some women, contraceptives containing estrogen, such as the Pill, the patch, and the vaginal ring can also contribute to melasma.

If you’re breastfeeding or plan to get pregnant again soon, let your provider know and check with her before using any over-the-counter treatments.

Pregnant or not-pregnant please consult with your healthcare provider any time there are changes to your skin.

Julie Nealon

Associate Editor, New York USA | Contactable via [email protected]



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