Pregnancy mask – darker coloring on the skin during and after pregnancy
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 70 percent of pregnant women experience the “mask of pregnancy” – dark blotches of skin on the face. The medical terminology for this condition is melasma or chloasma.
Darker complexions are more prone to this condition than lighter skin but it can affect anyone who’s experiencing all the hormonal change of pregnancy. The effects of chloasma may become more pronounced with each pregnancy, severely frustrating and upsetting moms-to-be with undesirable pigmentation problems.
The dark patches will usually show up around your upper lip, nose, cheekbones, and forehead, sometimes in the shape of a mask. They may also appear on your cheeks or along your jawline. You may develop dark patches on your forearms and other parts of your body that are exposed to the sun.
Skin that is already more pigmented — such as your nipples, freckles, scars, and the skin around your genitals — often becomes even darker during pregnancy. This also tends to happen in areas prone to friction, such as your underarms and inner thighs.
These color changes are caused by hormonal surges during pregnancy, which stimulate a temporary increase in your body’s production of melanin, the natural substance that gives color to hair, skin, and eyes. The areas of increased pigmentation will probably fade within a few months after delivery and your skin should return to its normal shade, although in some Mission Viejo and Orange County women the changes never completely disappear.
Can I do anything to prevent skin discolorations during pregnancy?
Skin pigmentation changes usually disappear on their own after delivery, but you can do a few things to safely minimize them in the meantime:
- Protect yourself from the sun: This is crucial because exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays intensifies pigment changes. Use a broad-spectrum sunblock (a formula that protects against both UVA and UVB rays) with SPF 30 or higher every day, whether it’s sunny or not, and reapply often during the course of the day if you’re outside.
- When you’re outside, cover up and wear a hat with a brim (take a look at UV protective hats like those made by Physician Endorsed ), as well as a shirt with long sleeves if you have pigmentation changes on your arms. Limit the time you spend in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. And definitely avoid tanning salons.
- Use gentle cleansers and facial creams. Preparations that irritate your skin may make the problem worse. Apply a concealing makeup. (Don’t use skin-bleaching products now. Wait to see if the pigmentation changes go away after you give birth.)
What to do if the pigmentation does not go away after my baby is born?
Provided you are not nursing, you can use lightening agents such as Cosmelan or Triluma. IPL may have some effect at reducing the upper level pigment, but to suppress the pigmentation cycle, you’ll probably require an effective that contains hydroquinone or kojic acid.
If you are nursing, IPL or non-hydroquinone products are your safest choices.
I’m not pregnant but I still have what looks like pregnancy mask…why is this?
You’re not alone. Hormones in birth control pills cause many Mission Viejo and Orange County women to contend with melasma. Your doctor may change your prescription if this is a problem. A dermatologist can tell you which birth control pills are least likely to cause hyperpigmentation, but the final choice is between you and your primary physician.
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We look forward to meeting with you and helping you find the simplest solution to achieve the goals you desire. Get more information on pregnancy masks by scheduling a consultation with Dr. Sikorski at her office in the Mission Viejo and Orange County area. Call (949) 448-0487.