Why is Melasma Common During Pregnancy?

Melasma, Pregnancy, skin, glowing, Dr. Richard Bardowell

Melasma, a skin discoloration that produces brownish or grayish spots on your face, neck, and/or arms, is a common condition during pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, up to 70 percent of women develop it. Men can also have melasma, but 90 percent of those affected are women.

Melasma can sometimes make your face look as if you’re wearing a mask. The dark spots are symmetrical and can pop up on your forehead, nose, cheeks, upper lip, jawline, and neck. In addition, parts of your skin that are already dark, such as freckles, scars, and your nipples, may become even darker.  

If you have melasma, heredity has likely played a role. You’re more likely to get it if it runs in the family. If you already have darker skin pigment, you’re more susceptible to melasma than people with fair skin.

Dr. Bardowell conducts a visual examination and other tests to diagnose melasma and determine how many layers of your skin it affects.

What causes melasma during pregnancy?

Melasma can develop during pregnancy due to hormonal changes in your body. Your hormones dramatically increase the amount of melanin your body produces when you’re expecting. Melanin is the material that produces your skin, hair, and eye color — it’s completely natural.

Steps to prevent and lessen melasma when you’re pregnant

In most cases, melasma disappears after you have your baby. In the meantime, even though your hormones are playing havoc with your body systems, there are steps you can take to lessen melasma if it does occur.

Use sunscreen

Just as you get a suntan — darker skin pigment — if you’re exposed to the sun for several hours, melasma also darkens if you’re a sun worshipper. To lessen melasma’s effects, use a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection every time you leave the house — even when it’s not sunny! You can get a suntan riding in a car.

You can easily make sunscreen a part of your morning routine. Be sure the sunscreen has an SPF of at least 30 (preferably higher) to keep your pigment from darkening.

Limit sun exposure

You love the sun, and it’s good for you in moderate doses, but to avoid melasma’s dark spots during pregnancy, cover up when you go outside. Wear a hat and long sleeves if melasma appears on your face and arms. Avoid the strongest sun of the day, between 10 am and 2 pm. You may love the overall tan you get from a tanning salon, but now isn’t the time to indulge.

Stop waxing temporarily

If you wax, you’re likely familiar with the effects of inflammation, no matter how slight. The inflammation can make the melasma worse. You can wax again once you have your baby.

Use hypoallergenic products

Some cleansers and facial masks can have strong ingredients that can irritate your skin during pregnancy. They can also worsen the effects of melasma. Hypoallergenic products help calm and soothe your skin.

Use a concealer

Concealers can work wonders in covering dark spots on your skin. Try hypoallergenic concealers.

What to avoid: skin-bleaching products

Skin-bleaching products to cover the effects of melasma are available on the market — but stay away from them during your pregnancy. These contain steroids and other harsh ingredients that can damage your baby.

If your melasma doesn’t disappear after pregnancy, Dr. Richard Bardowell can prescribe medical-grade topical creams and if needed, offer laser treatment.

For expert care during your pregnancy, call or book an appointment online with Dr. Richard Bardowell.

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