Often called “the mask of pregnancy”, pregnancy melasma refers to the splotches of darker skin that can crop up on a woman’s face during pregnancy. Don’t worry though, it isn’t dangerous and or uncommon – over 90% of women experience some sort of skin pigmentation changes during pregnancy. While there’s no surefire way to prevent melasma, there are some things that you can do to manage it.
What Is Melasma?
Melasma is a selective darkening of the skin that happens to at least 40% of pregnant women and usually occurs on the upper face around the eyes, forehead and nose, hence the nickname “the mask of pregnancy.” It is also more common in women with darker hair and complexions. Melasma is recognizable both by the characteristic location of the marks and by their generally blotchy shape. Melasma tends to come on gradually over a long period of time and can persist for many months after giving birth. Luckily though, melasma usually fades within a year of giving birth.
What Causes Melasma?
The cells in your skin responsible for pigmentation are called melanocytes and during pregnancy they can get a little hyperactive. Melasma is basically a buildup of these cells that causes a darkening of the skin. There are two main causes of this, both of which affect pregnant women in particular: sun exposure and hormonal changes.
Pregnancy-Safe Treatment and Prevention
While there’s nothing you can do to stop your natural pregnancy hormones from affecting you skin, you can absolutely limit sun exposure. Proper sun protection is considered the best treatment to minimize the occurrence of melasma: Some of our favorite sun protection tips include:
- Use an all natural, broad spectrum zinc-oxide based sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, like Nine Naturals Natural Sunscreen SPF 32.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hour and after water activities and sweating.
- Stay in shade when possible, and wear a hat, sunglasses and sun protective clothing.
Unfortunately once melasma develops there’s not a lot you can do about it. Pregnant women should completely avoid bleaching treatments as they are considered unsafe during pregnancy, as well as exfoliation-based treatments which can aggravate sensitive skin. Instead, continue to use sunscreen and dab on a little extra of your favorite concealer.
Melasma does usually fade within a year of giving birth, but because it’s impossible to speed up this process prevention really is the best way to go!