The Mask of Pregnancy

You wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and do a double take. “When did these dark patches appear under my eyes? And is my forehead getting blotchy too? I look like a raccoon! What is going on?”

If something like this has happened to you, you’re not alone, and it’s actually quite normal.  These skin changes did not happen overnight, although you may notice them all of the sudden on morning.  The American Academy of Dermatology says that about 70 percent of pregnant women develop these blotchy areas of darkened skin. It’s called chloasma or melasma, but is also known as “the mask of pregnancy” (sounds more romantic than it is!).

The blotchy areas usually appear around your nose, cheekbones, and forehead (hence the name Mask of Pregnancy). They may also show up on your upper lip, cheeks, and jawline.  Some women also develop dark patches on other body parts that are exposed to the sun. You may also notice areas of skin that are naturally darker (nipples, freckles, genitals) — becomes even darker during pregnancy. Some women notice a darkened line, called the linea nigra, running from their belly button downward.

Why does it happen?

You guessed it– it’s those lovely hormones at work again!  During pregnancy, hormonal changes cause a temporary increase in your body’s production of melanin, the chemical that gives color to hair, skin, and eyes.

Women with darker skin are more likely that lighter-skinned women to get melasma.  This “mask” may become more pronounced with each pregnancy.

Will it go away?

The good news is that these darkened areas will probably fade within a few months after delivery. In some cases it never completely disapears, but for many women their skin will return to its normal shade.

Can I prevent it?

Although this skin pigmentation  usually disappear on its own after delivery, there are some things you can do to minimize the splotchy factor:

  • Stay out of the sun and avoid tanning salons. Cover up or use sunblock if you’ll be out in the sun. More pigment is created when skin is exposed to sunlight.
  • Use gentle cleansers and lotions. Irritating products can worsen the condition.
  • Use concealer! When all else fails, there’s always the make-up bag.
  • After birth: Continue to protect sensitive areas from the sun. Certain contraceptives containing estrogen may also cause melasma.

feature image from The Daily Green

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