Pregnancy can be bliss. But there are a few factors that can be frustrating during those days. Other than your hormones going haywire and driving you crazy, another frustrating condition that comes with pregnancy is melasma. Melasma is a stubborn skin issue that causes blotchy dark spots.
But you don‘t need to worry since it is a pretty common issue that can be managed easily. Want to know how? Let’s dig in.
Also known as chloasma, melasma is a skin condition in which you get brown patches or spots on your skin. Since it is a common issue in women, especially dark skinned women, anyone can get this condition. Melasma is also known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’ when it appears in pregnant women.
Melasma usually appears on your face in three patterns:
Centrofacial: affecting your nose, forehead, and upper lips
Malar: affecting your cheeks
Mandibular: affecting your chin and jawline
One study says that centrofacial pattern is the predominant pattern that appears in 50-80% of the cases of melasma. Pigmentation and discoloration may also appear on your neck and shoulders. While it is not harmful, women tend to become a bit self-conscious about their appearance.
So, do you need to be scared of any spots or marks on your skin? Definitely not. There‘s a very subtle difference between melasma and hyperpigmentation. Here’s what you need to know…
Melasma And Hyperpigmentation: What‘s The Difference?
Many of you may confuse melasma with hyperpigmentation. Well, let me clarify one thing here. Hyperpigmentation is a very broad term, and it refers to any skin condition in which skin discoloration or dark patches may appear due to any number of factors. For instance, scarring caused by acne, pimples, or boils and marks caused by sun exposure, eczema, or psoriasis – all come under hyperpigmentation. This means any discoloration of skin can be called hyperpigmentation.
Melasma is a bit tricky. It is a type of hyperpigmentation that is mainly triggered by UV exposure and hormonal factors. Compared to traditional hyperpigmentation (which lingers on the top surface of the skin), melasma is much deeper (it can go deep into your skin‘s layers) and tough to treat. Let’s explore its causes in detail.
What Causes Melasma During Pregnancy?
The exact cause of melasma is not entirely understood (3). But experts believe that UV exposure is one of the main factors that cause melasma. Several other factors are also believed to trigger melasma during pregnancy. These include:
Birth control pills
Family history of melasma
Another study, however, blames your hormones for wrecking your skin with spots and pigmentation. It found that high levels of hormones, such as progesterone, estrogen, and melanocortin, triggered melasma during pregnancy. It also found that women who use oral contraceptives were susceptible to this condition. Another study found that women with hypothyroidism also suffered from this condition.
This means any one factor or a combination of multiple factors, along with UV exposure, can cause melasma. It may go away after childbirth (if caused by your hormones), or it may take a few months‘ time and treatment. If you notice any skin discoloration or patches that are darker than your skin tone, consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis.
How To Prevent Melasma During Pregnancy: Treatments And Remedies
When treating this particular type of hyperpigmentation during pregnancy, remember that the results may differ from person to person. For some women, melasma may disappear without any treatment (after they deliver the child or stop taking contraceptive pills), and for some, it may not go away that easily.
Dermatologists usually prescribe medicines such as:
This medicine is widely used for treating melasma. Hydroquinone is available in gel, liquid, cream, and lotion forms. When applied topically, this medicine helps in fading the marks. Most of the creams containing hydroquinone are available over-the-counter. However, for some, you may need a doctor‘s prescription. Generally, over-the-counter creams contain less amount of hydroquinone. Anything stronger than that requires a prescription.
Tretinoin And Corticosteroids
Dermatologists often prescribe tretinoin or corticosteroids along with other medicines. This is just to enhance the effect of skin lightening. If the melasma is severe, dermatologists may suggest a cream that contains hydroquinone, tretinoin, and corticosteroids
The doctor may even prescribe kojic acid or azelaic acid to lighten the spots.
If medicines do not work on your skin and are not effective, there are other procedures to treat the condition. The possible options include:
In this process, the doctor applies glycolic acid or a similar abrasive chemical on the affected area. This creates a mild chemical burn on that surface. The burned layer is then peeled off, exposing fresh skin that is devoid of spots. However, if hormonal issues are the cause of your melasma, chemical peeling may not work unless you resolve your hormonal imbalance.
Dermabrasion And Microdermabrasion
Both are medical procedures where the doctor uses an abrasive material to sand off the top layer of your skin. They use a machine to exfoliate your skin and strip away the dead skin cells, thus gently lifting and removing the affected layer of your skin. You may have to undergo multiple sessions to treat your melasma thoroughly.
Laser treatments can be restorative or dual fractional and target only the affected area. However, this treatment is pretty expensive, and you may need multiple sessions to eliminate melasma completely.
No medication or cosmetic procedure will work if your hormones are causing the condition. Moreover, no treatment can offer permanent results. So, the best thing is to do is to take preventive measures so that the melasma does not return. Now, your hormones are not in your control, so you cannot actually do anything if they are the cause of your melasma. But otherwise, you may take the following measures to keep your skin safe from hyperpigmentation during pregnancy:
Use Sunscreen Whenever You Go Out
UV exposure is your skin‘s biggest enemy, and because it is one of the factors that trigger melasma, wearing sunscreen is a must. Always use a sunscreen that has a broad spectrum and an SPF of 30 or more.
2. Use Broad-Brimmed Hats And Umbrellas
Apart from sunscreen, wearing a broad-brimmed hat or carrying an umbrella also helps in shielding a major portion of your exposed skin. Whenever you are outside, try to stay in the shade.
3. Don‘t Stress Out!
Stress worsens melasma. So, even if you notice spots and pigmentation on your skin, do not freak out. Relax and try remedies to treat them. To reduce stress, you may even consider meditation, listening to music, or just treat yourself to a bubble bath.
Use Your Medicines Without Fail
Use the medicines prescribed by your doctor regularly and at intervals suggested by them. This will help get rid of the spots faster.
You need to be diligent with these preventative measures. Though you may need to consult a dermatologist for melasma, you can easily rely on home remedies for treating any other form of hyperpigmentation. Here are a few ingredients that you can use to get rid of spots and marks