How to Treat Melasma During Pregnancy
A woman’s skin goes through a number of changes during pregnancy, including hyperpigmention, discolorations on the skin caused by increased melanin production.
Chloasma is a brown to grayish pigmentation that frequently occurs during and after pregnancy. Chloasma comes from the Greek word chloazein meaning, “to be green.” Since the discolorations do not actually appear green, dermatologists and medical professionals prefer to use the word melasma (frommelas meaning “black”.)
Melasma has also been called the “mask of pregnancy” since the disorder commonly occurs during this time and the symmetrical patches on the forehead, cheeks, chin and upper lip often resemble a mask. Also since it commonly develops during pregnancy, it was once thought to be due to an increase in female hormones (estrogen, progesterone or melanocycte-stimulating hormone (MSH) during the third trimester of pregnancy. However, melasma is not just a hyperpigmentation disorder in women experiencing hormonal changes and fluctuations.
In addition to hormonal changes due to pregnancy, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, melasma can also be triggered by genetics, sun exposure, certain medications and cosmetics and other factors.
The disorder especially affects Latinas and women of Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, North African/African descent, particularly those of olive, light brown to dark olive complexions.
The pigmentation can also worsen during the summer. Exposure to sunlight can make the macules darker. It’s also believed that UV radiation can trigger melasma in those that are susceptible to the condition and (in some cases) it can improve if one avoids sunlight and uses a sunscreen.
If you have melasma you need to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, to protect against UVB and UVA exposure. If you are unsure of the safety of chemical sunscreens, use a physical sunscreen containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Even walking to the car, traveling inside a car or bus, walking to the grocery store or sitting near a window while indoors could worsen the condition and undo any treatment you might undergo during or after pregnancy.
To cover the brown patches, you can use a camouflage makeup. Some contain sunscreen.
Since skin inflammation can also trigger melasma, be careful with anything that causes inflammation, which includes certain foods and cosmetics with harsh ingredients and chemicals.
Poor nutrition and poor liver function can also be a factor in the development of melasma. You should see your physician when you develop the disorder to determine the cause. Your doctor might prescribe folic acid and other supplements you might need. Meanwhile eat a well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet, with foods high in folate (nuts, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables and whole grains) and rich in antioxidants like vitamin C.
D-I-Y melasma treatments you can try during pregnancy:
Whether at-home melasma recipes will work really depends on the cause and where the melasma is located in the skin. If it is in the upper layer (epidermis), some natural ingredients might help fade the discoloration. Always remember to use sunscreen, especially when using exfoliating ingredients like lactic acid (milk) which can make the skin sensitive to the sun.
- Morning Rice Cleanse: Soak 2 teaspoons of white rice in 2 cups of water overnight. Use the rice water to wash the face in the morning. Rinse with warm water. Pat dry.
- Daily Turmeric & Milk Mask: Mix 5 tablespoons of turmeric powder with 10 tablespoons of warm whole milk to make a paste. Apply on discolorations and let dry for 10 – 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water. Pat dry.
- Oatmeal Honey Mask: Mix oatmeal with honey and apply on face for 30 minutes. Rinse with warm water. Pat dry.
- Oatmeal Milk & Honey Mask: Use 2 tablespoons of oatmeal, with two tablespoons whole milk and one-tablespoon honey. Apply to affected areas. Leave on for 20 minutes. Remove mixture with warm water. Pat dry. Apply mask two times a week.
Melasma sometimes fades after childbirth, but it often recurs in successive pregnancies. For persistent melasma that needs to be treated with medications or certain topical treatments, women should wait until after delivery and after breast-feeding to make sure that the medication doesn’t harm the baby.
If melasma has not resolved after giving birth, and the dark marks won’t fade on their own or with at-home treatments, a dermatologist might suggest topical treatments that inhibit melanin production and lighten dark discolorations, chemical peels or a combination of treatments. Unfortunately there’s no cure for melasma and it often returns after treatment or when exposed to sunlight.