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What Is Melasma During Pregnancy + Ways To Manage It

What Is Melasma During Pregnancy + Ways To Manage It



kin darkening during pregnancy is a common occurrence due to hormonal changes. This condition, known as melasma or chloasma, often manifests as dark patches on the face, abdomen, neck, or other areas exposed to sunlight. It is important to protect your skin from the sun and consult with a dermatologist for appropriate skincare during pregnancy.

This is another reason why a proper skincare routine is an absolute must. Slapping on a random moisturizer and strolling out without sunscreen will always be a bad idea on a regular day, let alone for a pregnant woman. Yes, the pregnancy glow is an intentional effort. To be a skin-popping mom-to-be, knowing and preparing for melasma gives you an upper hand.

What Is Melasma?

Melasma is a common skin condition characterized by the development of dark, discolored patches on the skin. These patches typically appear on the face, especially on areas like the cheeks, forehead, upper lip, and chin. Melasma is often triggered by hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or with the use of hormonal contraceptives. Sun exposure can exacerbate melasma, so it’s essential to use sunscreen and take other sun protection measures. Treatment options include topical creams, chemical peels, and laser therapy, but it’s important to consult a dermatologist for personalized advice.

Causes of melasma during pregnancy

As mentioned earlier, melasma during pregnancy, often referred to as “the mask of pregnancy,” is primarily caused by hormonal changes, particularly increased levels of estrogen and progesterone. These hormonal fluctuations can stimulate the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin coloration, leading to the development of dark patches on the face, abdomen, and other areas exposed to sunlight.

During pregnancy, the body undergoes significant hormonal shifts to support the developing fetus. Elevated estrogen levels, in particular, can trigger the overproduction of melanin in some women, resulting in the characteristic darkening of the skin associated with melasma.

Additionally, increased sensitivity to sunlight during pregnancy can exacerbate melasma. UV exposure stimulates melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) to produce more melanin, leading to darker pigmentation in melasma-affected areas.

Genetic factors may also play a role in predisposing some women to develop melasma during pregnancy, as individuals with a family history of the condition are more likely to experience it themselves.

Simply put, the interplay of hormonal changes, sun exposure, and genetic factors contributes to the onset and exacerbation of melasma during pregnancy. It’s essential for pregnant women experiencing melasma to prioritize sun protection and consult with a dermatologist for appropriate management strategies.

Prevention of skin darkening in pregnancy

Photo: Mikhail Nilov/Pexels

Preventing skin darkening during pregnancy, particularly melasma, involves several strategies to minimize hormonal triggers and sun exposure, including:

  • Sun protection: Shield your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily, even on cloudy days. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Additionally, wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing to further minimize sun exposure.
  • Avoid peak sun hours: Limit outdoor activities during peak sunlight hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV radiation is strongest. When outdoors, seek shade under trees, umbrellas, or other structures to reduce direct sun exposure.
  • Wear protective clothing: Opt for lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats to cover as much skin as possible when spending time outdoors.
  • Use gentle skincare products: Choose mild, hypoallergenic skincare products that are free of harsh chemicals and fragrances to minimize skin irritation.
  • Stay cool: Avoid overheating as sweating can exacerbate skin darkening. Stay hydrated and keep cool with fans or air conditioning.
  • Consult with a dermatologist: If you notice skin changes or develop melasma during pregnancy, consult with a dermatologist for personalized skincare recommendations and treatment options.

By incorporating these preventive measures into your daily routine, you can help minimize the risk of skin darkening and melasma during pregnancy. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that hormonal changes may still occur, so consistent sun protection and gentle skincare are key.


Treating skin darkening, particularly melasma, during pregnancy requires caution due to the limited options available that are safe for both the mother and the developing baby. Here are some treatment options that may be considered:

  • Sun protection: Preventing further darkening by consistently using broad-spectrum sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding prolonged sun exposure is crucial.
  • Topical treatments: Some topical treatments containing ingredients like azelaic acid, kojic acid, or vitamin C may be considered safe for use during pregnancy under the guidance of a dermatologist.
  • Prescription medications: In certain cases, a dermatologist may prescribe topical medications like hydroquinone, which is considered safe in limited concentrations and under medical supervision during pregnancy.
  • Chemical peels: Superficial chemical peels using glycolic acid or other gentle acids may help lighten dark patches, but they should be performed cautiously and only by a qualified dermatologist.
  • Laser therapy: Laser treatments are generally not recommended during pregnancy due to potential risks to the fetus. However, some types of lasers may be considered safe after delivery if melasma persists and breastfeeding is not a concern.
  • Consultation with a dermatologist: It’s essential to consult with a dermatologist before starting any treatment regimen during pregnancy. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific situation and medical history.

Ultimately, prevention and conservative management strategies should be prioritized during pregnancy to minimize risks to both the mother and the baby. After delivery and once breastfeeding has concluded, additional treatment options may be explored under the guidance of a dermatologist.

Featured image: ALINA MATVEYCHEVA/Pexels

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