What is the Mask of Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman’s life that can bring about more changes than just an addition to the family.  Increased hormone levels during pregnancy can frequently cause women to develop patches of darker pigmentation on their face.  These brown areas vary from being barley noticeable to causing an extreme appearance that has been called the “mask of pregnancy”.  This mask, also called Melasma, can be very difficult to treat, and in some cases, may become permanent.

Is it Only Caused By Pregnancy? Is Melasma Preventable?

Some women are very susceptible to developing Melasma, and can start to see it if they take an oral contraceptive pill. This happens because this form of birth control mimics the hormones of pregnancy.  Prolonged usage can increase or worsen discoloration in these women.

Whether or not someone will develop Melasma depends on both genetic and environmental factors.  Obviously, we can not change someone’s genetic make up, but we can minimize their response to the pregnancy hormones.  This is largely done by sun avoidance.  Wearing a sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher which contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on a daily basis can help to prevent or minimize Melasma.  Wearing hats and avoiding mid-day sun will also help.

If someone starts to develop darker patches on their skin in spite of sun block, there is a fairly new product which is safe to use in pregnancy.   Perle ® by NeoCutis® is a lightening cream that contains peptides which work on the pigment system of the skin.  This break-through cream does not contain hydroquinone, and is available over-the-counter.

What if I still have Brown Spots?

Once the pregnancy is over, a more aggressive approach to reversing melasma may begin.  Stronger lightening creams which include the prescription ingredient Hydroquinone may be used.  Continued sun avoidance is recommended, and the new mom may begin a series of chemical peels.  Peels are typically performed on a monthly basis.  This program can also help long-standing melasma, and sun damage.