Melasma is a skin condition where dark brown patches appear in areas of the skin that are exposed to sunlight. It is almost always located on the face. Melasma is sometimes called the “mask of pregnancy” because it is a common condition for women to develop during pregnancy. Up to 70% of pregnant women may develop melasma. Although melasma makes your skin look different than it was before, it is not dangerous to your health and is not painful in any way.
What does it look like?
Melasma can cause darkening of the skin on the cheekbones, forehead, and chin. It does look like a mask sometimes, hence the mask of pregnancy nickname. The cells in the skin that produce melanin, melanocytes, start producing much more pigment than usual. This causes the skin to darken in patches. Women of color with medium to dark skin tones are most likely to have melasma, because they have more melanin in their skin.
Does pregnancy cause melasma?
No one knows exactly why, but hormonal changes are often linked to melasma. The influx of hormones experienced at the beginning of pregnancy is thought to be related to jump starting the melanocytes and causing the extra pigmentation characterized by melasma.
When does it go away?
For some women, melasma fades away once hormone levels go back to normal. That’s usually a few months postpartum (after baby is born). Some women are not as lucky, and the dark patches may fade a bit but still be visible, or take a long time to disappear.
How to treat melasma
Be vigilant about using sunscreen. Wear lots of it, plus a hat, when you are going outside. Your skin makes melanin in response to sun exposure, there’s just more melanin when you have melasma. Limiting the amount of sun that gets to your face will help keep dark patches from spreading or getting darker.
Bleaching or fading creams will work to lighten the patches. There are natural remedies that do not have as strong of an effect and can take longer to work (like lemon juice or aloe). Bleaching creams that you can find over the counter which contain hydroquinone are most effective.
Consulting with an aesthetic specialist who is under physician supervision will ensure that you receive the best possible treatment customized for your unique skin. Whether your skin care expert recommends medical-grade skincare products, skin resurfacing, chemical peels, intense pulsed light photofacials, or a combination of these, your skin will look better than ever.
Talk to your doctor before starting any treatment while you are pregnant, of course. Some treatments are only appropriate and safe after pregnancy.
If you are ready to reclaim your glow, talk to an expert at the Atlantic Center of Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery. We offer advanced skin treatments for melasma and many other cosmetic issues. Call the Atlantic Center today at (954) 983-1899 or request an appointment online. We have locations serving Ft. Lauderdale, Hollywood, Weston, Boynton Beach, and Naples.