Chloasma: The Mask of Pregnancy

Many women develop a discoloration of the skin when they produce higher levels of estrogen during pregnancy, while taking birth control pills, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy. This darkening of the skin is not serious but there are several ways to minimize the effects of these dark patches.

 

What are the dark patches?

Chloasma, often called the mask of pregnancy, occurs when your body produces too much melanin due to an increase in hormones, which produces dark patches on the skin. Melanin is what controls your skin pigmentation and production can become amplified when your estrogen levels increase due to pregnancy, the use of birth control pills, or with hormone replacement therapy. Most cases occur on the face around the cheeks, upper lip and forehead. However, there have been some cases where women have seen darkened skin on other areas of the body.

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How long will it last?

Most women will see the dark spots gradually disappear within a few months of giving birth. However, if you are still breastfeeding the dark spots may not disappear and you may also see the dark spots come back if you begin taking birth control pills that contain estrogen.

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How can I treat it?

The most important treatment is to stay out of the sun. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and always begin your day with SPF 15 or 30. Even the most basic things like sitting in front of a window or riding in a car will expose your skin to harmful UV rays. If you must be out in the sun, invest in a wide-brimmed hat to wear in addition to an SPF for added protection.

Only use mild cleansers. Harsh cleansers can further irritate the skin causing additional issues.

If the discoloration is due to contraceptives, switch from estrogen contraceptives to a progestin-only contraceptive or a diaphragm.

If you are looking for a way to merely cover up the dark spots, you can always invest in a hypoallergenic concealer that is a shade lighter than your natural skin tone. This will disguise the darker skin temporarily if you need to go out or attend a function.

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Should I see a doctor?

The only time it is recommended to see a doctor is if the discoloration does not disappear within a few months of giving birth. A doctor can do some tests to determine if any prescription creams or a chemical peel could be beneficial for you. Never try any over the counter bleaching agents or peels without first consulting your doctor because these could be harmful to the baby if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and it could further irritate your skin.

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The darkening of the skin is not usually serious and will often go away on its own. However, if you follow a few tips, you can minimize the effects until they gradually fade away.