It's no secret that your body undergoes a variety of changes during pregnancy, but many expectant mothers are surprised to learn that skin changes are among them. During pregnancy, levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are vital to fetal development, change drastically. The sudden sharp increase in these hormones poses the risk for potential side effects to many systems and parts of the body, including the skin.
A Common Skin Problem in Pregnancy
Melasma is one of the most common skin complaints among pregnant women. The condition is marked by brown patches of discoloration on the face and, sometimes, the body. Although doctors do not fully understand the cause of melasma, most believe that the combination of elevated estrogen and progesterone interacts with the ultraviolet energy in the sun's rays. This interaction then triggers specialized cells in your body called melanocytes to produce excess skin pigment, resulting in brown spots. Pregnant women with darker skin, such as those who are Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, African-American and Mediterranean, are most likely to develop melasma.
What Does Melasma Do?
Although melasma poses no risk for complications to you or your baby, the discoloration that it causes on the cheeks, forehead and nose usually lasts for several months after delivery. In the meantime, melasma negatively impacts your self-esteem as you become adjusted to both your new pregnant and postpartum figures.
Typically, melasma is preventable if you take the proper precautions to protect your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all women who suffer from melasma apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (one that is capable of blocking both UVA and UVB rays) for every two hours of sun exposure; however, pregnant women like you must take special precautions when selecting sunscreens. Many sunscreen products contain harsh chemicals that may be unsafe for your baby, making it important to fully research any sunscreen prior to using it during your pregnancy.
The Belli Anti Chloasma Facial Sunscreen SPF 25 is an OB-GYN recommended sunscreen that has undergone highly sophisticated teratology screenings to ensure its safety for developing babies. The sunscreen is available for purchase on its own as well as in a kit with the pregnancy-friendly Acne Cleansing Facial Wash, which battles hormone-related acne flare-ups.
Many herbal blends and tinctures are advertised on the market for the treatment of melasma. Unfortunately, natural remedies are not regulated by the FDA, so it is difficult to tell what products are truly safe. Never start using a natural product for melasma treatment, even a topical one, without first consulting your OB-GYN.
Some women do find that applying natural lemon juice provides moderate relief from melasma. To avoid exposure to chemical preservatives, always opt for fresh lemons rather than bottled lemon juice if you choose to try this home remedy. For best results, dilute the lemon juice with water and apply the solution directly to the affected area.
After you have delivered and finished breastfeeding, there are numerous over-the-counter products that you can use to fade melasma discoloration. Products that contain hydroquinone, kojic acid or glycolic acid are typically among those most effective.
La Roche Posay Mela-D Pigment Control Concentrated Dark Spot Correcting Serum is clinically proven to reduce dark spots by 48 percent with 3 months of use. The topical serum uses kojic acid as its primary active ingredient.
The Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is another favorite for melasma sufferers. The serum uses concentrated vitamin C from the natural extracts of wine grapes to eliminate dark spots. The serum is available for purchase individually or as part of the four-piece Caudalie Vinoperfect Anti-Dark Spot and Radiance Set for the ultimate in skin lightening.