Melasma: the Mask of Pregnancy

Melasma is frequently referred to as the “mask of pregnancy.”  This is because it frequently occurs in women who are pregnant. However, don’t let the term fool you.  Melasma can last after the pregnancy, and it can occur in people who are not pregnant.

So what is melasma? It’s a condition where brown or tan patches appear on the face. It is usually symmetric and most commonly affects the cheek, temple and forehead areas.

Why does melasma occur? We don’t really know.  It predominantly occurs in women, and its occurrence with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives implies a hormonal factor.  However, it can occur without an apparent hormonal change as well.  It also frequently affects Hispanics and Asians as well, suggesting a demographic or genetic connection as well.

So how do you treat melasma? Well, first off, make sure to sun protect!  Melasma worsens with sun exposure and sometimes it doesn’t take all that much sun (e.g. just from walking to and from work) to set it off.  Get a broad-spectrum sunscreen for your face.

But how do you get rid of melasma if you already have it? Well, it is TOUGH.  First, I’d recommend that you see a dermatologist.  It would be important to make sure that your dark patches are melasma and not something else.  Your dermatologist may then recommend products to use on the skin or certain procedures. Keep in mind that melasma is hard to “cure” and these techniques may be variable in their effectiveness.

So, do you have melasma? And if so, what has or has not worked for you?

Does pregnancy affect your skin?

You bet it does. Many changes happen to your body when you’re pregnant. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing change. Makes sense that pregnancy affects your skin as well.

So how does pregnancy affect your skin?

Here are some things that can happen:

Hyperpigmentation – You may notice areas of your skin becoming darker than your normal skin tone

Melasma – Melasma is also known as the “mask of pregnancy.” It often presents as blotchy dark areas of the face, most commonly over the cheeks.

Hair loss or hair growth – Yes, both hair loss or hair growth (hirsutism) can occur.  Hair loss can be temporary, but may also be permanent in that the hair does nt grow back.  Hair growth often affects individuals with a personal or family history of increased hair growth.

Changes in the nails – Changes can include brittleness, appearance of lines in the nail, lifting of the nail, or accumulation of material under the nail

Changes to the nipples – The nipples may become bumpy, reflecting enlargement of the glands

Stretch marks – Pregnancy is accompanied by weight gain and stretching of the skin. Stretch marks (“striae”) may be skin colored, pinkish or purplish.

Red spots – These may represent collections of vessels called spider angiomas or, some people get redness of the palms (“palmar erythema”). Veins can become enlarged and lumpy as well (“varicose veins”).

Changes in the mouth – Gums may become enlarged or bumpy.

Leg swelling – You can retain fluid and the feet, ankles and legs may be affected.

Acne – Acne can get worse or better!  It’s hard to predict whose acne improves, and whose goes downhill.