Up to 70 percent of pregnant women develop dark patches on their faces during pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The harmless condition, which is called melasma or chloasma, often affects the skin around the cheeks, nose, forehead, chin or upper lip. The darkened skin is sometimes referred to as “the mask of pregnancy” because it is so common.
Hormone levels soar during pregnancy, and this causes the body to produce more melanin, which is responsible for giving the hair, skin and eyes color. With more melanin in the body, the skin can become overly dark in certain areas. These changes are often more noticeable in women with dark skin tones. Sun exposure causes the spots to become darker and more noticeable.
You can keep melasma from getting worse by protecting yourself from the sun. The American Pregnancy Association recommends women wear a sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 when outside. Wear a hat to shield the face from sun damage.
Melasma often fades on its own in the first months after pregnancy, but it may not go away completely. If the problem persists, treatments are available. The darkened skin may return in subsequent pregnancies. If you begin to take birth control pills after pregnancy and the spots do not clear up, ask your doctor about a possible connection. The hormones in oral contraceptives can cause melasma.
If dark skin does not fade after pregnancy, try skin-lightening creams, which often contain hydroquinone, to improve the condition, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser surgery are other treatment options after pregnancy. During pregnancy, you can attempt to cover darkened skin with makeup. You can wear a thick concealer under other makeup to help even the skin out and hide splotches.
Do not attempt to treat the condition during pregnancy without a doctor’s approval. Some skin-lightening products and other treatments may not be safe to use while pregnant. See a doctor if you find any new or rapidly changing dark spots, such as moles, so he can rule out skin cancer, according to ACOG.