What Is Chloasma?

Facts About a Common Pregnancy-Related Skin Condition

Pregnancy brings a whole host of changes to your body, some more expected than others. While a growing belly, fatigue, and nausea are par for the course, you might be surprised to notice your skin darkening in areas on your face. Rest assured, this is a normal part of pregnancy for most women.

Chloasma, also commonly called melasma or the “mask of pregnancy,” is a common condition in pregnant women. In fact, it can affect up to 50 to 70 percent of pregnant women. Chloasma usually presents as dark, brownish patches of skin mostly on the forehead, nose, upper lip, and cheeks—hence the nickname, the “mask” of pregnancy. Less commonly, these patches can occur on other parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, like the neck or the forearms.

Chloasma is not painful and it does not carry any risks to the pregnancy—it is a common occurrence that can present during this time.

Causes

Chloasma can occur at any time in life, and it is referred to as melasma when it occurs outside of pregnancy. When it does occur during pregnancy, it is thought to be triggered by an increase in estrogen that stimulates the production of melanin. The effect of the estrogen is increased by the higher levels of progesterone that pregnancy triggers as well.

This is also what often causes the linea nigra, or the dark line down the center of your belly during pregnancy. If you spend a lot of time outside, ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun encourages melanocytes to produce melanin. This can be a trigger for chloasma to begin or can exacerbate existing chloasma.

Individuals of color are more likely than those with lighter skin to develop chloasma because their melanocytes are more active, says the American Academy of Dermatology. Those with blood relatives who have had chloasma are also more likely to develop it than those who do not. These factors do not necessarily mean you will definitely develop it, but you are at a higher risk.

Conversely, a person with light skin and no family history of chloasma can also develop the condition.

Tips

There is no need to treat chloasma, as it typically goes away after you give birth, or for some women, once you are done breastfeeding. If you find it really bothers you, there are some measures you can take to try to minimize chloasma.

  • Make sure you are getting enough folic acid. Folic acid is in prenatal vitamins, but make sure you’re consuming it in your diet as well. Foods to eat include spinach, citrus fruits, pasta, rice, and beans. Folic acid might help reduce hyperpigmentation and minimize your chloasma.
  • Wear sunscreen with a high SPF every day. Wearing sunscreen (at least 30 SPF) even on overcast days is crucial. The UV light can still be powerful, even if it appears cloudy or overcast. Sunlight and UV light can trigger the release of melanin, and pregnancy can make you especially sensitive to this. Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat can also help protect your face from the sun.
  • If the appearance bothers you, makeup can help. Concealer and foundation can help with the appearance of chloasma. During pregnancy, skin might be sensitive, so try to get non-comedogenic, hypo-allergenic corrective foundation and concealer. Ones that are specifically designed for hyperpigmentation can help you even out your skin tone.
  • Choose skin care products that are made for sensitive skin. Products that irritate or sting the skin (like astringent, for example) can worsen chloasma for some people.
  • If you wax your upper lip, you might want to skip it during pregnancy. Waxing can inflame the skin, which in turn, can make chloasma worse. Since the upper lip is a common area where chloasma is found, this is especially important.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, don’t use any chemical peels or bleaches, and stay away from skin-lightening treatments.

In addition, give yourself time to recover. Your body’s hormone balance needs time to even out after pregnancy and nursing, and your skin should return to normal, too. Sometimes this can take up to several months, so it is important to be patient.

A Word From Verywell

After you stop breastfeeding and several months have passed, if your skin has not returned to normal, see your dermatologist for possible treatment options. It is a good idea to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional to make sure your hormones are at typical levels. Most likely, once your hormones go back to pre-pregnancy levels, your skin will even out and the dark patches will fade away.

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