The mask of pregnancy – what you need to know about melasma

If you’re pregnant and have developed some strange skin discolouration on your face there’s no need to worry – it’s called melasma and it affects around 50 to 75 percent of all expecting mothers. 

What is melasma?

Also known as cholasma or ‘the mask of pregnancy,’ melasma is when dark, blotchy, brown, irregular patches appear over time mostly on the skin of the forehead, cheeks, nose or lips. It can occur in anyone however is most common in women – particularly those who are pregnant, taking contraception or pre-menopausal. The visual skin discolouration is the only symptom.

What causes it?

Melasma is caused by hyper-pigmentation which happens when increased estrogen levels produce excessive melanin production. It’s the same thing that can cause you to develop a linea nigra (the vertical line down your tummy) and to get darker nipples, freckles and moles. Women with darker skin such as of African or Asian decent are more likely to develop it, especially if they’re heavily exposed to sunlight which can make the condition worse.

Melasma can sometimes occur on other parts of the body other than the face

Will it go away?

Thankfully, yes! Melasma is only temporary and often disappears soon after birth or once a baby has been weaned (if breastfeeding) – hence the name ‘mask of pregnancy.’ It also goes away once contraception or hormone replacement therapy is stopped (if they were the causes instead).

I’m sleazing and waddling my way to the Logies next weekend, an event I like to exploit to get my skin looking whatever level is above 'retouched.' I’ve been having regular Omnilux (LED lamp) sessions and lactic peels with Face Boss @melaniegrantdbc for a while to keep pregnancy pigmentation in check, but this week I tried dermaplaning (professional face-shaving of the tiny fine face hairs with a single blade) for the first time, because it’s the kind of thing people like you think beauty-writer people like me, do. Dermaplaning (around $100) is exfoliating, brightening, skin-tone-evening, non-inflammatory (so: great for pigmentation sufferers) helps skin care penetrate better, and makes your skin freakishly smooth (because, um, it’s hairless), meaning your makeup will sit PERFECTLY. Just ask any beauty vlogger worth his or her bronzer: they’re mad for a Japanese Facial Razor or 12. The first question I asked my bud Brooke at @meskinandbody was: will my facial hair grow back worse/coarse? "No. It will not change the number or texture of the hair follicles.” Second: will this hurt? “No." And it didn’t. (Unlike threading, or waxing, or laser.) Third was: Do you have some butter for my hot cross bun? (Brought one in my bag.) Few days on and I'm a luminous, bright, fuzz-free, smooth-skinned slice of facey cherry pie, and I’m juuust modest enough to admit it. Plus, my makeup looks like incredible. Like it's in HD. Long may it continue! (Six weeks, apparently.) Or at least til next Sunday! My earring is stuck to my face in this photo! Faceshaving for Gold! 🏆

A post shared by ZOË FOSTER BLAKE (@zotheysay) on

What you can do

Although it’s a very normal and common part of pregnancy, if you’re not keen on the patchy skin look there are a few things you can do to help it such as:

  • Be careful of sunlight – as sun exposure makes it worse be sure to cover up and use a good quality sunscreen at all times.
  • Up the folic acid – some studies show that hyper-pigmentation are related to folate deficiency so be sure to take your prenatal supplement and load up on foods like green leafy vegetables, oranges and whole wheat bread.
  • Use a good concealer – don’t like it? Hide it! Use both a good concealer and foundation designed for skin issues

Other treatments such as chemical peels and microdermabrasian are best avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding, so if your melasma is still there following the birth of your baby please speak with your doctor or a dermatologist.

Mum-of-two Zoe Foster Blake (pictured above) shared how she was dealing with the pesky melasma during her second pregnancy with newborn baby Rudy. Her secret? A kick-ass make-up supply, regular Omnilux (LED lamp) sessions, lactic peels and something we’d never heard of: dermaplaning (professional face-shaving of the tiny fine face hairs with a single blade).

With pregnancy comes pigmentation. (Applause.) I'll keep mine in check with brightening skin care, antioxidants and physical sun protection, (plus regular Omnilux sessions and lactic peels) but I will also just cover it the hell up with foundation and concealer sorcerery. I bought (and recommend) stuff that is creamy, dewy and medium to full coverage, cos I want the brown patches covered, but the rest of the complexion a healthy, natural finish. Don't be tricked into creating a mask just cos you have a few areas of uneven skin tone. 1. Nars Sheer Glow cos it's luminous and medium coverage and I am a longtime fan and it's brilliant. 2. Hourglass Skin Tint cos despite the tube and the tint in its name, it's actually full coverage. Of the dewy kind. Never tried before but love/trust Hourglass so was happy to buy and try. 3. Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer because it's thick, dewy-as, and quite frankly, the best concealer I've ever used for pigmentation and dark circles and other bullshit trying to make me look tired and aged.

A post shared by ZOË FOSTER BLAKE (@zotheysay) on

Have you suffered from melasma during pregnancy?

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