Melanin is our best friend when it comes to defending ourselves from the rays of the sun. This is the natural substance that gives our body parts – such as the hair, eyes and skin – its natural color. Likewise, it is also our natural defense against the UV rays produced by the sun. However, pregnancy can cause hormonal surges, which in turn produce huge amounts of melanin in many parts of the body. One type of pregnancy-induced discoloration is Melasma Gravidarum, or the mask of pregnancy.
What is Melasma Gravidarum?
Also known as chloasma and mask of pregnancy, melasma gravidarum is caused by excess pigmentation on the cheeks, upper lip, chin and nose areas. This is caused by increase of hormones during pregnancy. The spike in estrogen and progesterone levels promotes the production of melanin, which becomes evident in the skin. It occurs more in women with darker skintones, such as Asians, Indians, and African women. Although it is a skin problem that occurs during pregnancy, it may still affect up to ten percent of women post-pregnancy.
Treatments You Can Try
Hydroquinone is typically used to lighten the skin and cure melasma for non-pregnant women. However, it is not advisable for expecting women due to the lack of research done on its effects on the growing fetus. An estimated 35-40% of hydroquinone is absorbed through the skin, and this is already considered as a high amount.
Tretinoin creams are also effective, but are not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. According to research, Tretonin (also known as Retin A) does not have a high absorption rate in the skin. On the other hand, there have been conflicting results on whether this has an effect on retinoid embryopathy, which is a form of abnormality among fetuses. Doctors do not recommend the use of retinoids due to the lack of research on this field and the varying data produced.
Dermatologists may recommend chemical peels, laser surgeries and microdermabrasion to help remove melasma gravidarum.
Liquid chemical peels are administered to remove the “mask”. There are different strengths of chemical peels, and if you want the gentlest skin peels, Glycolic Acid and AHA the mildest solution.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy, abbreviated as IPL, takes at least five weeks to take effect. It uses a broadband light to further enter the skin, fades the melasma without hurting the epidermis. IPL treatments cause a mild sting or snapping sensation, but most doctors use numbing cream for the skin.
For those who have extra cash to spend – and for those who are in a hurry to remove the melasma – laser treatment can be done. It burns away the melasma without the need to return for another visit, but this option can be quite expensive. The treatment can be painful, but can be managed with numbing cream and after-care ointments.
Skin Protection Creams
Since melasma is a condition aggravated by exposure to the sun, the use of sunscreen lotions and over-the-counter creams are essential. However, you should check that the lotions are gentle on the skin, to avoid further irritations.
Some pregnant women discover that their facial discolorations disappear after pregnancy – while some others do not. If you are pregnant, you might want to wait till after giving birth to see if you really need treatment. You should keep in mind that the removal of melasma gravidus is a process that needs you to manage expectations. Your skin may not return to the state prior to the condition, depending on the treatments you get. If your Melasma Gravidarum continues to bother you, do not hesitate to book a consultation with your doctor to find out the best treatment that works for you.