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What is the Mask of Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2016
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During pregnancy, hormonal shifts in the female body can have a variety of results that affect appearance. The mask of pregnancy, also called chloasma or melasma, is a common result of excess melanin production associated with pregnancy hormones. Portions of the facial skin darken, giving a heavily freckled appearance that may resemble a mask. Treatment for the mask of pregnancy is often held off until after the pregnancy ends, to prevent harm to the baby and also to ensure that hormones do not simply cause the mask to reoccur.

Not every pregnant woman will develop the mask of pregnancy; experts have linked an increase in its occurrence due to certain circumstances. Women with darker skin are more likely to experience signs of melasma than women with lighter skin, and the skin tone change may be greater. Heavy sun exposure is also associated with a greater risk of developing the mask of pregnancy. Many experts recommend wearing a hat or strong sunscreen to avoid increased potential for melasma development.

The condition is also not only confined to pregnant women. Experts suggest that women taking hormonal contraceptives, such as the pill, the patch, or hormonal shots, can also develop the condition. The mask of pregnancy is caused by changes to hormonal levels of estrogen in the body; women taking hormonal contraceptives may develop melasma as a result of the estrogen in their medication.

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To treat this condition during pregnancy, many experts recommend using topical medications that reduce hyperpigmentation and may lighten skin somewhat. Some suggest checking with an obstetrician before undergoing even topical treatments, as certain ingredients might be harmful to pregnancy. For the most part, medical experts suggest that laser treatments and glycolic peels should be avoided while pregnant. If skin discoloration is minimal, consider using a multi-shade concealer and foundation in order to even out skin tone cosmetically.

If the discoloration continues after giving birth or the condition is not a result of pregnancy, some advanced treatment options do exist. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the Fraxel® laser to treat the mask of pregnancy with only a short recovery time. Some experts also recommend glycolic peels to reduce color distinction. In many women, the mask of pregnancy will largely fade on its own once hormonal levels return to normal; if symptoms do not dissipate, consider visiting a dermatologist to determine the nature of the condition and best treatment plans for the individual case.

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