Stretchmarks are to be expected when pregnant. A few spots too. But you probably never banked on an unsightly, patchy complexion.
Chloasma is pregnancy pigmentation, which is when dark patches appear on the skin, often in rather unattractive places. It also goes by the name of hyperpigmentation, melasma, or the enticingly-named ‘mask of pregnancy’.
You’ll tend to notice it on the following areas:
- around the cheeks
- upper lip
- sides of the neck
Margotmumdrum says: “I had patches on my neck which looked like I hadn’t washed!”
Even celebs aren’t immune. Danielle Lloyd got it on her upper lip, making her look like she had a bit of a moustache. And when she posted a lovely pic of herself and her premature baby on Twitter, she was abused for it.
The feisty model told the haters: “For peeps saying I’ve got a moustache, well yes I have. It’s called pregnancy pigmentation and unless you have children you wouldn’t understand. There is nothing you can do about it unless you get a chemical peel but at the moment I’ve got more important things to worry about, so **** off!”
She later posted another message of support to mums suffering the condition, saying: “Big shout out to everyone with pregnancy pigmentation and moustaches LOL love you all! X”
So what causes these dark patches on my face?
As with most of these magical pregnancy side effects, blame the hormones!
Chloasma is associated with high levels of oestrogen and most often appears in the second or third trimester of pregnancy – exactly when the oestrogen in your body increases. The increase in this hormone causes an excess of melanin, the pigment which causes a suntan and is there to protect the skin against UV light.
The excess leads to dark patches, which tend to form a butterfly-shaped pattern across the face, hence the nickname, pregnancy mask.
For many women it can be pretty hard to spot (no pun intended) – you may just look frecklier (like you hot-footed it to the Caribbean for the weekend), or you have a small splodge of colour, often on your jaw line, which looks like a smudge of foundation. But for some, like Danielle Lloyd, the change is very visible.
Will these spots go when I have my baby?
Yes… eventually. The good news is that chloasma usually starts to fade once you’ve given birth and those hormone levels start to get back to normal again. But it can take time.
Unfortunately once this type of pigmentation forms, some women will continue to be bothered by the pigment, possibly for years afterwards.
Is pregnancy mask worse if you have dark skin?
“No. Pale or dark, unfortunately anyone can get it,” says top cosmetic doctor Dr Mervyn Patterson. “How bad your pigmentation looks all depends on how large an area is affected, where on the face it is, and the contrast between the pigment and the skin colour. I find that pale skin types can suffer really badly because the contrast is so great.”
The patches are not on my face – is this the same thing?
When chloasma appears, it isn’t always restricted to the face. There are various patches on your body that may also get darker too.
Jayne_C1987 experienced this strange phenomenon when she was 36 weeks ‘ pregnant: “My skin pigments have changed so my skin is quite blotchy in places. Round my bikini area and top of thighs are a darker colour. It could be just pigment changes – everyone’s skin is different. Skin pigments may just be playing funny beggars!”
You may also notice your nipples getting darker and/or a dark vertical line appearing over your belly button. This is called the Linea Negra and loads of women are as proud as punch when they see it appear on their bumps. But if you’re not one of them, take heart – you can always hide it under your clothes until it fades!
How can I get it to fade?
Time is a great healer, as the saying goes. Be patient and should improve once your baby is born, or once you stop breastfeeding.
In the meantime, be careful when the sun’s out. Ultraviolet light stimulates the cells to produce more pigment so the best thing you can do to prevent chloasma appearing or worsening is to avoid sitting in the sun. Even just 20 minutes of a sunning yourself on holiday can trigger it.
If you’re outside, even in the UK, put on SPF50+ sun block, wear a wide-brimmed sun hat, and sunglasses too. “Even if your skin is fully covered, the pigment can get darker just because of light getting into the eye,” says Dr Patterson.
Ensure you are getting a good dose of folic acid too. As well as helping to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, studies have shown that a deficiency in this B vitamin can be linked to hyperpigmentation.
Most of all, try not to let it get you down – stress can be a trigger for chloasma. Instead, treat yourself to some nice skin products and make up to boost your confidence.
“I go to Space NK and ask them what they recommend as they always seem to have a solution to any skin worries I have,” says keen MFMer Jojomummy. ”I had chloasma, so after I’d had my third baby last August, I treated myself to a product from the ReVive range, at a ridiculous price. I blame the hormones for my momentary slip of rational thought whilst purchasing (lol), but it worked and quickly.”