What is a pregnancy mask, or melasma?

A pregnancy mask is a particular form of hyperpigmentation, also called melasma, specifically affecting pregnant women. It’s a very common phenomenon: it is estimated that up to 90% of pregnant women will show signs of hyperpigmentation during their pregnancy(1). If you want to learn all about pregnancy masks, read on!

How does a pregnancy mask appear?

A pregnancy mask will usually appear from the 4th month of pregnancy.

Melasma affects mainly the face, so the forehead, nostrils, cheeks, upper lip and chin may develop one or more brown spots with regular contours. Pregnancy masks can also appear on the neck.

Signs of a pregnancy mask may appear on the body too. In fact, moles, freckles and even areolae on the breasts tend to darken during pregnancy. In terms of the stomach, a pregnancy mask may appear in the form of a “linea nigra”, a hyperpigmented line from the pubis to the navel, and sometimes from the pubis to the sternum.

A pregnancy mask is one of the “little disadvantages” of pregnancy. It is not a serious or contagious disease. A pregnancy mask will have no effect on the course of pregnancy, childbirth or the baby. On the other hand, the mother-to-be may experience embarrassment in her daily life because she finds these marks unattractive. A pregnancy mask can have a significant impact on quality of life and affect self-esteem.

What causes a pregnancy mask?

Pregnancy is a very special period in a woman’s life, marked by a high production of hormones. Oestrogens produced during pregnancy stimulate the activity of melanocytes, and thus the synthesis of melanin, a pigment responsible for skin color.

Another essential factor that can contribute to the formation of a pregnancy mask is sun exposure. The sun is the main cause of hyperpigmentation, whether you are pregnant or not. Pregnancy masks are caused largely by the sun.

Women with dark skin are more likely than others to develop a pregnancy mask. Similarly, women who have already had melasma in a previous pregnancy are more likely to see it return.

How to prevent melasma?

To prevent a pregnancy mask from developing, you have one solution: protect yourself from the sun, in all circumstances, not only when on holiday!

So the best cream against a pregnancy mask is a sun cream. Ideally, start using at the beginning of your pregnancy and continue several weeks after childbirth.

Daily application of a sun cream highly effective against UVA and UVB rays is the best form of prevention. We recommend that you choose a non-comedogenic cream, suitable for sensitive skin, compatible with pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Remember to reapply every 2 hours.

You can also combine use of your sunscreen with complementary measures, such as wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

How do I treat a pregnancy mask?

If, despite all these preventive measures, a pregnancy mask does develop, it doesn’t have to be permanent. Solutions exist to effectively treat a pregnancy mask.

In the best-case scenario, the melasma will slowly be reversed and disappear after childbirth, requiring no special treatment.

But quite often the marks, especially those on the face, do not disappear completely, making the complexion uneven. Treatment may be required.

Contrary to popular belief, you can begin a pregnancy mask treatment before childbirth, because some melasma creams are compatible with pregnancy. Anti-brown spot make-up is also possible during pregnancy, and can restore the future mother’s self-confidence. Here too, it is recommended to choose non-comedogenic products, suitable for sensitive skin, compatible with pregnancy and/or breastfeeding.

Some melasma treatments are to be used after childbirth. Examples include chemical peels and laser treatments. This is also the case for many depigmenting creams. Your dermatologist will be the most competent source of information in this field. They can propose treatments tailored to each patient.

(1) Tyler KH. Physiological skin changes during pregnancy. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2015

Our care routines

My routine for an even complexion (face)

Action against brown spots and/or pregnancy mask.

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My anti-aging face care routine

Action against brown spots, wrinkles and loss of skin firmness.

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My sun protection face and body routine

Action to help prevent and reduce the harmful effects of the sun.

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