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The Pregnancy Mask

Posted by Administrator to Skin Care
about the mask of pregnancyEvery time I hear about "the pregnancy mask," I think of the Jim Carrey movie and picture a voluptuous pregnant woman with a cartoonish green face. 

The thought makes me smile, and sometimes laugh out loud, but a pregnancy mask on the face is no laughing matter. And it's certainly not fictional. Nor does a pregnancy mask impart any super-hero-like powers to the afflicted woman.

Here's what you need to know about a pregnancy mask:

What is a pregnancy mask?

A pregnancy mask is the common name for melasma in pregnancy, or pregnancy chloasma—a skin condition that can affect anyone, but that's most often seen in pregnant women.

Why is it called a pregnancy mask?

The mask of pregnancy is hyper-pigmentation of the skin—darkening splotches that can look like anything from extra-large or extra-dark freckles to a large swath of light or dark brown skin. Because melasma  in pregnancy often manifests on your face, in particular on the forehead, nose, and cheeks, it creates a dark pattern similar to a raccoon's black mask...hence, pregnancy melasma earned the nickname “pregnancy mask.”

What causes a pregnancy mask?

Reproductive hormones cause an increased production of melanocytes—the cells in your skin that create pigment to protect you from ultraviolet damage. The extra deposits of melanocytes left by those industrious maternal hormones result in extra darkening when exposed to UVA and UVB rays.

How likely am I to get a pregnancy mask on my face?

Up to 70% of pregnant women will experience pregnancy melasma, so I'm afraid your chances are pretty high. Also, while you might think fair-skinned women would be more susceptible to a pregnancy mask, the opposite is actually true: the darker your skin’s complexion, the more prone you are to pregnancy melasma. And if you didn't get the mask of pregnancy with your first baby, you're not immune next time around. Your risk of pregnancy melasma increases with each subsequent pregnancy.

Can I prevent a pregnancy mask on my face?

To prevent the mask of pregnancy, stay out of the sun and wear a barrier sunscreen on your face that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, such as SPF 30 Face Natural Mineral Sunscreen. Use pregnancy-safe, barrier sunscreen all day, every day—including indoors. Even indirect light through windows is enough to trigger those melanocytes to go into overdrive. 

Alternative ways—or additional ways, for that extra peace of mind—to prevent the mask of pregnancy include wearing mineral makeup (which contains titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide, giving it around an SPF of 15) and donning a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face. 

If you're not already taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid in it, you should be! Insufficient folate (a vitamin B-complex nutrient found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains and oranges) has been linked to pregnancy melasma.

I'm no longer pregnant, will the pregnancy mask on my face go away?

The good news about having a pregnancy mask is that it usually does go away on its own after baby arrives. The bad news is that it can be a very long time (many months to a year postpartum) before it fades completely. In the meantime, continue to apply sunscreen and use makeup to lessen the appearance of a pregnancy mask on your face.

How can I get rid of a pregnancy mask while I'm pregnant?

Unfortunately, pretty much all of the methods used for removing patches of hyperpigmentation aren't a good idea during pregnancy. Hydroquinone, or bleaching creams, commonly used to get rid of melasma, are not for use in pregnancy. Laser treatment, chemical peels and microdermabrasion are also ways to get rid of the pregnancy mask on your face, but these treatments can aggravate sensitive pregnant skin and may result in worse skin conditions during pregnancy. They also haven't been proven to be safe for pregnant women. (After baby is born, though, you can try these methods to get rid of your pregnancy mask.)

The bottom line about the mask of pregnancy is that prevention is key! If you're pregnant and already have a pregnancy mask on your face, continue to apply sunscreen and use makeup to lessen the visibility of the patches. You can also try applying lemon to your face for a lightening effect, as well as using a spot treatment such as Lucid Brightening Face Serum for Melasma, and switching to a specially formulated pregnancy moisturizer with anti-chloasma ingredients in it such as Pretty Mommies Truth Be Told Skin Brightener.

For more reading on this topic, read our skin care guide about the mask of pregnancy.

Thanks for reading and sharing,

Tara Bloom, owner

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