PREGNANCY, PIGMENTATION AND SUNSCREEN:
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that stimulate pigment production in the skin, putting pregnant women at risk of “pregnancy mask”: Brown patches on the forehead, cheeks and above the upper lip. Even everyday sun exposure can trigger these pigmentation issues, so the golden rule is to protect your skin every day, even when you’re not on holiday. As a real-life example, Marie shares her story of pregnancy mask and explains how she avoided it in her second pregnancy. Of course, pigmentation problems such as dark spots, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are not limited to pregnancy. They are also associated with sun exposure and ageing in general. To prevent pregnancy mask and other skin pigmentation problems:
• Shield your face with a hat and sunglasses
• Protect your skin with SPF50 broad-spectrum (UVA-UVB) sunscreen of suitable for use during pregnancy, for example from the ANTHELIOS range. Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone as there is some controversy over this ingredient in pregnancy.
• Reapply sun protection thoroughly every two hours
• At home, morning and evening, use a pregnancy mask treatment such PIGMENTCLAR Serum for prevention and correction of pigment patches
• Your dermatologist can also recommend various techniques for correcting dark spots (microdermabrasion, chemical peels, IPL, laser, etc.).
YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PREGNANCY MASK!
Learn about pregnancy mask prevention and treatment
If you’re expecting a baby, or hoping to fall pregnant in the near future, scroll on to learn how to protect your skin from dark pigment patches!
Pregnancy causes women's bodies to produce a significantly higher level of female hormones (oestrogens) which triggers a boost in melanin production. This means, during the first months of pregnancy especially, women are prone to developing hyperpigmentation on the face. This is known as pregnancy mask, melasma or chloasma. In principle, the patches disappear six months after giving birth. However, the risk of relapse during a subsequent pregnancy is high.
What does pregnancy mask look like?
Pregnancy mask affects many women, beginning in the fourth month of pregnancy. The hyperpigmentation appears as discoloured, dark patches particularly on the forehead, cheeks and above the upper lip. These pigmented patches tend to range from tan to dark brown.
What triggers pregnancy mask to develop?
Sun exposure considerably raises the risk of developing pregnancy mask. And we don’t just mean sunbathing on holiday: Even the amount of exposure received on a clear, pleasant day can cause melanin overproduction, posing a risk of triggering pregnancy mask or melasma. Read on for some top places you might get “caught out” with unwanted sun exposure.
Don’t think you expose your skin to the sun? Are you sure?
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Avoiding UV exposure is something you need to think about in your everyday life: It is not merely an issue for the beach, and you don’t even need to be outside to be exposed! Pay particular attention in the following situations:
- At work: If you work near a window, the chances are your skin is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis. This is because UVA rays can pass through glass. Since UVA can trigger pregnancy mask, and you may spend many hours a day at your desk, this is a key time to apply sun protection and take preventive measures (see the next section).
- In the car: Most windshields filter both UVA and UVB rays, but the side windows generally let UVA pass through. Since these UV rays can cause pregnancy mask (not to mention ageing and potentially skin cancer), it is important to protect your skin while in the car.
- On an aeroplane: According to stats from the US Environmental Protection Agency, for every 1000 foot increase in elevation, there is roughly a 2% increase in UV radiation. While the plane windows will protect passengers from UVB rays, they don’t fully block out UVA rays. Again, this is an “unexpected” situation where sun can get the upper hand and you find yourself at risk of pregnancy mask and other pigmentation issues. Read on to find out how to protect your skin.
Melasma: Prevention is the golden rule
Prevention is far easier and preferable to treatment for pregnancy mask and pigmentation issues!
This doesn’t mean you need to stay locked up inside each and every day, but following these simple rules will help you minimise your risk of developing pregnancy mask:
- To shield your face from sun exposure, wear a hat and sunglasses.
- Protect your skin with a full protection sunscreen that’s broad-spectrum with at least SPF30 and ideally SPF50 and suitable for use during pregnancy, for example from the ANTHELIOS range.
- Reapply sun protection thoroughly every two hours.
- Don't get caught out: You can even be exposed to harmful UV on a cloudy day, or whilst indoors as UVAcan pass through glass!
- At home, morning and evening, use PIGMENTCLAR Serum to prevent a pregnancy mask and correction of pigment patches.
WHAT SUNSCREEN TO USE
Not everyone agrees about oxybenzone
There are so many things to consider when you’re pregnant. It’s a time when a woman often asks herself questions about what to do, and what not to do.
One such question you may be asking yourself is: Which sunscreen should I use in pregnancy? Are there sunscreens to avoid? To help you make your choice, here are some pointers to bear in mind:
- Many sunscreens block UV rays using an ingredient containing oxybenzone. Some research has cast doubt over the tolerance of this chemical, which permeates the skin and is absorbed into the bloodstream. Watch out: Some facial and body lotions with SPF protection also contain oxybenzone. If you want to be cautious until there is greater clarity on the subject, avoid these products by checking the ingredients list.
- Choose a photostable and broad-spectrum UVA-UVB-long UVA sun filter that is safe to use in pregnancy, such as the XL-Protect system found in La Roche-Posay’s ANTHELIOS range.
To learn more about UVA and UVB protection HERE.
ONE WOMAN’S EXPERIENCE OF PREGNANCY MASK
AND HOW SHE AVOIDED IT THE SECOND TIME AROUND
"I didn’t make the same mistakes with the sun during my second pregnancy"
During Marie's first pregnancy, her face became covered in brown patches – her skin was affected by pregnancy mask. However, during her second pregnancy, Marie made sure she reduced her risk of developing this visible and potentially upsetting condition by protected herself from the sun. Here’s her story.
“Because I have blond hair and light-coloured eyes, I never thought I would get pregnancy mask. I was so wrong, as I realised during a trip to Brittany during the fourth month of my pregnancy.”
My pregnancy mask symptoms
“I woke up one morning and I noticed a brown line above my lip, it looked like a coffee stain. I ultimately ended up with severe pregnancy mask on my face! It lasted the entire pregnancy and for several months after the baby was born. Last year I became pregnant with my second child. In my first pregnancy I had applied some sunscreen, but I had still got pregnancy mask. So during my second pregnancy, I wanted to learn which sunscreen would help me most and to take every possible precaution!”
My pregnancy mask solution
“I went to see a dermatologist. She explained that pregnancy mask is related to hormones and that I had to be particularly careful at the beginning of my pregnancy. She strongly recommended I avoid sun exposure and that I wear a hat, SPF 50 sunscreen and sunglasses – in short, that I get as much protection as possible.
I followed her advice and the pregnancy mask did not make a repeat appearance.” Looking for an SPF50 sunscreen to protect your skin from pregnancy mask? Try Have children and want to know how to keep them safe in the sun? Click HERE
Of course, skin pigmentation problems are not limited to pregnancy. As we age, many other pigment issues can appear on the skin such as dark spots, melasma (you don’t have to be pregnant to get it!) and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
WHAT CAUSES BROWN PIGMENTATION
AND DARK PATCHES?
Different pigmentation issues have different causes
From the age of 30, a number of people (particularly women) develop brown discolouration on their skin. Different pigmentation issues have their own specific causes:
- Lentigo – also called age spots or dark spots if it’s mainly due to ageing of the skin. Known as solar lentigo if caused by regular and considerable sun exposure. They look like flat, irregularly shaped or roundish brown marks.
- Melasma – generally due to hormone imbalances. This can occur when taking certain medicines (such as epilepsy treatments) or can be caused by sun exposure during pregnancy when insufficient sun protection has been applied. Also known as pregnancy mask, this form of skin discolouration is made up of irregular large tan or brown patches, often on the forehead, cheeks or upper lip. Click HERE to skip back to the section about pregnancy mask
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – occurs following any inflammation of skin such as acne, for example. The mark is due to excess melanin produced by pigment-producing cells called melanocytes which are stimulated by the chemical messengers involved in inflammation. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH is a brown mark which appears in the same place where a skin lesion used to be – for example once a spot or a wound has healed.
Concerned about post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation due to acne? Click HERE for more info
If you want to avoid post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation of a new scar, click HERE for full details.
The sun, skin ageing and genetics are the main factors that influence skin pigmentation. From the age of 30, they can disrupt the production and distribution of melanin, the pigment responsible for the skin's colouring. This means melanin becomes distributed unevenly in the skin and accumulates at the surface. Result? Pigmentation problems such as dark spots, melasma or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation appear on skin.
HOW TO PREVENT AND CARE FOR
DARK PIGMENTATION AND MARKS
Follow these steps for a radiant complexion
While dark pigment marks are completely harmless, they can be a source of stress.
To prevent and correct them, it’s important to adopt a good daily skincare regime – this is particularly true during pregnancy, when hormonal changes lead to an increase in melanin production. Here are some simple tips to ensure your complexion remains radiant and even:
- Protect your skin from the sun. It’s that simple: Sun protection will help stop melasma and other pigment issues from forming, and will encourage them to fade once formed. Click HERE to skip back to tips on sun protection.
- Don't get caught out: You can even be exposed to the sun in your office or in your car!
- Pregnancy mask usually disappears spontaneously within 6 months of giving birth, whereas dark spots can be more tenacious and require targeted treatment to fade. Every morning and evening, apply an anti-dark spot treatment such as PIGMENTCLAR Serum to the face and neck.
- Your dermatologist can recommend various techniques for correcting dark spots:
- Microdermabrasion: Your dermatologist uses micro-crystals to “sandblast” off the top layer of skin. This can help remove accumulated pigment deposits to clarify the complexion. This technique has very little downtime, but do expect to be a little red for 24 hours after.
- Chemical peels: Your doctor applies a mild peel solution such as an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) for less severe pigmentation issues, or a stronger solution such as trichloroacetic acid (TCA) for more ingrained marks. Don’t expect any downtime with an AHA peel, whereas you are likely to be red and peeling for about a week after a TCA peel.
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): Your practitioner applies a concentrated beam of light at a specific wavelength to be absorbed by dark pigment in the skin. This causes the pigment to be destroyed for a brightening effect. You can expect some redness after having IPL. You may also find the pigmented areas actually look darker for a few days before flaking off.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are many other in-office procedures for pigmentation issues such as the Fraxel laser, cryotherapy and topical treatments such as hydroquinone. The one thing they all have in common is their elevated cost, so be sure to implement the prevention tips in this article to stop pigmentation from forming in the first place!
Click HERE skip back to prevention tips.
Click HERE for detailed information on UVA-UVB protection.
Want to know how to keep your kids safe in the sun? Click HERE.