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Melasma Pregnancy: A Wonderful Guide

Melasma Pregnancy

Melasma Pregnancy: A Wonderful Guide

Pregnancy, a profound journey, often accompanies the emergence of melasma pregnancy, aptly named the “mask of pregnancy.” This blog elucidates melasma’s association with pregnancy, addressing its manifestation, triggers, and impact on self-esteem. Offering practical advice, it navigates sun protection, gentle skincare, and safe topical treatments to manage melasma effectively during pregnancy. Encouraging a holistic approach, it advocates for a balanced lifestyle, stress management, and seeking professional support when needed. Embracing radiant confidence amidst hormonal fluctuations becomes attainable with informed strategies tailored to empower expectant mothers in their melasma journey.


Melasma, often referred to as the “mask of pregnancy,” casts its shadow on the radiant journey of expectant mothers. This common skin condition, characterized by dark patches, particularly on the face, can pose challenges to self-esteem during this transformative time. Understanding its intricacies amidst hormonal fluctuations is pivotal for effective management. In this guide, we delve into the intricate dance between melasma and pregnancy, offering insights into its manifestation, triggers, and practical strategies to navigate this phenomenon with confidence and grace. Let’s illuminate the path to embracing radiant skin and self-assurance amidst the glow of impending motherhood.

What is melasma pregnancy and what does it look like?

Melasma, recognized as the “mask of pregnancy,” is a common dermatological concern characterized by the emergence of dark, irregular patches on the skin, predominantly on the face. These patches, often varying in shape and size, tend to appear on areas such as the cheeks, forehead, nose, and upper lip. What distinguishes melasma is its distinct pattern, resembling a mask-like formation, hence its moniker. These patches may range from light brown to dark brown or even grayish, depending on factors such as skin tone and severity.

While melasma typically poses no physical discomfort, its impact on self-esteem can be significant, particularly during pregnancy when hormonal fluctuations exacerbate its visibility. Understanding the appearance and distribution of melasma lays the foundation for effective management strategies, empowering individuals to navigate this skin condition with confidence and resilience.

Where does melasma most commonly occur?

Melasma most commonly occurs on the face, manifesting as dark, irregular patches on areas such as the cheeks, forehead, nose, and upper lip. These regions are particularly susceptible to the characteristic mask-like formation of melasma. Understanding its prevalent locations aids in recognizing and addressing this skin condition effectively, promoting confidence and well-being during pregnancy and beyond.

How common is melasma?

Melasma is a prevalent skin condition, affecting approximately 50–70% of pregnant women. However, it can also occur in non-pregnant individuals, with an estimated incidence of 10–15%. While it can manifest at any age, melasma commonly emerges between the ages of 20 and 40, particularly among women. Its occurrence transcends ethnicities and skin types, though it’s more conspicuous in individuals with darker skin tones. Understanding its widespread prevalence underscores the importance of proactive management and support, enabling individuals to navigate this aspect of their skin health with confidence and assurance.

Who is at risk of melasma?

Individuals with darker skin tones are at higher risk of developing melasma, though it can affect people of all ethnicities. Pregnant women, particularly those experiencing hormonal fluctuations, are also susceptible. Additionally, individuals with a family history of melasma or a history of sun exposure are at increased risk.

What happens to the skin

In the skin, melasma occurs due to a combination of factors, primarily hormonal changes and sun exposure. During pregnancy, increased levels of estrogen and progesterone stimulate the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. This hormonal imbalance triggers the overproduction and irregular distribution of melanin, leading to the formation of dark patches characteristic of melasma. Additionally, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources exacerbates melasma by stimulating melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin.

UV radiation also worsens existing pigmentation, making melasma more pronounced. Furthermore, inflammation and oxidative stress induced by sun exposure contribute to the development and progression of melasma. Understanding these underlying mechanisms underscores the importance of sun protection, hormonal balance, and skincare in managing melasma effectively. By addressing these factors, individuals can minimize melanin production, reduce inflammation, and maintain skin health, ultimately alleviating the symptoms of melasma and promoting a more even complexion.

Why do women get melasma when they’re pregnant?

During pregnancy, hormonal changes, specifically increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, stimulate melanin production in the skin. This hormonal imbalance triggers the overproduction and irregular distribution of melanin, leading to the formation of dark patches characteristic of melasma.

What are the types of melasma pregnancy

  1. Epidermal Melasma:
    • Appearance: This type of melasma presents as dark brown patches on the surface of the skin.
    • Characteristics: Epidermal melasma is the most common type and tends to have well-defined borders.
    • Cause: It occurs due to the overproduction and irregular distribution of melanin in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, triggered by hormonal changes during pregnancy.
    • Response to Treatment: Epidermal melasma typically responds well to topical treatments and sun protection measures.
  2. Dermal Melasma:
    • Appearance: Dermal melasma manifests as bluish-gray patches deeper within the skin.
    • Characteristics: Unlike epidermal melasma, dermal melasma often lacks well-defined borders and appears more diffuse.
    • Cause: It occurs when excess melanin is deposited in the dermis, the deeper layer of the skin, leading to a bluish hue.
    • Response to Treatment: Dermal melasma may be more challenging to treat compared to epidermal melasma, requiring a combination of topical agents and possibly laser therapy for optimal results.
  3. Mixed Melasma:
    • Appearance: Mixed melasma combines features of both epidermal and dermal types, resulting in patches with varying colors and depths.
    • Characteristics: These patches may exhibit a combination of dark brown and bluish-gray pigmentation, often with irregular borders.
    • Cause: Mixed melasma occurs when both epidermal and dermal layers are affected by excess melanin production and deposition.
    • Response to Treatment: Treatment of mixed melasma may involve a multifaceted approach, incorporating topical agents, laser therapy, and strict sun protection measures to address both epidermal and dermal components effectively.

Understanding the distinct characteristics and underlying mechanisms of each type of melasma during pregnancy is essential for devising tailored treatment plans and managing this condition effectively while ensuring the safety of both the expectant mother and the developing fetus.

Melasma Pregnancy

Is melasma cancerous?

No, melasma is not cancerous. It is a benign skin condition characterized by the development of dark patches on the skin, typically on the face. While it can be persistent and cosmetically bothersome, melasma does not pose any risk of developing into skin cancer.

Is melasma permanent?

Melasma can be persistent but is not always permanent. While some cases may resolve on their own, others may require ongoing management to minimize their appearance. With appropriate treatment and sun protection measures, many individuals experience significant improvement in their melasma over time.

Symptoms and Causes

  1. Dark Patches: The primary symptom of melasma is the appearance of dark, irregular patches on the skin, most commonly on the face.
  2. Location: These patches typically manifest on sun-exposed areas, including the cheeks, forehead, bridge of the nose, upper lip, and chin.
  3. Pattern: Melasma patches often exhibit a distinct pattern, resembling a mask-like distribution on the face. They may vary in size, shape, and intensity.
  4. Discoloration: The color of melasma patches can range from light brown to dark brown or even grayish. The pigmentation may deepen with sun exposure.
  5. Symmetry: Melasma patches usually occur symmetrically on both sides of the face, though the intensity of pigmentation may differ between the two sides.
  6. Other Areas: In some cases, melasma can also affect other sun-exposed areas of the body, such as the neck and forearms.

Causes of melasma:

  1. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, particularly increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, play a key role in the development of melasma. This is why melasma is commonly associated with pregnancy (known as chloasma or the “mask of pregnancy”), oral contraceptive use, hormone replacement therapy, hormonal changes during menopause, and conditions such as hypothyroidism.
  2. Sun Exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is a major contributing factor to melasma. Sun exposure stimulates the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, leading to the darkening of existing melasma patches and the emergence of new ones.
  3. Genetics: There may be a genetic predisposition to melasma, as it tends to run in families. Individuals with a family history of melasma are more likely to develop the condition themselves.
  4. Skin Type: Melasma is more prevalent in individuals with darker skin tones, such as those of Hispanic, Asian, African, or Middle Eastern descent. People with Fitzpatrick skin types III–VI are at higher risk.
  5. Cosmetic Products: Certain skincare products or cosmetics containing ingredients that irritate or sensitize the skin, such as fragrances or harsh chemicals, may exacerbate melasma.
  6. Heat and Inflammation: Heat and inflammation can also trigger or worsen melasma. This includes factors such as hot weather, spicy foods, and inflammation from skin treatments or procedures.

Understanding the multitude of symptoms and causes associated with melasma is essential for accurate diagnosis and effective management. By addressing underlying factors such as hormonal imbalances, sun exposure, and genetic predispositions, individuals can take proactive steps to minimize the onset and progression of melasma, ultimately promoting healthier and more radiant skin.

Do certain foods affect melasma?

While specific foods may not directly cause melasma, certain dietary factors can influence skin health and pigmentation, potentially affecting the severity of melasma.

  1. Nutrient-Rich Diet: Consuming foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins (especially vitamin C), and minerals supports skin health and may help mitigate melasma symptoms. Examples include:
    • Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables: berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, and kale.
    • Vitamin C sources: oranges, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
    • Zinc-rich foods: nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and shellfish.
  2. Hydration: Adequate water intake is essential for maintaining skin hydration, and elasticity, and promoting cell turnover, potentially reducing the appearance of melasma.
  3. Limiting trigger foods: Some individuals may find that certain foods exacerbate inflammation and trigger melasma flare-ups. Examples include:
    • Spicy foods
    • Foods high in histamines, such as aged cheeses, fermented foods, and processed meats.
  4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit individuals with melasma by reducing inflammation and improving skin health. Sources include:
    • Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout.
    • Plant-based sources: flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds.
  5. Alcohol and Caffeine: Excessive alcohol consumption and caffeine intake may dehydrate the skin and exacerbate melasma. Moderating consumption of these beverages can help maintain skin hydration and minimize melasma symptoms.

While dietary modifications alone may not eliminate melasma, adopting a balanced diet rich in skin-nourishing nutrients and avoiding trigger foods can complement other treatment strategies and promote healthier skin overall.

Diagnosis and tests

Diagnosis of Melasma:

  1. Clinical Examination: The diagnosis of melasma typically begins with a thorough clinical examination by a dermatologist or healthcare provider. They will assess the appearance, location, and distribution of pigmented patches on the skin.
  2. Medical History: A comprehensive medical history will be obtained to identify any underlying medical conditions, hormonal changes, medications, or previous treatments that may contribute to or exacerbate melasma.
  3. Wood’s Lamp Examination: A Wood’s lamp, which emits ultraviolet (UV) light, may be used during the examination to evaluate the depth and extent of pigmentation in the skin. This can help differentiate between epidermal and dermal melasma.
  4. Skin Biopsy (Rarely): In rare cases where the diagnosis is uncertain or other skin conditions need to be ruled out, a skin biopsy may be performed. A small sample of skin tissue is collected and examined under a microscope to confirm the presence of melasma and rule out other conditions.

Tests for Melasma:

  1. No Specific Laboratory Tests: There are no specific laboratory tests for diagnosing melasma. Diagnosis is primarily based on clinical evaluation and examination of the affected skin.
  2. Patch Testing (Optional): In some cases, patch testing may be performed to identify potential triggers or exacerbating factors for melasma, such as contact dermatitis from skincare products or cosmetics.
  3. Hormonal Testing (If Relevant): If hormonal imbalances are suspected as a contributing factor to melasma, hormonal testing may be recommended to assess levels of estrogen, progesterone, thyroid hormones, and other relevant hormones.
  4. Photographic Documentation: Serial photography may be used to document the progression of melasma and monitor the effectiveness of treatment over time. High-quality, standardized photographs are taken at regular intervals to track changes in pigmentation and skin condition.

Overall, the diagnosis of melasma primarily relies on clinical evaluation, medical history, and examination of the affected skin. Additional tests, such as Wood’s lamp examination or skin biopsy, may be employed in specific cases to aid in diagnosis or rule out other skin conditions.

Management and Treatment of Melasma

  1. Sun Protection: Sunscreen is a cornerstone of melasma management. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily, even on cloudy days. Reapply every two hours, especially when outdoors. Protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses can also help minimize sun exposure.
  2. Topical Treatments:
    • Hydroquinone: A common topical agent for melasma, hydroquinone inhibits melanin production. It is available in concentrations ranging from 2% to 4% and is often used in combination with other ingredients.
    • Retinoids: Topical retinoids, such as tretinoin, can help enhance skin cell turnover and lighten pigmentation. However, they are not recommended during pregnancy.
    • Azelaic Acid: Azelaic acid has depigmenting properties and can be used as an alternative or adjunctive treatment to hydroquinone.
    • Kojic Acid: Kojic acid is another depigmenting agent that inhibits melanin production and is often found in over-the-counter skincare products.
    • Vitamin C: Topical vitamin C serums can help brighten the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation.
  3. Oral Medications: In some cases, oral medications such as tranexamic acid or oral antioxidants may be prescribed to supplement topical treatments and enhance their efficacy.
  4. Procedures:
    • Chemical Peels: Chemical peels, such as glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid peels, can help exfoliate the skin and lighten pigmentation.
    • Microdermabrasion: This procedure involves gently exfoliating the skin to remove the outer layer of dead skin cells, promoting cell turnover, and reducing pigmentation.
    • Laser Therapy: Various laser and light-based therapies, such as fractional laser resurfacing or intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, can target melanin in the skin and reduce pigmentation. These treatments should be performed by a qualified dermatologist or skincare professional.
  5. Maintenance Therapy: Once melasma has improved, maintenance therapy with topical agents and sun protection is essential to prevent recurrence. Regular follow-up appointments with a dermatologist are recommended to monitor progress and adjust treatment as needed.
  6. Lifestyle Modifications: Avoiding known triggers such as sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations, and certain skincare products can help prevent melasma flare-ups. Adopting a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, adequate hydration, and stress management techniques can also support overall skin health.

Overall, the management of melasma often requires a multifaceted approach tailored to the individual’s specific needs and skin type. By combining topical treatments, procedures, sun protection, and lifestyle modifications, individuals can effectively manage melasma and achieve clearer, more radiant skin.

Melasma Pregnancy


  1. Sun Protection: Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is paramount to preventing melasma. Follow these sun protection measures:
    • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to all exposed skin daily, even on cloudy days.
    • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially when swimming or sweating.
    • Seek shade during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) when UV radiation is strongest.
    • Wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses to shield your skin and eyes from the sun.
  2. Hormonal Management: If you are prone to melasma due to hormonal fluctuations, such as during pregnancy or while taking oral contraceptives, consult with your healthcare provider about hormonal management options.
    • Discuss alternative contraceptive methods with your healthcare provider if you experience melasma while taking oral contraceptives.
    • If you are planning a pregnancy, consider discussing melasma prevention strategies with your healthcare provider before conception.
  3. Avoid Triggering Factors: Identify and avoid factors that may trigger or exacerbate melasma, such as:
    • Certain medications can increase sensitivity to sunlight or hormonal changes.
    • Skincare products contain ingredients known to irritate or sensitize the skin, such as fragrances or harsh chemicals.
    • Hormonal fluctuations are associated with menopause or thyroid disorders, if applicable.
  4. Healthy Lifestyle Habits: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can support overall skin health and minimize the risk of melasma.
    • Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to provide essential nutrients for skin health.
    • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day to maintain skin elasticity and hydration.
    • Manage stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, as stress can exacerbate skin conditions like melasma.
    • Get regular exercise to promote circulation and overall well-being, but be sure to protect your skin from UV exposure while outdoors.
  5. Regular Skin Examinations: Perform regular self-examinations of your skin to monitor for any changes or new developments. If you notice any unusual pigmentation or skin changes, consult with a dermatologist for further evaluation and management.

By incorporating these preventive measures into your daily routine and lifestyle, you can reduce your risk of developing melasma and maintain healthier, more radiant skin in the long term.

When to seek the health care provider

Knowing when to seek healthcare provider guidance is crucial for managing melasma effectively. Here’s when to seek professional advice:

  1. New or worsening symptoms: If you notice new pigmentation changes on your skin or if existing melasma patches worsen despite preventive measures and home treatments, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider.
  2. Persistent Symptoms: If melasma patches persist despite adherence to sun protection measures, skincare routines, and lifestyle modifications, it’s time to seek professional evaluation.
  3. Concerns During Pregnancy: Pregnant women experiencing melasma or concerned about skin changes during pregnancy should consult their healthcare provider for guidance on safe management options.
  4. Medication or Hormonal Changes: If melasma develops or worsens after starting new medications or experiencing hormonal changes, such as starting or discontinuing oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, seek medical advice.
  5. Skin Changes Associated with Other Symptoms: If skin changes, including pigmentation alterations, are accompanied by other symptoms such as itching, pain, or inflammation, prompt evaluation by a healthcare provider is warranted.
  6. Skin Lesions or Irregularities: Any unusual or concerning skin lesions, spots, or irregularities should be promptly evaluated by a dermatologist or healthcare provider to rule out other skin conditions or potential complications.
  7. Emotional Impact: If melasma affects your self-esteem, mental well-being, or quality of life, don’t hesitate to seek support from a healthcare provider or mental health professional for guidance and support.

By seeking timely guidance from a healthcare provider, individuals can receive appropriate evaluation, diagnosis, and personalized management strategies to address melasma effectively and promote skin health and confidence.

Additional common questions (FAQs)

  1. Does pregnancy melasma go away?

    Melasma can go away after pregnancy, but it’s not a guarantee. It may begin to fade a few months to a year postpartum, and reducing your sun exposure can certainly help expedite the process. That said, Wassef says that you may continue to experience some flare-ups.

  2. Does melasma indicate boy or girl?

    Our study concluded that the pregnancy triggered melasma is more often seen in women who had male fetal sex compared to female fetal sex and more often seen in multigravida compared to primigravida.

  3. What does pregnancy melasma look like?

    Melasma brown patches are usually symmetrical. They often appear in a typical pattern, most commonly on your forehead, cheeks, nose, and upper lip. Sometimes they can appear along your jaw and chin and occasionally on your shoulders and arms. In some people, the patches may look red.

  4. Is pigmentation during pregnancy a boy or girl?

    Verdict: This is false. During pregnancy, the placenta secretes hormones that regulate skin pigmentation. You may notice that anything from your nipples to your birthmarks, moles, or beauty marks all look darker with the extra dose of melanin.

  5. Which vitamin is good for melasma?

    Conclusions: Full-face iontophoresis of vitamin C appears to be an effective short-term treatment for melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.


In conclusion, while melasma poses challenges to skin health and self-esteem, proactive measures can effectively manage and mitigate its impact. By prioritizing sun protection, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and seeking professional guidance when necessary, individuals can navigate melasma with confidence and resilience. Understanding the underlying causes, symptoms, and treatment options empowers individuals to take control of their skin health and embrace a radiant, even-toned complexion. With diligence and appropriate interventions, melasma can be managed successfully, allowing individuals to enjoy clearer, healthier skin and improved well-being. Remember, a comprehensive approach to skincare and self-care is key to managing melasma and promoting skin health for the long term.

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