Pregnancy is a very exciting time in life. But pigmentation (specifically hyperpigmentation) problems can plaque your pregnancy and stick around for long after the delight of your baby’s birth, especially in people that have skin of colour.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy activate and excite the pigment cells (called melanocytes). Both oestrogen and progesterone play a role. Both of these hormones are produced early in pregnancy and help support your baby until the placenta takes over.
This results in a few pigmentation issues.
1. Darkening of moles and freckles: Some women notice their moles darken during pregnancy. They may even become slightly larger in size during pregnancy. It is important to get your mole(s) checked if you feel that one is growing out of proportion to the others or is changing in any way.
2. Darkening in other areas: The area around your nipples, neck, armpit, groin and intimate areas may darken during your pregnancy. This is especially common in women with skin of colour. You might also notice a dark line develop from your belly button to your pubic bone (this has a fancy name called, linea nigra). Again, this is more common in those with darker skin types
The good news is that after childbirth, these changes usually settle without treatment.
However, there are some changes that are more persistent.
3. Melasma. This causes brown spots or patches to develop on the face. It may be seen for the first time during pregnancy and can be notoriously difficult to treat.
So how can you avoid melasma during pregnancy?
1. Slather on the Sunscreen
Use a broad-spectrum SPF50+ sunscreen (with tint if you have skin of colour – read our blog to find out why this is really important!)
Apply it every day – yes, that’s right….everyday – even if you are not going out
If you are out and about, re-apply it every 2 hours or more frequency if you are swimming or sweating.
2. Buy some B3 – Niacinamide
Not all lightening creams are safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Hydroquinone for example, is the current gold standard cream for treating conditions like melasma but should not be used during pregnancy.
Vitamin B3 (called niacinamide), can be used in the morning as your first layer of skincare to help prevent hyperpigmentation, melasma and darkening of freckles. We love Propaira’s niacinamide defence serum – a great formulation for all skin types.
3. Get your A-game on: Azelaic acid and Ascorbic acid
Some skin types and subtypes of melasma may respond well to topical Azelaicacid and ascorbicacid (vitamin C). There are quite a few formulations out there but try to look for ones that are perfume free, ‘oil free’ (the last thing you want is pigment AND acne!) products. We have our favourite formulas that we recommend for our pregnant patients.
4. Less is more
Using vitamin C and azelaic acid at the same time can really irritate the skin. Vitamin C should be used in the morning for antioxidant effects but combining vitamin B3 with it becomes irritating and counterproductive. Avoid “organic” or “plant based” products – these can actually make you MORE sensitive to the sun and your melasma could get a whole lot worse!
To read more about melasma, check out our blog on the topic. Try to treat and get on top of pigmentary issues early. Prevention is better than cure.
Let us know if hyperpigmentation is cramping your style.
The information contained in this blog post is intended as a guide only and should not substitute seeking medical attention. Please see your healthcare provider for more information on suitability of products, treatments or procedures.