As a pregnant mum, it can seem as if your entire body has been taken over. Breasts grow, tummy swells, emotions have a mind of their own – even your senses of taste and smell feel peculiar. Well at least we get glowing skin, right? Erm... Not always.
Yes, the flourish of hormones can leave your skin looking like you’ve just stepped out of a facial. But those very same hormones can also cause darkening of certain areas, that previously were less dark or, in some cases, not dark at all. We are all pretty familiar with the line down the tummy, the linea nigra, but it doesn’t end there. The areola around the nipples visibly darken, which isn’t much of a hardship, but dark patches on the face and other areas can leave mums feeling self-conscious. It might be a totally normal part of pregnancy, but it isn’t always a welcome one.
Rebecca Treston is a skin specialist and mother based here in Dubai. At her skin clinic in Jumeirah, she helps women at all stages of life to achieve the skin they want. She says, “During pregnancy, up to 90 percent of women experience some degree of darkening, including the appearance of linea nigra, the darkening of the areola and melisma, which is often dubbed ‘the mask of pregnancy’ because splotches typically show up on the face in the shape of a mask around the upper lip, nose, cheekbones, and forehead. What’s more, skin that’s already more pigmented – such as your nipples, freckles, scars, and the skin of your genitals – may become even darker during pregnancy.”
Why does this happen? “The exact cause is not known,” says Rebecca. “But it is thought to occur due to increased levels of hormones produced in pregnancy. All changes in skin pigmentation usually disappear on their own after delivery, but you can do a few things to safely minimise darkened areas including using sun protection and avoiding waxing treatment, which can worsen pigmentation.
“In general, the darkened spots probably will fade within a year after delivery, and your skin should return to its normal shade, although sometimes the changes never completely disappear.”
As you would expect, spending time out in the sun is likely to intensify any pigmentation darkening. If you are out catching rays, wear a high SPF (between 30 and 50) all over your face and any other areas affected every day. If you are particularly worried, you may want to even slather on the sun protection when you are indoors to protect yourself from sunlight coming through windows. Cover up as much as possible with light clothes, a wide-brimmed hat, or a parasol.
Additionally, foods high in folic acid can help prevent pigmentation as studies show that it can be related to a folate deficiency. Natural sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, oranges, wholewheat bread and wholegrain cereal.
For most mums, any pigmentation changes will simply melt away naturally once you have given birth, or, for some mums, after you have finished breast feeding. However, for some, the changes might be more permanent. If you find you have hyperpigmentation that you would prefer not to have, there are a variety of solutions. Rebecca says, “If your skin is still patchy
a few months after giving birth and it’s bothering you, there are several terrific treatment options. When it comes to peeling treatments, few can rival Cosmelan and Dermalan at removing hyperpigmentation. The two treatments work in the same way – Cosmalan is the milder treatment of the two and is used for less severe pigmentation, or for a general rejuvenating effect.
“As well as peels, there are several laser treatments that can prove effective, such as the PICO Genesis aser procedure, which combines the benefits of three highly-effective wavelengths in ultra-short pulses. Pigment particles are small and dense, which makes them difficult to remove. They are also very susceptible to heat – a trait which made previous types of lasers risky. However, the PICO Genesis laser uses non- thermal picosecond pulses that are highly focused so that surrounding tissue isn’t damaged. These pulses break up the pigment and leave your skin clearer and your complexion more uniform. Picosecond pulses can be used on both the face and the body with excellent results on every skin type.”
Rebecca warns that it may take more than one treatment to lighten the darkened area and reminds mums that, whatever treatment you decide upon, it’s essential that you continue to protect your skin from the sun by using sunscreen every day, wearing protective clothing, and staying out of the sun during peak hours.
Read more: Post-baby Beauty Fixes: Hyperpigmentation