How to Safely Handle Skin Discoloration During Pregnancy

Along with constipation and acid reflux, skin discoloration is another common none-too-pleasant symptom many women experience while pregnant. “Hormonal changes during pregnancy stimulate the amount of color your melanocyte cells produce,” says celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar. “This also applies to those taking hormonal birth control or who are experiencing other fluctuations in hormones. Most of my clients experience facial melasma during pregnancy, but areas like the back of the neck and certain skin folds also become darker. Sun exposure to skin experiencing hormonal fluctuations will trigger and exacerbate facial discoloration.”

Does the discoloration go away after the baby is born?

The good news is that yes, discoloration usually does go away after birth. The bad news is that it can take six month or, in some cases, longer. ” Discoloration is unique to each individual as is hormonal fluctuations and balance and, while breastfeeding stimulates the release of certain hormones, not all mothers experience discoloration from breastfeeding.”

What are the most effective ways to treat discoloration when pregnant? 

“During pregnancy I advise my clients to avoid unnecessary sun exposure, as well as continuing to use, and reapply, mineral-based sunscreens,” says Aguilar. “Expecting moms can even start to use and test out which baby sunscreen they will use on their baby. I use Babo Botanical Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen. It’s chemical-free, fragrance-free, vegan, gluten and dairy-free. It also glides and applies nicely. I also recommend using skin brightening ingredients that are safe such as vitamin C, B3, bearberry, glutathione and kojic acid.”

Paula’s Choice Discoloration Repair Serum and EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen are two other great options to treat, prevent and cover-up melasma.

As a rule of thumb, when it comes to treating melasma one must be very patient and not be aggressive. “It’s best to start with products and treatments that are gentle and slowly progress to more aggressive options,” says Aguilar. “Serums that contain either vitamin b3, vitamin c, Kojic acid, mandelic acid, phytic acid and lactic acid are the best to start treating melasma. They are also pregnancy and breastfeeding safe. Sometimes melasma responds well to these serums and starts to lighten up and disappear.”

If melasma doesn’t respond well, the next level would be using stronger serums and prescription blends, but these are typically not advised during pregnancy. Oral retinoids, for example, while effective can cause severe harm to a developing baby. “I also don’t advise anyone who is still pregnant or nursing to move on to treatments that involve peeling or lasers of any kind. Breastfeeding will continue to release hormones. These hormones can cause inflammation in the skin and can worsen melasma being treated or can cause burns to the already sensitive skin. It’s best to be patient and wait for hormones to return to normal levels before treating melasma more aggressively.”

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