Pregnancy is a unique time for every woman. Not only do you have a living human being inside of you, but expectant moms find that their bodies change in a variety of ways. And as your pregnancy progresses, you might find some parts of the skin will begin to darken. Two of these conditions are called the linea nigra and the mask of pregnancy. Here, we discuss what they are and how to reduce mask of pregnancy and linea nigra after pregnancy.
What is it?
As your belly starts growing, you’ll notice that a thin, white line will appear vertically through the centre of your abdomen, at the space separating belly button and your pubic area. That line’s name is the linea alba (latin for “white line”).
The linea nigra is a dark brown line that runs through the belly button towards the pubic region, but there are ways to reduce linea nigra and mask of pregnancy. | Image Source: Stock Photo
The linea alba has always been there – just that pregnancy has made it darker, so it’s much more visible. As the pregnancy advances, so does melanin production, which tans the line so its clearly visible.
Now, the dark-brown line that you see is called the linea nigra (latin for “black line”). Eventually, the linea nigra will grow to become roughly 0.6 to 1.2 centimetres wide.
What causes it?
Pregnancy changes your body in a lot of ways – and the skin is no exception. Your skin will begin to extend so that it can cope with your enlarging tummy and breasts.
You may also notice it become a different color. Some parts of your skin will begin to darken, such as your nipples. Scars, freckles and birthmarks might also become more visible then before.
The darkening skin is a result of pregnancy. During pregnancy, your body makes much more estrogen and progesterone – two hormones that aids your baby’s growth.
These hormones also have another effect. When they contact cells named melanocytes, which are located in the skin, these melanocytes make more melanin.
You might recall melanin as the chemical responsible for making your skin darker, such as when you are suntanning. It is the rise in melanin produced by the skin that causes the linea nigra to be seen. The linea nigra is more obvious in women of colour, including Asians.
In addition to the linea nigra, you might also something else popularly called the “mask of pregnancy” due to this extra melanin.
What is the “Mask of Pregnancy”?
If you see any dark patches on your face during pregnancy, it’s probably the “mask of pregnancy”. But rest assured there are ways to reduce linea nigra and mask of pregnancy. | Image Source: Stock Photo
Along with the linea nigra, a large proportion of pregnant women (roughly 50%) will also realise that they tend to have darker regions of skin. Women who presently have dark-colored hair or skin will be able to easily notice these changes.
These additional areas of darker skin are what is known as the “mask of pregnancy”. It’s due to an excess of melanin produced during pregnant, and is medically known as a melasma (previously called chloasma).
The “mask” may refer to the fact that many of these darker regions of skin usually appear at a pregnant woman’s face – like the forehead or the cheeks.
Don’t worry moms, it’ll definitely fade
Fret not, moms. Even though they’re a side effect of becoming pregnant, both the linea nigra and melasma aren’t serious conditions. They won’t hurt your little one or you.
In fact, the linea nigra after pregnancy doesn’t need any extra treatment. Once you’ve given birth to your baby, you should see the linea nigra begin to become lighter and vanish. Melasma also disappears after pregnancy.
However, the linea nigra may not fully vanish in certain women, and will reappear at your subsequent pregnancy.
Tips to reduce mask of pregnancy and linea nigra after pregnancy
Still, it’s possible that these dark patches of skin can remain even after you give birth. If that concerns you, there are a variety of options available to reduce linea nigra and mask of pregnancy.
- Consult a dermatologist and discuss your options.
- Use makeup to hide the linea nigra and wait until it disappears. Be sure to choose products that are mild, gentle and skin-friendly.
- Don’t forget to dab some sunscreen onto your belly or other dark skin regions if they are unprotected against the sun. The sun can further darken the line.
- Ensure that you have enough folic acid. Studies have shown that the linea nigra is connected to inadequate intake of folic acid. Swallowing those prenatal vitamins and consuming more food packed with folic acid (like oranges and leafy green vegetables) could reduce how tanned the line is. In addition, folic acid is also necessary for your baby to grow normally and avoid severe birth defects.
- Using olive oil, 100% Vitamin E oil, and Vitamin E-rich cream, butter or lotion helps lighten it. Keep it moist all the time.
- Cocoa butter can lighten the line, too. It has two benefits, including being a wonder moisturiser which helps prevent and lighten linea nigra and diminish stretch marks.
- You can also use a natural, homemade scrub by mixing lemon, honey and sugar and applying it to the dark line for about 15 minutes. Rinse. Make it a part of your daily skin regimen and you will see positive results in a few months.
If you’re going out into the sun, putting sunscreen on that baby bump can reduce linea nigra and mask of pregnancy. | Image Source: Stock Photo
Mask of pregnancy / Melasma
- Consult a dermatologist and ask if prescription creams like hydroquinone is suitable for you.
- Try to restrict yourself from being under the sun. If you have to, apply some sunscreen with at least 30 SPF as sunlight will only darken these “masks” further. Choose sunblock creams which are made with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or Parsol 1789 (avobenzone) as these ingredients will help to better protect your skin.
- Combination creams like Tretinoin, cortisone and hydroquinone can help in lightening the appearance of these dark skin areas, but it may also cause your skin to be irritated. Do take note not to self medicate with this cream. They should always be prescribed by a doctor.
- Chemical peeling. Chemical peeling in combination with lightening agents may be useful to treat the mask of pregnancy for some people. Again, this should only be an option if recommended and approved by a dermatologist.
WebMD, Healthline (linea nigra, infographic), American Pregnancy.org (linea nigra, mask of pregnancy), American Pregnancy.org (linea nigra, skin changes), medicine.net, researchgate, NCBI
Originally published by The Asian Parent Singapore
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