Are you alarmed by the appearance of dark patches on your face, forehead, nose and maybe even upper lip? Fret not! The likely culprit is ‘Melasma’, a skin condition that affects pregnant women. Here's everything you need to know about it.
Melasma (brown skin), also known as Chloasma (green skin), is a skin condition that causes increased, usually blotchy and irregular pigmentation to occur.
During pregnancy, the steep escalation of estrogen (primary female sex hormone) causes an increase in pigmentation (hyperpigmentation) on the face – thus why the condition is commonly referred to as the mask of pregnancy.
There are three types of Melasma:
- Epidermal. The most superficial and thus the easiest to treat. Occurs on the outermost layers of cells on the skin. It is usually dark brown in color and has a well-defined border. This form of Melasma is more visible under black light.
- Dermal. Occurs in the deeper mid-layer of the skin. It has an ill-defined border and is light brown or bluish in color. Dermal Melasma responds poorly to treatment and is more persistent.
- Mixed. This is the most common type of Melasma and as the name suggests, has properties of both Epidermal and Dermal Melasma. It is characterised by a combination of bluish, light and dark brown patches. With treatment, this variant of the condition improves partially.
Senior Dermatologist and previous Deputy Medical Director at the National Skin Center, Dr. Tham, Tham Siew Nee Skin Clinic (Gleneagles Hospital), explains how the rise in estregon during pregnancy triggers excess melanin (responsible for skin and hair color) production.
This explains the darkening of the skin. Apart from the face, Melasma also affects other areas of the skin such as the nipples, areola and vulva. Your existing moles and freckles may darken and there is likely to be a dark line down the center of your abdomen (linea nigra).
The Good News
Melasma that occurs in pregnancy is a very common condition and there is nothing about it that is serious enough to cause you to be a bundle of nerves or make your blood run cold.
The hyperpigmentation usually disappears after delivery or at times, when you stop breastfeeding. It is an aesthetic problem more than anything else.
The Bad News
As Melasma is not exclusive to pregnancy, there are chances that it may reappear later in life. It is generally caused by hormonal changes and as such, throughout your reproductive age, you remain susceptible to the condition.
Continue reading to learn about the signs, symptoms, causes and risk factors of Melasma.