You know the expression “Prevention is better than cure”? This is particularly the case when it comes to pregnancy masks. These little brown spots on the face can become a real pain to get rid of. This is why taking the right actions to protect yourself is fundamental. Complete overview of what you need to know.
The Pregnancy Mask: What Is It Exactly?
Pregnancy mask is a chronic pigmentation disorder. Specifically, it is a hyperpigmentation of the skin, giving rise to multiple brown, red, or grayish spots that appear symmetrically on the face. This dermatosis is generally localized in patches on the forehead, cheekbones, and above the upper lip. The neck and arms can also be impacted.
This skin disorder is due to hypomelanosis, that is to say, an abnormal overproduction of melanin (the pigment that gives color to our skin) at the level of melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin). Hypermelanosis is often associated with hypervascularization (dilatation of small blood vessels) of the epidermis or dermis, jointly responsible for unwanted pigmentation. Overproduction of melanin is usually caused by a sudden increase in hormone levels, including progesterone and estrogen.
This hormonal influx will over-stimulate the melanocytes, producing many pigments reappearing on the surface. Pregnancy masks tend to affect more dark -or dark-skinned people. However, fair skin is not exempt. Nevertheless, this condition is entirely asymptomatic, meaning it does not cause pain or itching and does not represent any health risk. Still, it’s sometimes pronounced unsightliness can be challenging to bear.
Who Is Affected By The Pregnancy Mask?
The pathology was long called this because of its transparent appearance during gestation. However, it is clear that the phenomenon emerges in almost 80% of cases outside of any pregnancy, and 10% of cases even occur in men (rarely pregnant, you will concede). Today, medical professionals refer to it instead as melasma or chloasma. People at risk are mainly those whose hormone production is disrupted, namely:
- pregnant women ;
- women on hormonal contraceptives (pills, IUDs);
- women on hormone replacement therapy;
- men on estrogen therapy;
- people undergoing drug treatment with photosensitizing effects.
What Are The Causes Of The Appearance Of Melasma?
Melasma is favored by any factor causing an overproduction of melanin. This is why the first step in prevention is knowing them well to protect yourself effectively.
Sunlight And Blue Light
It is undoubtedly a formidable enemy for skin prone to melasma since sunlight is the first cause of hyperpigmentation. Moreover, it is not enough to avoid exposure to the summer sun. Indirect sunlight in any season, in town or the countryside, and even when the weather is cloudy, can be enough for the resurgence of melasma. Thus, simple sunlight, as well as blue light without direct exposure, should be considered as potential triggers.
Hormones constitute the second risk factor for melasma, especially when the production of estrogen and progesterone is at its peak. This is naturally the case during pregnancy, particularly between the 4th and 6th months, when the hormonal upheaval is at its peak, but also when starting an oral contraceptive pill or using a hormonal IUD.
This phenomenon can also affect people on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) at the time of menopause and people who need hormone therapy following cancer. Concerning men, the appearance of melasma can occur during estrogen treatment as part of the management of prostate disorders, but this remains rare.
We are not all equal when it comes to the pregnancy mask. Genetic factors potentially come into play and make its occurrence almost inevitable. This predisposition is written in the person’s DNA code, who must take extra precautions if necessary. How do you know if you are genetically predisposed? Start by asking the women in your family (mother, aunts, and sisters) if they have experienced an episode.
Rarely put forward, inflammation is one of the causes of melasma’s appearance and aggravation.
What Is It Actually About?
We discuss any aggressive friction we will inflict on our skin daily: abrasive scrubbing, heavy make-up removal with repeated and sustained passages, acidic and irritating lotions, creams, or cosmetics. Innocuous gestures that we think without risk but which cause a lot of damage.
Finally, advancing age is also a possible cause for the emergence of the pregnancy mask. Due to skin aging and slow cell regeneration, melanin builds up in melanocytes, promoting uneven hyperpigmentation.
What Prevention Adopted To Avoid The Pregnancy Mask?
Once in place, melasma can be very difficult to treat. Therefore, the best treatment is prevention.
Protect Your Skin From The Sun
This is THE flagship measure and the most important to apply, especially for at-risk people.
How To Protect Yourself From Sunlight?
- Apply a tinted sunscreen every morning with an SPF index of at least 50.
- Apply a sun protection lip balm.
- Avoid exposure as much as possible during the hottest hours.
- Wear covering clothing, a wide-overflowed cap, and shades.
- Be patient and develop iron discipline.
Gentle Daily Care
Inflamed skin will react by hyperpigmentation of the area concerned. This phenomenon is easily observed when you scratch yourself, for example. The skin around the wound is dark red because it secretes a high concentration of melanin. To avoid melasma, care must be taken to minimize inflammation of the epidermis with abrasive treatments that will further irritate the skin.
Therefore, it is strongly recommended not to carry out scrubs, aggressive dermabrasions, or hair removal with hot wax. Favor gentle treatments using micellar lotion, taking care to have a light hand. Also, opt for superfatted bars that nourish the skin without drying or irritating it. Finally, don’t skimp on facial hydration. Day and night moisturizing creams, enriched with essential fatty acids and hyaluronic acid, bring the proper nutrients to strained cells.
How To Treat A Pregnancy Mask?
Treating melasma is no small feat. Once in place, it will require many daily efforts to mitigate it. Therefore, the treatment’s objective will be to reduce its severity without completely eradicating it. Even if good results are obtained, there is no guarantee that melasma will not return when the good weather returns since it is a chronic disorder.
Understanding The Origin Of Melasma
The first step is to determine the factors influencing the occurrence of the pregnancy mask because if exposure is not controlled, no treatment will be effective. Concerning pregnancy, melasma disappears spontaneously in more than 50% of cases after childbirth when hormonal production relapses. The spots may persist for breastfeeding women until the end of the lactation period. If melasma is caused by taking a contraceptive pill, you must consider an alternative before treating it. The same goes for hormone replacement treatments. In all cases, it is up to the doctor to assess the situation on a case-by-case basis.
Drastic Sun Protection
The most crucial measure is undoubtedly scrupulous protection against sunlight, and this, daily and whatever the external climatic conditions. A rigorous sunscreen application with a minimum index of 50 must be undertaken relentlessly. Otherwise, melanocytes will quickly reactivate already in the starting blocks. To protect the skin from blue light, which worsens the mask, it is wise to choose a tinted sunscreen containing iron oxides. On each outing, wear a wide-brimmed hat and avoid exposure at midday when the sun is at its peak.
Magistral Preparation With Depigmenting Active Ingredients
Currently, the reference treatment for melasma consists of the administration of a molecule called hydroquinone. It is a powerful depigmenting agent that inhibits melanin production in cells and thus helps regulate excessive pigment production. It is often combined with tretinoin (vitamin A) for a complementary depigmenting action and cortisone for its anti-inflammatory role. The dosage of these active ingredients is patient/dependent, and only a dermatologist can expertly assess each person’s needs based on the severity of their melasma.
At the end of a consultation, the doctor can order a tailor-made compound preparation from the pharmacist. In general, the treatment lasts three months. Being considered for aesthetic purposes, it is not covered by Social Security. In addition to these measures, applying a depigmenting cosmetic treatment at bedtime is possible. These are dermo-cosmetic creams specifically developed for melasma, easily found in pharmacies.
As a last resort, the dermatologist may suggest a peeling treatment (i.e., dermabrasion of the skin). It must be soft so as not to inflame the skin. It requires drastic measures for the rest of the care, namely, the strict use of sunscreen and depigmenting creams that must be applied before and after the peeling.
The Vascular Laser
When the melasma has an identified vascular component, that is to say, when the spots are more red than brown, an excellent therapeutic alternative consists of treating with a vascular laser. These sessions will help reduce the inflammation and excitability of melasma. This treatment also has the advantage of reducing the risks of the reappearance of the disorders the following year when good weather arrives.
When To Treat A Pregnancy Mask?
It is illusory to try to treat melasma in spring or summer. The chances of success are almost zero, and the disappointment will likely be significant. On the contrary, the treatment must begin at the end of autumn and throughout the winter when the period of sunshine is the weakest. From the following March, it will be essential to stay the course and continue the strict application of protective measures to minimize any risk of recurrence.