Q: I’m pregnant and worried about getting brown patches on my face as some friends have done. What are they and can I prevent them?
A: Hyperpigmentation or chloasma (also called melasma) affects between 50 and 70 per cent of pregnant women. Genes do play a role, and women of Asian or Latin descent are more likely to develop it.
The exact cause is unknown, but it is thought that elevated oestrogen and progesterone levels stimulate the cells that release melanin, and cause your skin to darken upon exposure to sunlight, according to Dr Tieraona Low Dog, a trained midwife and natural medicine physician at the Center for Integrative Medicine in Arizona.
They should disappear on their own. As hormone levels begin to return to normal, the patches will gradually fade in most women. Sun protection is vital, however, as sunlight stimulates melanocytes, so those dark spots will stay dark if you don’t use sunblock. Some women may find the patches refuse to fade and will need to use skin-brightening creams, says Dr Low Dog.
Sun protection in pregnancy is the ‘absolute best way’ to prevent chloasma, says Dr Low Dog. She adds that every woman should use it, pregnant or not. Also use mild cleansers and moisturisers (without known irritants such as any of the sulphate foaming agents) to avoid irritation, which can cause or aggravate chloasma.
If patches develop, use concealer until your baby is born. If they don’t clear, use a gentle and effective product to lighten the patches, such as Dr Weil for Origins Mega-Bright, £46, available at origins.co.uk.
SMARTER SNACKS? SORTED!
It was a combination of chronic health problems in her early 20s (principally hormonal imbalances and a candida infection) with disquiet about the way animals are farmed for food that prompted Jenna Barclay, 25, to ‘clean up’ her diet. ‘I had tried conventional medicine for two years and nothing worked. So I gradually cut out dairy, sugar and gluten, as well as animal protein, and all my problems vanished.’
On top of her full-time job with Tamara Mellon, co-founder of Jimmy Choo, Jenna completed an intensive course in nutrition. And over the past three years, she has abandoned her career in fashion to follow her passion for promoting healthy eating: ‘I like fresh, colourful, delicious food so I never feel deprived. The jackpot is to discover foods that you love and make you thrive.’ Two years ago, Jenna launched upcakes.co.uk, a website selling ‘sweet treats’, free from wheat, sugar, dairy and eggs. Almond and apricot SportsBites (see right) are chock-full of protein and omega-3 fats and were designed to help fuel last year’s wounded ex-servicemen’s skiing expedition to the North Pole supported by Prince Harry; they’re great as snacks and for children’s lunch boxes. I’m addicted to brownie-like ChocBites, made with raw chocolate, whole grain spelt and soya.
Now Jenna has launched a sister website, foodstolove.co.uk, which offers a concise range of allergen-free staples, from almond milk and gluten-free flour to hempseed oil and a natural sweetener. ‘I sample everything with my family and friends so I know Foods to Love offers the very best in each category,’ she says. As well as Upcakes treats, there are others such as crunchy Kale Chips (seasoned and dried curly kale leaves), additive-free popcorn, plus coconut water, her latest ‘buzz product’ which she calls ‘nature’s Lucozade, because it contains the same electrolytes as your blood, so it’s easily assimilated and a great alkaliser, replacing minerals including potassium, magnesium and sodium that are depleted by modern life.’ Jenna shares her recipes on the site, and also blogs regularly about nutrition.
makes 16 pieces
180g raw almonds
260g dried apricots
2 tbsp shelled hemp seeds
1½ tbsp coconut oil
6-10 drops vanilla essence
Put the almonds and apricots through a processor until the mixture starts to form a paste. Add the remaining ingredients. Divide into 16 and roll into balls. Freeze for at least 15 minutes, then refrigerate; they will last up to six weeks.
APP OF THE WEEK
Well Being Self-Reflexology
This app by practitioner Anna Walsh (annaw.co.uk) shows you how you can treat yourself with reflexology, a complementary therapy which is now used in some hospitals. Reflexology posits that areas of the feet and hands correspond with parts of the body and brain, and that applying pressure to these areas improves functioning. This app provides six step-by-step sessions – including Stress Relief, Energised Day and Weight Loss – with mini-maps of the reflexology points and video demos. Anna’s tip for relieving tension by pressing and holding the pad of each fingertip in turn was very effective. £1.99, from the Apple App Store.