How Can I Avoid Skin Darkening During Pregnancy?

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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.

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