Melasma is a benign vascular skin disorder triggered by hormonal fluctuations and UV sun exposure. Often referred to as a ‘pregnancy mask’, melasma manifests as patches of darker skin on the cheeks, upper lip, and forehead. In this post, Dr. Zenovia touches on top treatments and preventative measures for melasma and angiogenesis during pregnancy.
Melasma During Pregnancy
Melasma, both during and after pregnancy is related to a woman’s estrogen levels. Estrogen coupled with blood vessel growth, sun exposure, genetics, and hormones deposit pigment in the skin.
The best way to treat melasma is with a bleaching regimen such as hydroquinone. “Hydroquinone at 2-4% works miracles for women with a pregnancy mask,” Dr. Zenovia shares. “Hydroquinone does not get absorbed systemically”.
Aside from treatment, taking preventative measures is imperative for melasma! When the skin is exposed to the sun, our melanocytes (the cells which produce the brown pigment called melanin) proliferate leading to the darkening of the skin. In patients who are prone to melasma or have preexisting melasma, sun exposure stimulates melanocyte activity and can darken preexisting spots and create new ones. Dr. Zenovia, therefore, recommends wearing hats and covering your face from direct sun exposure when outdoors. A physical sunscreen should be applied daily! A physical blocker has broad-spectrum coverage against harmful UV rays which trigger melanocyte overproduction.
Dr. Zenovia’s Vitamin C Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30 provides transparent nano-zinc oxide 360-degree mineral protection and contains clinical grade Vitamin C-Ester to visibly help minimize the appearance of dark spots, discoloration, fine lines, and wrinkles. Dr. Zenovia prefers a physical sunscreen for melasma because it will block more visible light and UV radiation from penetrating the skin compared to chemical sunscreens.
Angiogenesis During Pregnancy
In addition to Melasma, women experience a lot of angiogenesis or blood vessel growth during pregnancy. “The female body is turning on all sorts of growth factors and growth hormones that are working to get blood to the new baby”, Dr. Zenovia shares. “In doing so, the body grows blood vessels throughout. Therefore, pregnant women get spider angioma, or spider legs, as well blood vessels on the chest and cheeks. The new blood vessels stimulate melanocytes to produce more pigment.”
Note from Dr. Zenovia: After pregnancy, as your hormonal fluctuations level out your melasma can improve with time. A board-certified dermatologist can also perform treatments in-office to help reduce melasma. A personalized treatment plan is very important because melasma can worsen with more heat or tissue trauma.