Postpartum is a time of many changes in the body, internally and externally due to the many hormonal changes and physiological changes.
Skin darkening, in patches anywhere on the body, known as Chloasma (or melasma) are commonly found in many women post pregnancy.
They can occur around the nose, upper lips, cheekbones and the forehead, causing it to sometimes look like a mask, and hence popularly called “the mask of pregnancy”.
It can also be associated with a dark line running down the belly (linea nigra).The condition is found to be more prevalent in darker women as compared to white women.
The condition is primarily due to over production of melanin (the pigment which gives skin its color) arising out of the hormonal fluctuations and the presence of estrogen and progesterone. It usually fades away naturally within a few months as the fluctuations subside.
It may be aggravated by use of contraceptives containing estrogen and progesterone in some women, though contraceptive use may not start at least until 4-6 weeks after delivery.
The fastest way to recover the original skin tone may be to stay out of the sun, since sun exposure increases the production of melanin. The chloasma may remain until the sun exposure is stopped.
The ultra violet rays of the sun can reach the skin even when you are travelling in a car or even at home with open surroundings.
In case you stepping out in the sun cannot be avoided, make sure you use a sunscreen with a high value of SPF (15-30), and avoid or limit stepping out between 12 noon and 3pm.
Avoid using too many creams, scrubs, bleaches or other cosmetics in an effort to make the patches go away. They are due to hormonal imbalances, and hence any external measures will hardly affect them.
Though the skin becomes highly sensitive during pregnancy, thereby making it difficult to avoid chloasma completely, it may help to limit sun exposure throughout pregnancy. It has also been found that foliate deficiency leads to hyperpigmentation, and hence adequate intake of folate rich food or folic acid supplements may be helpful.
Apart from cosmetic reasons of it affecting the woman’s confidence or quality of living, there seems to be no adverse effect of this condition.
However, in case they last for more than a couple of months, you may consult a dermatologist to check for any other causes or for a skin treatment.
Treatment may range from medicated ointments to other advanced techniques like medicated bleaching creams, chemical peels, laser treatments etc.
Also, in spite of any treatment, it is important to protect your skin while going out in the sun.