The blotchy curse of the mask of pregnancy

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
May 22, 2014
Freckled face with roses

What is the mask of pregnancy?

During pregnancy, dark, blotchy, brown, colored patches can appear on the skin of your face. Most commonly on the forehead, upper lip, and cheeks.

The condition is cleverly known as the mask of pregnancy. Your skin blotches can line up perfectly causing it to appear as if you are wearing an opera mask.

girl smiling with freckles

The mask of pregnancy is perfectly natural and commonly affects over 50% of expectant mothers. Don't let your new look cause you emotional stress. Good news, the mask of pregnancy is only temporary and usually disappears after giving birth or, in some cases, after you finish breastfeeding.

I am going to go into some technical language here about how the mask of pregnancy is caused. If you are not one who can stomach science talk then feel free to jump on to the next section about who is most commonly affected. I won't judge you.

The technical term for the mask of pregnancy is melasma (also known as chloasma). Melasma is caused by an increase in estrogen levels brought on by pregnancy. This estrogen spike stimulates excess melanin production.

face with freckles

Melanin is a brown pigment that provides the skin with its color. The darker your skin, the more melanin it contains. Excess production of melanin will cause it to form deposits on the skin, resulting in the visibly blotchy appearance that is named the mask of pregnancy.

Who most commonly affected?

Genetics play a major part in whether or not you will have to put up with skin discoloration on your face.

The mask of pregnancy is especially common in women with darker skin and those of Asian descent. If your mother experienced skin discoloration on her face during pregnancy then there is a good chance that you will as well.

What can I do about the mask of pregnancy once I have it?

So you may not have much say in whether or not you will be affected by the mask of pregnancy. Fortunately, I have a few tips for you while you wait for the discoloration to disappear.

  • Be confident! The mask of pregnancy is a lot more common than mainstream media makes out. What you are going through has been experienced by many mothers before you. Puff your chest out and know that this phase is only temporary.

Believe it or not, confidence will make you look better. Confidence will actually draw attention away from your flaws. There is nothing more beautiful than a confident woman. Strut your stuff!

  • Hide it! A good concealer can be your best friend during this period. Choose a share lighter than your usual product (or pick your skin tone if you do not normally use concealer) and apply it to your patchy spots. Follow this up by applying regular foundation to the rest of your face, avoiding the spots where you used concealer.

If you don't use concealer due to oily or sensitive skin you can turn to pressed powder to lighten the spots. Pressed powders are available to suit all skin tones.

Choose a powder that is non-comedogenic (does not block pores). If you are acne prone you will know that blocked pores can cause you to severely break out. I am trying to help you hide marks on your face, not gain them!

Is there anything I should avoid?

pregnant with freckles

There are some things you need to avoid to prevent prolonging your mask of pregnancy.

  • Aggressive skin care: Skin peels, bleaches, and other chemical treatments are definitely something to avoid during this period. These skin care routines can potentially penetrate the skin and prolong skin discoloration. Laser treatments are another no-no.
  • The sun: During this period you need to avoid harsh direct sunlight. Wear a high SPF sunscreen on your face, 15 or more is recommended.

Don't like the oily feeling of sunscreen? Get your fashion on. A wide brim hat and a pair of glam sunglasses will go along way in preventing the sun from hitting your sensitive face.

Are there any medical dangers?

Facial skin discoloration during pregnancy is simply superficial. There is nothing to worry about and in the vast majority of cases will resolve itself given time. If your mask of pregnancy persists long after you have weaned you can ask your dermatologist about treatment options.

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