Why Does Melasma Risk Increase During Pregnancy? Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Why Does Melasma Risk Increase During Pregnancy? Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

12 May 2022 | 5 min Read

Reema Shah

Author | 208 Articles

The increase in hormones during pregnancy can trigger melasma risk during this period. However, melasma during pregnancy shouldn’t be a reason for you to worry as it does not affect your baby nor indicates any complications.

Read further to know about this skin condition and why it happens during pregnancy.

What Is Pregnancy Melasma?

In general, melasma is a condition where the skin produces extra pigment which appears as dark spots or patches. It is a common painless skin condition and is also called the mask of pregnancy or chloasma. 

Why Does Melasma Risk Increase During Pregnancy? 

About 70% of women get melasma during pregnancy. Let’s look at some of the common reasons why it occurs-

Change in Hormones 

Other than the overproduction of melanin, the increase in the hormones which mainly include estrogen and progesterone can trigger melasma during pregnancy. 

Sun Exposure

Sun exposure during pregnancy can worsen melasma in case you are susceptible to this skin condition. It is more sensitive to sun exposure as the UV rays act as a factor to increase melanin production. Additionally, darker skin tones are more likely to have it. 


About 50% of pregnant women get melasma because one of their family members had it. 


Certain medications such as antibiotics, blood pressure medications or retinoids can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight triggering melasma. 

Other Factors 

Blue light emitted by devices, thyroid and the use of cosmetics can also cause this condition.

Around Which Trimester Does Melasma Happen? 

Melasma is more common during the second and third trimesters. Furthermore, if you had melasma before pregnancy, the patches may increase on the skin. 

What Does Pregnancy Melasma Look Like?

The skin colour tends to darken with patches appearing on areas of the face like the upper lips, upper forehead and cheeks. The skin discolouration looks like asymmetrical spots and can even be mistaken for age spots or freckles. 

Melasma tends to darken in the summer and appear lighter in the winter.

Additionally, there are three main types of melasma, one of which can happen when you are pregnant- 

1. Epidermal Melasma

This remains on the skin’s surface with well-defined borders. The colour is dark brown and can be treated easily. Additionally, it glows under blacklight. 

2. Dermal Melasma

This melasma appears light brown or bluish in colour with faded borders. Additionally, it is not visible under blacklight and the treatment is also challenging.

3. Mixed Melasma

As the name suggests, it appears both bluish and brown and has a mixed appearance under black light. Also, mixed melasma is somewhat responsive to treatment. 

Melasma is a painless skin condition that usually goes away after pregnancy / Credit – Freepik 

Symptoms of melasma and where it most commonly occurs

Normally melasma does not cause any physical symptoms other than the development of patches of discoloured skin.

Melasma patches commonly appear on the bridge of the nose, forehead, cheeks, and upper lips. In some cases, it may appear on the arm and neck as well. It can occur in the skin areas that are exposed to sunlight and hence for most of them, it worsens during the summer months. 

How common is melasma?

Melasma occurs commonly in pregnant women. It usually happens between the ages of 20 and 40 years which is generally during the woman’s reproductive years. So about 1.5%-33% of women get it during the reproductive period. 

Who is at risk of melasma?

Fair people are less likely to get melasma compared to dark brown-skinned people or those who are prone to getting easily tanned. Furthermore, it happens to about 90% of women and 10% men. Hence, women are more prone to this condition. The majority of women get melasma during pregnancy and those who take oral contraceptives are also at risk. 

Treatment Of Pregnancy Melasma

Firstly, you need to avoid treating melasma on your own and meet a dermatologist as only they can confirm the condition. The dermatologist will have a look at your discolouration and the way the patches are formed. They also have a special blacklight lamp to confirm. 

Here are some possible treatments and recommendations-

  • You will be given a topical treatment cream like hydroquinone with ingredients that are safe to use during pregnancy. 
  • Your dermatologist might also recommend getting chemical peels or microdermabrasion which remove the dead cells
  • Certain oral medications might also be prescribed
  • Include fish, milk, yoghurt, orange juice, fully cooked eggs and mushrooms in your diet
  • Limit exposure to the sun between 10 am and 2 pm which is the peak hours 
  • Apply sunscreen once every two hours to lower your risk of developing it during pregnancy or otherwise. 
Avoid sun exposure in peak hours to reduce the risk of melasma / Credit – Smarter Travel

When To See A Doctor 

While melasma is a painless condition, you need to seek medical advice if it is accompanied by fever, redness, hardening of the skin or itching. 

While you can take precautions like applying sunscreen and getting treatments to manage melasma, genetics cannot be changed. In some cases, it might even come back hence proper sun protection is the solution. 

Don’t let the condition affect your self-esteem, remember it can be treated, and it usually fades away post-pregnancy. This condition is common and happens to many pregnant women.

DISCLAIMER: We have taken steps to check the accuracy of information & practices shared above; however, it is not a replacement for a doctor’s opinion. Please check with either your doctor, or an expert, before trying any suggestion, practice, or medication mentioned here.

Cover image credit – 1MG

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