Skin care in pregnancy: how to avoid a pregnancy mask

You've had the good news and are jumping for joy. But, you've also noticed dark patches appearing on your face... You're not alone - 70% of pregnant women find themselves developing a pregnancy mask. So how can you prevent it?

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What is a pregnancy mask?

Technically known as chloasma, pregnancy masks tend to appear between the 4th and 6th month. These brown splotches vary in tone and often crop up on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip. They're well-defined, uniform in shape and usually symmetrical. They vary from woman to woman - dark-haired women tend to suffer more than blondes. The likelihood of us developing a pregnancy mask depends on our phototype.
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What causes a pregnancy mask?

When we're pregnant our body produces higher quantities of oestrogens, which in turn increase melanin production. This pigment-producing chemical reacts when exposed to sunlight, leading to the appearance of dark patches. Exposing your skin to the sun will significantly increase the risk of a pregnancy mask developing. And the amount of time you spend in the sun will affect melanin production and may well provoke chloasma. Add to that any genetic factors or habits that could make the problem worse - harsh face scrubs are known to be a culprit. 
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How to prevent a pregnancy mask from forming

The best way to avoid the appearance of chloasma is to limit the time you expose your face to the sun during your pregnancy. Whether in town or on a beach, cover up! Even just a hint of sunshine can set it off.  No one expects you to spend your pregnancy in a darkened room, but do follow some basic rules: Wear a hat if you're going outside, religiously apply a high-factor sunscreen (50's ideal), re-apply your sunscreen every 2 hours and treat yourself to an anti-pigment cream.
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Pregnancy masks after giving birth

There's no point in searching high and low for a solution during your pregnancy. Generally, pregnancy masks disappear within 6 months after giving birth. However, if the blighter doesn't fade you can always book an appointment with a dermatologist. They'll be able to recommend effective creams, peels and serums suited to your skin type.