Skin changes as a result of hormone fluctuations and pregnancy are quite common.
It’s your body talking to you about what may be going on inside.
I remember being pregnant with my first son and working for Chanel as a manager on the Beaute’ Collection. One of my co-workers, a seasoned mom, warned me that my skin was going to start seeing changes. When I confided my pregnancy news in her, her response was, “Pregnancy changes everything, including your skin!” I froze in my tracks. I was so proud of my flawless complexion that I inherited from both my parents. “What do you mean?” She told me not to worry because I would be lucky enough to avoid that mishap. I started my mission to keep my skin healthy and fresh for the remainder of that pregnancy and my two later pregnancies.
Fast forward twelve years and now that I am done having babies, I am starting to feel the first signs of “the changes,” otherwise known as, perimenopause. As I’ve aged, I have upped my game on my skincare regimen. I have subscribed to monthly boxes, invested in absurd amounts of creams (in the dollars sense), and layering on the base colors like never before in my life. I wear high SPF, even on cloudy days. I wear BIG sunglasses ALL the time. “What’s up?”
During pregnancy, times of stress, during perimenopause and even puberty our hormones start ramping up and acting like an out of control teenager. So does your skin. Your body, specifically your liver and your gut go into overdrive, have a big debate about what to do with all the excess hormones flooding the blood stream so they call on your largest organ with the largest excretory mechanisms–your skin.
Pregnancy mask. Melasma. Cholasma. This is usually a temporary skin condition brought on by the hormones of pregnancy, so it’s really important to balance your hormones before pregnancy. Melasma is a skin condition characterized by patches of brown, tan, and blue-gray skin discoloration, and it’s most often seen in women in the middle of their reproductive years. Melasma is a form of facial pigmentation, and it’s typically found in three different areas of the face: the jawline, the central part of the face, and the cheekbones. Many women will notice melasma on the bridge of their nose, chin, and forehead, but it may appear on other areas of the body, including the neck, chest, or arms—any patch of skin that sees the sun a lot.
Our friend, Mama Natural gives the breakdown: “Melanocyte-stimulating hormones (MSH) are a group of hormones created by the pituitary, hypothalamus, and skin in response to UV light (i.e. sunlight). It causes the skin to produce a protective pigment, called melanin, which protects skin cells from DNA damage like cancer. Increases in MSH cause increases in pigmentation. But sun exposure is just a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Hormonal imbalance is a major factor in pregnancy mask. If your hormones were already out of balance before pregnancy (whether or not you had noticeable symptoms), you are more likely to have symptoms from hormonal imbalance during pregnancy.”
You’re not alone. Fifty to seventy percent of ALL women get some form of darkening skin with pregnancy and/or aging.
At my last facial, my esthetician told me that if I wore sunblock and big sunglasses, I would keep my skin looking younger. She added that if I “saw her more often that ‘sun damage’ would disappear.” The hormones geek in me couldn’t help myself in educating her. I am looking for a new esthetician. One that understands the science of skin and hormones. Does she exist?
Although melasma is not caused by sun exposure, sunlight is capable of aggravating the condition along with excess heat or humidity. The discolouration also affects deeper layers of the skin than sun spots, so conventional laser treatments will either be ineffective or potentially make the problem worse.
What can you do to prevent ‘the mask of pregnancy” or melasma?
- Ditch the Pill. Yup, I said it. Hormonal birth control throws your natural hormone balance out of whack and your skin doesn’t like it!
- Address stress.
- Get more sleep.
- Eat clean foods. Choose organic produce. Add foods high in healthy fats and omegas. Shop for wild caught fish. Invest in grass-fed pasture-raised lean animal proteins and eggs. Limit natural sugars. Avoid processed foods and refined sugar.
You can limit sun exposure so that you minimize the appearance of the dark patches. Pregnancy mask is usually temporary. On the flip side, when the mask of chloasma is a result of perimenopause, the damage to your skin can be permanent if you don’t take care of it. With that said, you will want to limit your time in the sun and take necessary precautions to protect your skin from further damage. Large sunglasses and high SPF are a must. What’s more chic than a wide brimmed hat? I think I might be in heaven.
There’s not much you can do to prevent melasma if it’s already appearing but you can lighten it with some natural products that you probably have in your kitchen.
Lemon juice. Mix equal parts lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. Spray on face a few times a day. You can also replace the hydrogen peroxide with cucumber juice.
ACV toner. Our favorite friend apple cider vinegar can remove dark spots but can also improve your general skin health. Use an apple cider vinegar toner (1/2 ACV and 1/2 water) and apply it directly to the dark spots to lighten them.
Turmeric milk. Turmeric protects the skin from UV damage. Mix turmeric and raw milk until it makes a paste. Apply to the dark spots and leave on for 10 minute before washing off. You can also drink turmeric milk, which may help your skin from the inside out.
Milk of magnesia. When I was a little girl, I remember my great-grandmother using this stuff on her face every night. I remember watching her put milk on cotton and rub it into her skin. When I asked her why she was putting milk on her skin and if I should be doing the same, she told me to remember this when I grew up to be her age. Here I am! Just wash face and apply liberally with a cotton ball at night. Leave on as you sleep and wash off in the morning.
Oatmeal honey mask. These two ingredients help to exfoliate your skin, and honey contains special enzymes which can breakdown dark pigment. Mix cooked oatmeal (it can be warm but not hot!) with raw honey to form a mask. Apply to the skin and leave on for 10 minutes before washing off.
Licorice root in oil. You can mix 1 teaspoon of licorice root extract into 1 TB of castor oil. Apply to face. Let it sit for 1 hour. Wipe off with towel. You can leave on for the extra moisture (as castor oil is thick), or you can wash your face to remove totally.