Melasma the Mask of Pregnancy

Melasma is called a facial dyschromia, that is, a disorder of facial pigmentation that accompanies about seventy per cent of all pregnancies. It usually starts after the third month of pregnancy, and most commonly affects the centrofacial area which includes the chin, upper lip, and forehead. In about half of that many cases, it occurs on the cheeks, like a mask. In still fewer cases it appears on the jaw line. It is interesting that in geographical areas devoid of sun exposure, it only occurs in five per cent of pregnant women, suggesting a direct correlation between UV light exposure and the development of melasma. In most cases melasma disappears after the baby is born, but in some cases it can remain and even get worse after sun exposure. Melasma is part of the entire increased pigmentary process of pregnancy. Other areas of pigmentation can include the nipples and areola, the skin around the belly button, the midline line that goes from the belly button to the symphysis pubis, and the anogenital areas. Like melasma, these other pigmented areas usually return to normal after delivery, but they may not. This is especially true in women with darker skin.

What causes melasma and the other dyschromias of pregnancy? Probably it’s the extra levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that circulate during pregnancy. The production of melanin pigment is increased by estrogen, and progesterone augments that process. The pituitary gland swells during pregnancy and releases a hormone which increases pigment productivity. It’s interesting that light-skinned and dark-skinned women have about the same number of melanocyte cells in the skin. It’s just that the latter is able to produce more of the pigment melanin.

So, what’s to be done? The first thing is to avoid the sun. The pregnant or recently pregnant woman should wear a sun hat, use broad spectrum sun screen, and try to avoid exposure to the sun. If she is after delivery, and after nursing, a triple combination of facial topical cream can be compounded of skin bleach, a topical steroid, and a peeling agent to try to remove the pigmentation. Never washes as Obagi or Dermes are often great correcting this pigment problem. There is a technique with a fractionated laser which can destroy the skin pigment in the hands of an experienced aesthetic physician.

Women are very sensitive about conditions which affect the appearance of their facial skin. Of course, a good quality make-up, skillfully applied, can help the situation. Skin products are available which gradually peel the skin down to its younger epidermal cells. The topical medicine and laser can help, but avoidance of sun exposure is probably the most important thing which can be done to prevent and treat persistent melasma.

John Drew Laurusonis M.D.
Doctors Medical Center

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Laurusonis was conferred his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1983 and has been actively taking care of patients since completing his Internal Medicine residency in 1987 in the Garden State of New Jersey. Dr. Laurusonis has been licensed in four states but ultimately chose to permanently relocate to Georgia with his family and begin a private practice. Through his extensive experience in Internal Medicine, as well as in Emergency Rooms throughout the United States, Dr. Laurusonis saw how traditional Emergency Rooms were often overwhelmed by patients suffering medical conditions that were urgent but may not need the traditional “Level I Trauma Center”. Patients often waited six to twelve hours to be seen by a physician, were riddled with thousands of dollars in medical bills, and were generally unhappy with the system.
Dr. Laurusonis decided to open an Urgent Care Center instead of a 9-5 doctor's office. Through the last fifteen years he has received accolades from the community and his patients. He has expanded his practice to include many cosmetic therapies that have previously been treated with painful and extensive plastic surgery. He has been invited to the White House numerous times, has been named Physician of the Year from GA, as seen in the Wall Street Journal, and has served as Honorary Co-Chairman on the Congressional Physicians Advisory Board
Dr. Laurusonis and his practice, Doctors Medical Center, is open 7 days a week from 7:30 am to 9:30 pm offering such services as lab, x-ray, EKGs, aesthetics (Botox, dermabrasion, sclerotheraby and veins etc.), cold/flu, sore throats, fractures, sprains, lacerations, GYN, Pediatrics, Phlebology Anxiety/Insomnia/Depression Treatment, skin tag/mole removal, veins, allergies, asthma, physicals--just to name a few. Dr. Laurusonis welcomes you to either make an appointment or just walk-in to see him. Dr. Laurusonis will take the time to speak with you about your concerns--no problem is too big or too small. If you need additional services we have specialist referrals available or we can refer you to the neighborhood hospital emergency room. Give Doctors Medical Center a call--Dr. Laurusonis will be happy to speak with you.

John Drew Laurusonis, MD
Doctors Medical Center
3455 Peachtree Industrial Blvd
Suite 110
Duluth, GA 30096