When you’re pregnant, there are a lot of physical changes happening to you. You’re gaining weight, your face and feet are starting to swell, your aching all over, hormones are driving you nuts. And sometimes, on top of all of that, your face also starts getting blotchy.

You might notice is as a few dark patches appearing on your cheeks, forehead, or your jawline. It’s easy enough to brush off as a possible allergic reaction. You feel fine after all, you just have dark spots on your face. That’s not a simple reaction to food or cream though; what you’re suffering from is most likely melasma.

Melasma is something that affects women more than men, especially Asian and Hispanic women. It's also known as the “mask of pregnancy”, because the hormonal changes in a woman’s body at that time often trigger it. Now, there’s no way to full immunize yourself against Melasma, as it’s mostly related to your genetic disposition. However, there are certainly a few measures you can take to limit your risk of developing, o at least exacerbating it.

1.Consider your hormonal state
In most cases, what’s causing your melanocytes (which create the dark melanin pigment in skin) to go into overdrive are changes in your hormonal state. If you’re pregnant, there’s not much you can do about this, it’s just another in the list of many pregnancy challenges to overcome. If you’re not yet pregnant though, it might be because of your birth control pills. Consult your gynaecologist and try switching to a different form on contraception.

2. Hide from the sun
Another major risk factor for melasma is excessive exposure to the sun. The UV rays your skin is exposed to when you’re in the sunlight can trigger melasma, and even worsen it in women that already have it. Of course, you’re not going to avoid going out in the sun entirely; your outings are already limited in so many ways when you’re expecting. This also means keeping the hat and shades on when in indoors if you’re sitting in sunlight, like at a restaurant window, or in the car on a long drive.

Instead, invest in nice sun hat and wide sunglasses, and protective clothing that doesn’t leave your arms bare. Remember to apply sunscreen before you head outdoors, at least a minimum strength of SPF 30, though SPF 50 to 60 is recommended.

3. Watch those products closely
You might think that melasma could be helped by sticking to your usual skincare regime but be warned that there are exceptions. Any products that irritate or inflame your skin can worsen the problem. This includes the likes of exfoliants, and especially waxing and hair removal products. If you’re really self-conscious about it though, it’s perfectly fine to use concealer to cover up the patches.

4. Beware cream applications
Topical creams with ingredients like retinoids and hydroquinone are what’s most often prescribed to deal with melasma. However, none of these have ever been significantly tested on pregnant women, so it’s unclear what effect they can have on your pregnancy. That means if you’re expecting, this is a strict no no.

5. Stick to organic
Dermatologists instead recommend that you stick to plant and fruit-based products, if you’re set on using a cream. Products with vitamin C, arbutin, glycolic acid, soybean extract and licorice extract, are all decent alternatives. However, they may still not be as effective as other methods, and are most often recommended alongside prescription medications

6. Treat it from within
Scientists however have realized that certain oral medications are the most effective at treating, or at least managing, melasma, especially with how pregnant women are limited in their options. Studies have shown that drugs containing procyanidin areincredibly effective. These act internally by attacking the enzymes that produce melanin, which is what’s darkening your skin in the first place. Bonus, they’re also safe for women with child, and produce no side effects when used long term.