Melanin is a type of pigment that gives colour to the hair, skin, and eyes. In addition to providing pigmentation for the cells, melanin also absorbs harmful UV rays and protects against cellular damage from UV light exposure.
In addition to skin patches, you could also notice a dark line down your abdomen. It is called the linea nigra. After your baby is born, these pigmented areas usually fade with time.
While some women get dark patches on their face, others report an overall darkening.
The dark irregular patches that appear on the upper cheek, nose, lips, and forehead is called 'chloasma'. It is also known as 'melasma' or the 'mask of pregnancy'.
Causes for skin darkening during pregnancy
As the oestrogen increases in the pregnant woman’s body, it stimulates the production of melanin. Even progesterone plays a role in darkening the skin.
If you live in a sunny city and are often exposed to the sun, the ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun gets very friendly with the melanocytes (the pigment-producing cells in your skin). That leads to increased production of Melanin, which can start a dark patch or worsen an existing patch. Stress and thyroid disease can also be contributing factors.
If you have a relative who has had Chloasma, you might get it too. It is also seen to affect people of darker skins more than people with light-coloured skins.
However, these factors do not necessarily mean you will develop it, just that you are at a higher risk.
Where does melasma appear?
The most common areas for melasma to appear on the face include:
- The bridge of the nose.
- The forehead.
- The cheeks.
- The upper lip.
Why is my neck dark during pregnancy?
Melasma may also appear on other areas of the body, especially those exposed to a lot of sunlight. These areas may include:
- The forearms.
- The neck.
- The shoulders.
These darker patches are caused by high levels of pregnancy hormones in your body , which decrease after you've given birth. The darker patches will become less obvious, though some may never go away completely.
How can I prevent my skin from getting darker during pregnancy?
Please don't be alarmed and start treating it with chemical-based ointments. Those aren’t good for you. Just let it be. It will go away after you give birth. For some women, it will go away after they stop breastfeeding.
Here are some steps that you can take to minimise it:
- Pack your plate with folate (vitamin B9): Your doctor-prescribed prenatal vitamin will have folic acid. In addition to that, please consume foods like spinach, citrus fruits, legumes, nuts, rice, and beans.
- Apply a sunscreen high SPF every day: Choose one with at least 30 SPF. Please wear it even if it appears cloudy. Use hats if going out.
- Go natural in skincare: Use lotions that are eco-friendly and gentle, soaps that are mild.
- Don’t wax or bleach your face: If you wax your brows or upper lip, try avoiding it during pregnancy. Bleaching is also harmful.
What are some home remedies for skin darkening during pregnancy?
Frankly, no home remedy has treated this condition successfully. But, these will pamper your skin and make it soft and supple. Here are some good ones:
- Aloe vera: This is really easy, especially if you have an aloe vera plant. Just extract the gel and put it on your face.
- Lal masoor daal (Red Lentil) Mask: Soak red lentils in water overnight and blend it into a thick paste the next morning. Put this paste on your face for 15 minutes and rinse with cold water.
- Tomato paste: A thick paste of tomatoes put on your face reduces ‘photo damage’ or the effect of the sun.
- Black tea: Boil some regular tea. Dip a cotton ball into it and dab on the patches.
- Turmeric pack: Our good old Haldi has anti-inflammatory properties. It also inhibits Melanin.
What is the dark line on my belly in pregnancy?
The dark line is linea nigra. It is a darkened line running from your belly button to your pubic bone. As per some studies, almost 75% of pregnant women develop Linea Nigra. It extends from your pubic bone to the top of your umbilicus (belly button), but it can extend all the way to your sternum (the chest bone). Its width could be between 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. It’s darker below and gets lighter as it goes up. How dark it differs from woman to woman and no one really knows for sure what determines the darkness.
What week does linea nigra appear?
When does the linea nigra show up? The line down the middle of your growing belly tends to get a little darker by the second trimester (sometimes around week 23 of pregnancy). It could darken very suddenly.
What causes the linea nigra during pregnancy?
Oestrogen and progesterone that are active in your body to help the baby grow produce cells called melanocytes in your skin. These cells produce more melanin, the pigment darkens your skin. This entry of extra melanin makes your skin change colour during pregnancy.
The placenta also stimulates melanocytes. So, your nipples and areolas darken during pregnancy, if you have noticed. Linea Nigra is also a result of that.
Someone told you that having a prominent Linea Nigra means that you are carrying a boy? Or, if it goes up to your belly button, you’re having a girl, and if it keeps going all the way to your ribs it’s a boy? Well, that’s a common myth! Women pregnant with girls also develop a pregnancy line.
How do I get rid of linea nigra?
Mum, is the appearance of this line bothering you? Please be patient. It will go away on its own. Do not try any medicine or cream to lighten it. Bleaching the skin is harmful and will not remove the line.
The bleaching creams contain high amounts of hydroquinone. These creams cause disturbing birth ailments, dark grey spots on newborns, and skin cancer issues if used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
If you really want to lighten it, one way is to add a lot of folic acid and proteins to your diet. Put sunscreen on your belly while stepping out. That will help.
When does the linea nigra go away?
The line will fade after you give birth. That vast majority of women will see it fade in the first months postpartum as hormone levels return to a pre-pregnant state. The timing varies slightly from woman to woman. Most women aren't even paying attention to it and simply notice at some point that it is no longer there.
Ayurveda for Linea Nigra
Mums, this line won’t go away, but you can lighten it with these packs. They also help in reducing any itching or dryness.
- Make a thick paste of Chandan and Usheer or Chandan and Padma and apply.
- Try a paste of Kutaj, Tulsi seed, Mustak and Haldi. If there is itching on the linea nigra, don’t rub it. Just apply gently.