I’m already a beautiful mahogany brown. How much darker can I get?
“What on earth is that dark line stretching from my belly button down to who-knows-where? And why have my nipples turned almost black? I love my melanin, but these changes are crazy!”
Your endocrine system (glands that secrete hormones or other products directly into the blood), metabolic system (chemical processes in the body), and immunologic system (system that protects the body from foreign substances) all change during pregnancy, and can cause your skin to change as well. So, yes, pregnancy will have it’s way with your skin color, and there’s no point in trying to stop it. All women are susceptible to pigmentation changes, but naturally, black women—who possess more of the dark pigmentation known as melanin—will exhibit more dramatic darkening. Don’t be too alarmed if your skin gets darker around your nipples, neck, pubic area, or along the line from your belly button down to your pubis. Recent scars may get darker as well. Some black women also develop dark lines over their thighs and legs, or find that the fronts of their legs become darker than the backs.
Read more: Why do nipples get darker during pregnancy?
A condition known as Chloasma Gravidarum might also cause your body to make too much beautiful brown pigment, perhaps showing up in patches on your face. This is not an easy condition to treat during pregnancy. The topical ointments and chemical treatments that have proved effective are not recommended during this time. So if you are susceptible to this condition, it’s best to stay away from direct sunlight. The sun tends to unleash the hormones that stimulate pigment production.
Protection from the sun
When you have to venture out on sunny days, make sure to*:
- Apply sunscreen of SPF 50 or greater to all areas of the body that may be exposed.
- Wear sunglasses. When sunlight hits the eye it can stimulate hyperpigmentation.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat for extra protection.
- Be aware of and avoid reflected sunlight as well. (Even if you are indoors, sun rays pouring in through a window can wreak havoc on your face.)
- Use a topical antioxidant serum such as Vitamin C or E daily, along with azelaic acid, which slows down the production of excess pigmentation. You can also use safe skin lighteners such as kojic acid and licorice extracts. Chemical peels that contain glycolic acid, lactic acid, phytic acide and mandelic acid are permissible as well.
The bottom line is this: Hyperpigmentation is a natural and harmless side effect of pregnancy. Changes to skin tone, however unnerving they might be, tend to disappear soon after the birth of your baby. It’s just another way your body is reminding you of the big changes going on inside!
*These precautions are taken from Allen-Campbell, Yvette and Greenidge-Hewitt, Suzanne MD: Black, Pregnant & Loving It. Salem, Massachusetts: Page Street Publishers, 2016