What Is Melasma of Pregnancy?

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
February 10, 2023

According to the Cleveland Clinic, 15% to 50% of pregnant women develop a “mask of pregnancy,” also known as melasma. This skin condition is characterized by light brown, dark brown, or blue-gray patches, freckle-like spots, or discoloration. The name may sound scary. But it’s a common, harmless, and painless condition that doesn’t impact the baby or mean there’s anything wrong with the pregnancy. It’s simply a cosmetic issue.

Why Do Some People Get Melasma in Pregnancy?

It’s unclear why some pregnant people get melasma and others don’t. It may happen because you have higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy, which can make the skin cells more sensitive to sunlight, says Hector O. Chapa, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Texas A&M University College of Medicine, in College Station, Texas.

“In melasma, the cells (called melanocytes) that give your skin its color are more active,” says Hayley Goldbach, M.D., a double board-certified dermatologist at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. “We don’t know exactly what causes this shift.”