How to get a great tan without risking hyperpigmentation

Summer is here! And most of us look better with a little tan, right?! But the one thing you want to prevent when you're pregnant is getting dark patches on your skin, better known as pregnancy melasma

Around 70% of pregnant women suffer from pregnancy melasma triggered by an increase in hormones. This also means that 30% is lucky. The point is that you never know if you are going to be one of the lucky ones. If you are part of the 70% you make sure to be diligent because melasma will be quick to return if you're not careful about sun protection. Women who develop melasma in their 20s or 30s may see it stay around for decades according to Dr. Barbara Gilchrest, senior lecturer on dermatology at Harvard Medical School. So, long-term maintenance requires an ongoing commitment to protecting your skin.

Unfortunately, I can speak from my own experience, that this is can be true indeed. When I was pregnant I got pregnancy melasma really bad. I had dark patches on my forehead, cheeks, and upper lip. They got lighter when the pregnancy hormones left my system, but they never completely went away. 

Pregnant woman in bikinbi

Since my pregnancy, I only enjoy the sun with sunscreen on my body, but I do love a sunkissed look. That's why I often use a self-tanner. I used to hate fake tan. I could never find one that didn’t turn my pasty skin orange until fairly recently, that is. Thankfully, times and technologies have changed since the naughties and the best fake tan for every skin(tone) is easy to find and use. 

Before I'll tell you more about my favorite self-tanner, I want to explain a bit more about the first step in the process of getting a nice tan without getting melasma (hyperpigmentation) when you're pregnant!

Step 1: Using the right sunscreen

The sun is the biggest trigger for melasma. Underlying factors such as hormonal changes may not manifest until summertime when you spend more time in the sun. That's why the most important way to prevent or clear up melasma is by using a strict sunscreen regimen with an SPF of at least 30. The sun's rays are not the only thing that can cause or worsen melasma. The heat and visible light of the sun are also culprits. This means that even sunscreens that protect against skin cancer aren't enough to prevent melasma. You need a sunscreen that blocks not only the sun's rays but also its light and heat.

There are two main types of sunscreens:

  • sunscreens that use chemicals, such as oxybenzone

  • sunscreens that use natural physical blockers, such as zinc and titanium dioxide.

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You want to choose the second, natural blocking sunscreen because that will stop all the light and different wavelengths from coming through. Its good to know that today's zinc and titanium dioxide formulas are micronized so they can sink into the skin, while still offering the same protection. Chemical sunscreens just don't offer the same protection for melasma, and in some instances, they may even trigger allergic reactions that can make melasma worse.

This is one of my favorite natural sunscreens which is perfect to prevent or minimalize hyperpigmentation, as long as you use it consistently. The Essential Defense sunscreens are non-comedogenic, paraben-free, hypoallergenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free. It’s one of the best physical sunscreens I’ve ever used, and the teint is an added plus because it means that it won’t leave a white cast on your skin. I really like the finish too because it’s not too greasy and it melts right into the skin.

 SkinMedica | Essential Defense Mineral Shield™ Broad-Spectrum SPF 32 - Tinted

Step 2: Get that fake fan!

My most important tip when you start with self-tanning is exfoliation. When you're pregnant it's best to use a mild exfoliator on your face like Lactic Acid and Glycolic acid (AHA) or even better Gluconolactone or Lactobionic acid (PHA). Avoid BHA's like Salicylic acid during your pregnancy. In my blog post about what ingredients to avoid during pregnancy, I explain why. For your body, you can use an exfoliating glove with oil. Do not exfoliate just beforehand, but start two to three days before applying self-tanner. This prevents stripes and stains.

When you are ready, choose the right self-tanner. You might have to try out some different ones before you find your favorite. Don't forget to check the ingredient list for unsafe ingredients for pregnant women. This is my (safe) favorite: H20 Tan Drops Face by James Read. These drops are full of hero ingredients that suit every skin type and certainly to use if you're a tanning novice. Aloe Vera and Hyaluronic Acid, work together to create a flawless, glowing complexion with no streaks, no clogged pores and no dryness. I recommend adding 2-3 drops into your daily moisturizer and then sweeping the product over your skin in upward motions – don't forget the décolletage! Your glow will develop in 4-6hrs. The trick to tanning the face well is to go as natural as possible. If you apply too much self-tan it will look unnatural. 

H20 Tan Drops Face | James Read

Why I love this product? Because it integrates into your existing skincare regime, it is suitable for face & body, it's customizable - more drops mean deeper tan. The water-based formula gives your skin a healthy, glowing tan that lasts for days!

When you find the right fake-tan and consistently put on the right (natural) sunscreen, you will enjoy an effortless sun-kissed look all year long without the dark patches. 

 Pregnancy Skin Score Quiz

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