Jun. 11, 2020

Dark spots during pregnancy: treatment

In our previous blog, we explained what the cause of dark spots during pregnancy actually is and how you could prevent yourself from developing it. Now, we'll focus on the ingredients that are mostly used in cosmetic products to fade away these dark spots. Not only can these be used during or after the pregnancy, but also if you're suffering from dark spots in general

Dark spots treatment: prescription-free

Because of the safety concerns of the hydroquinone treatment, milder alternatives have been used to reduce darks spots in a safe and more gentle way. The following ingredients can be found in cosmetic products for hyperpigmentation/melasma. However, some of them could be prescription-based if used in higher concentrations. 

  • Azelaic acid is used in cases of hyperpigmentation and acne. 25% azelaic acid provides similar results as 4% hydroquinone without the adverse effects.
  • Niacinamide (1%) or vitamin B3 is also used to reduce the appearance of pigmentation and acne. It functions as a depigmentation agent by inhibiting the transfer of melanin-filled cells (melanosomes) to the upper skin layer (epidermis).
  • Glycolic acid (5-10%) is an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) which appears to show beneficial effects for reducing the appearance of pigmentation. It is mostly known for chemical exfoliation of dead skin cells but it can also reduce the production of melanin by melanocytes.  It is often combined with other skin lightening agents.
  • Kojic acid is a skin lightening agent used in concentrations of 2-4%. It may cause some irritation and redness. It is an effective ingredient to reduce hyperpigmentation and is sometimes combined with glycolic acid.
  • Retinol is the alcohol form of retinoic acid. It is less irritating and more stable in cosmetic formulations. It is less effective for reducing dark spots, but still a good and milder alternative to the more aggressive retinoids. It is mostly used in concentrations between 0.1 and 1%.
  • Mequinol is used in cosmetics in concentration of 2-20%. It is a derivative of hydroquinone and has a better activity when combined with tretinoin (0.01%).
  • Arbutin is a derivative of hydroquinone and is a milder alternative to hydroquinone.
  • Glabridin (licorice extract) is a depigmenting agent, mostly used in cosmetics between 10-40%.
  • Soy-derived extracts are used for treating hyperpigmentation but has an antioxidant activity as well.

Beauty clinic treatment

  • Laser: If none of the above has worked for you, you could undergo specific laser and light therapy treatments in beauty clinics carried out by professional staff.treatments.
  • Microneedling: This treatment promotes woundhealing by intentionally creating little wounds in the skin and helps with fading away. dark spots.  
  • MicrodermabrasionWith this treatment, the upper layers of the skin containing the pigment ( = melanin) are basically scraped away. 

The hyperpigmentation might still come back. That’s why sun protection on a daily basis is extremely important as one of the ways to avoid this. If spots are slightly appearing again, target the spots with products (as mentioned above) as soon as possible to avoid costly.

Dark spot treatment: prescription-based


Hydroquinone is an effective ingredient that reduces the appearance of dark spots on the skin by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase that enables the production of melanin. It also (cells that produce melanin) gets rid of the excessive pigment. The effects are visible after consistently treating the spots for approximately 5-7 weeks and should be continueddepending on your skin.

Unfortunately, the use of hydroquinone comes with adverse effects such as irritation, redness, stinging feeling and allergic reactions. These adverse effects depend on the concentration of the ingredient and the duration of the treatment. There are some safety concerns involved and that’s why hydroquinone is forbidden in cosmetic products in many countries (i.e. European countries). During pregnancy, it is not recommended to use hydroquinone. 



Retinoids are potent vitamin A derivates that are typically used in cases of acne, hyperpigmentation and ageing. Retinoids are known to increase cell turn-over, therefore, there is no sufficient time for the keratinocytes to take up the melanin that normally causes the pigmentation. Moreover, tretinoin or retinoic acid reduces by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase that enables the formation of melanin. It is often combined with corticosteroids and hydroquinone for a better effect.

It cannot be used during pregnancy as it can cause malformation of the fetus. This is mostly the case when taken orally. Still, it’s not recommended to use topically. As mentioned for hydroquinone, retinoids can also cause irritation and redness of the skin.


If you already have developed pigmentation spots, it is recommended to wait after delivery of the baby to start a treatment as the constant hormonal trigger for developing melasma will fight any kind of treatment at that moment. Sometimes, pigmentation spots can even fade away by itself after the pregnancy.

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