Up to 70 percent of expectant moms get this "mask of pregnancy." Hormone fluctuations cause dark patches on the forehead, cheeks, and upper lips that often fade postpartum but don't go away completely.
What works: Prescription bleaching creams, steroids, and tretinoin (the main ingredient in Retin-A) either alone or in combination. Many patients see improvements within a few weeks. (The downside: These creams can cause temporary redness, peeling, and dryness; you can't use them while you're nursing or pregnant; and not all insurance companies cover them.) A series of glycolic peels done at your doctor's office can also help by removing the top layer of skin. Over-the-counter beauty products containing 2 percent hydroquinone or licorice extract may also reduce discoloration. But no matter how you wipe out your spots, you must use sunscreen vigilantly to maintain results.
What doesn't: Over-the-counter lightening or fade creams that don't contain the above ingredients. Most will only superficially lighten the skin.
Quickest fix: Cover up. Work with two concealers, suggests makeup artist Trish McEvoy, author of The Power of Makeup. Use one a shade lighter than the melasma and another that matches your natural skin tone. With your fingertips or a sponge, dab the lighter concealer into the brown patch with a patting motion. Then, apply the skin-matching concealer around it and blend. Set with translucent powder. Other tricks: If the melasma is around your mouth, downplay lips with nude liners and natural gloss. And divert attention to your eyes with eye-opening colors, a lash curler, and volumizing mascara.