Doctors believe the cause is increased estrogen levels stimulating the production of melanin (which makes us appear tan). Your best defense is a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Dermatologists also advise moms-to-be to sit under an umbrella or in the shade when outdoors for long periods. Since melasma can take up to one year after delivery to fade, it's worth skipping a summer in the sun to prevent this long-lasting beauty bummer.
After slathering baby with sunscreen and making sure she wears her hat, it's easy to forget to protect yourself. If you end up looking like a lobster, here's a recovery plan: As soon as you notice a burn, find shade or put clothes over the affected area. If you're not pregnant, take two aspirin, which has been found to decrease skin damage if taken in the first 24 hours after a burn. Applying a cool compress or soaking in a bath with a few cups of milk will also soothe skin. As your sunburn heals, minimize itching with an aloe or menthol lotion such as Eucerin's Itch-Relief Moisturizing Spray (drugstores). It's also good on baby's itchy skin.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, July 2004.