ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee (you also know her from season 22 of Dancing with the Stars) has been open with her fans about her pregnancy journey and everything that came after it since she revealed her baby bump on Good Morning America (GMA) back in 2015. One of the struggles she’s experienced postpartum? Melasma, a stubborn type of skin discoloration that affects more than 5 million women in the U.S. alone.
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The most common causes of the blotchy-skin condition include hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy (it’s often referred to by doctors and experts as the “pregnancy mask” and can affect up to 70 percent of pregnant women) and birth control. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it causes brown to gray-brown patches on the face, and most people get it on their cheeks, bridge of their nose, forehead, chin, and above their upper lip. It also can appear on other parts of the body that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the forearms and neck.
Today, Zee was featured in a skin care segment on GMA, where she discussed her battle with melasma, how it affected her self-confidence and how she treated it with the help of New York dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD.
“My son, Adrian, just turned 1. He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. That said, this kid changed my body, mind and skin forever,” said Zee. “The day I looked in the mirror and saw a mask over my face, that was the day I said, enough is enough. My skin was brown in patches and bright white in others. It looked much different than it had before I had the baby. One day I saw that Dr. Whitney Bowe was on our show and I got her contact from producers and made an appointment. In doing research about the skin disorder I thought I had, I found many links leading me to laser treatment. But that scared me. Dr. Bowe took me in and was so gentle with her description. I have melasma. A discoloration of the skin thanks to a shift in hormones. Many times women get it during or after pregnancy, but any hormonal shift, including birth control pills, can bring it on.”
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The treatment Zee was recommended was not a laser like she was expecting, but rather a series of four chemical peels that were gently applied to her skin by Dr. Bowe. “I was so nervous that my skin would fall off in sheets and it would burn. Instead, the peel took 30 seconds to apply and barely tingled,” she said. And surprisingly (despite what web searches may advise), according to Dr. Bowe, the heat and light from lasers can actually make melasma worse. Another melasma no-no: using lemon juice on your face (another common “remedy” for melasma on web searches). “Citrus fruits can irritate the skin and make melasma much worse,” says Dr. Bowe.
Dr. Bowe also sent Zee home with “strict instructions to wear SPF always” and a SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum that she could mix into her sunscreen (SPF 60+) and wear on a daily basis. “She also made me a special melasma emulsion to use every other night,” said Zee.
One of the most important things to note when treating melasma is that it takes time to see results and nothing happens overnight—it took Zee roughly six months to see a more even skin tone. If you can’t afford or don’t have time to visit a dermatologist for in-office treatments, look for at-home creams, lotions and serums that contain skin-brightening ingredients like kojic acid, vitamin C, licorice and soy. Also, remember to wear a hat when you’re going to be in the sun and reapply SPF every two hours when you’re outside (even if it’s cloudy).
“I kept dreaming of a day I could go makeup-less like Alicia Keys, and while I’ll never have her flawless complexion and gorgeous skin color, I think I look pretty darn good after Dr. Bowe’s help,” said Zee.