By Kristin Coverly and Mark Lees, PhD
[Ask the Experts]

My niece is 7 months pregnant and is having lots of back pain. Would it be appropriate for me to gift her a massage with a therapist in her area?

Pregnancy massage can be incredibly beneficial for moms-to-be! This specific massage modality can help reduce general physical discomfort as well as pain in specific areas, including the low back and hips. It also helps decrease anxiety and promote better sleep. When you’re choosing a massage therapist to buy the gift certificate from, check their credentials before swiping your credit card. Look for a practitioner with specific training in prenatal massage. Buying a gift certificate from a therapist with this specialized training and experience will help ensure you give your niece the best gift—and most beneficial bodywork—possible!

Kristin Coverly, LMT, is a massage therapist and educator for Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.

“What are these brown spots I’m getting on my hands and chest? My grandmother used to call them liver spots. Should I be worried?”

This is hyperpigmentation, which, in simplest terms, is the overproduction of melanin. UV rays from sun exposure are the biggest contributor to hyperpigmentation issues. Hormones, inflammation, and skin injuries also can cause it. Hyperpigmentation can present in many ways, including: 
• Liver spots, which, named for their color, most often appear on the hands and are caused by cumulative and chronic unprotected sun exposure.
• Melasma, often called a pregnancy mask, is a pattern of splotches that occurs across the face, primarily around the mouth and cheeks. It is caused by hormonal imbalances and often occurs in pregnancy and menopause.
• Mottling is the speckling of darker color that occurs over sun-exposed areas like the face and hands, and is one of the first signs of sun-related premature aging. 
Addressing hyperpigmentation starts first and foremost with avoiding sun and heat sources and wearing sunscreen when you are outside. Also, reduce sources of inflammation, including picking pimples and using overly aggressive skin treatments. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, use a daily chemoexfoliant such as alpha hydroxy acids, and use a melanin suppressant at night. Your esthetician can play a pivotal role in helping address your hyperpigmentation concerns.

Mark Lees, PhD, MS, CIDESCO, is a skin care educator, product developer, therapist, 
and author.