You've probably heard of the "mask of pregnancy," or facial hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal surges during pregnancy. Hormonal birth control (especially pills, shots, the ring) can have the same effect, causing brownish-gray patches to appear like shadows on the upper lip, cheeks, forehead and nose, says Dr. Lyubov Avshalumova, a board-certified dermatologist. This type of discoloration can add years to your face: A Procter and Gamble study found that women were perceived as older simply because of patchy, uneven skin tone. Fortunately, hormone-induced melasma usually fades within a year of giving birth or going off the pill, provided that you’re religious about sun protection (see last slide). To treat stubborn spots, Krant suggests talking to your dermatologist about brighteners and antioxidants including tretinoin, niacin, vitamin C, kojic acid or azelaic acid. 

Birth Control Patch

Women who have trouble remembering a daily pill may want to consider the birth control patch. The Ortho Evra patch is worn on the skin and changed only once a week for three weeks with a fourth week that is patch-free. The patch releases the same types of hormones as the birth control pill and is just as effective. Pros: More regular, lighter periods with less cramping, no need to remember a daily pill. Cons: Cost ($15-$50 per month), may cause skin irritation or other side effects similar to birth control pills. Doesn’t protect against STDs.