Background. Melasma is difficult to clear. Many agents have been used, such as hydroquinone, and glycolic acid and glycolic acid peels, kojic acid, a tyrosinase inhibitor in the fungus Aspergilline oryzae.
Objective. To see if the addition of 2% kojic acid in a gel containing 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone will improve melasma further.
Methods. Forty Chinese women with epidermal melasma were treated with 2% kojic acid in a gel containing 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone on one half of the face. The other half was treated with the same application but without kojic acid. The side receiving the kojic acid was randomized. Determination of efficacy was based on clinical evaluation, photographs and self-assessment questionnaires at 4 weekly intervals until the end of the study at 12 weeks. The non-parametric Wilcoxon’s rank sum test was used for statistical analysis.
Results. All patients showed improvement in melasma on both sides of the face. The side receiving the kojic acid did better. More than half of the melasma cleared in 24/40 (60%) patients receiving kojic acid compared to 19/40 (47.5%) patients receiving the gel without kojic acid. In 2 patients, there was complete clearance of melasma, and this was on the side where kojic acid was used. Side effects include redness, stinging, and exfoliation. These were seen on both sides of the face, and they settled by the third week.
Conclusion. The addition of kojic acid to a gel containing 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone further improves melasma.