Background. Patients with dermal or mixed-type melasmas are often refractory to various treatments. Intense pulsed light has been used to treat melanocytic lesions with promising results.
Objective. The purpose of this study was to clarify the effectiveness of intense pulsed light for refractory melasma in Asian persons.
Methods. Seventeen patients were treated with intense pulsed light, during four sessions at 4-week intervals. The patients were also given 4% hydroquinone cream and broad-spectrum sunscreens to prevent and treat postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Sixteen patients in the control group were treated with hydroquinone cream and sunscreens. The treatment efficacy was evaluated using reflectance spectrophotometer and patient satisfaction questionnaire.
Results. Patients in the intense pulsed light group achieved an average of 39.8% improvement in relative melanin index, compared to 11.6% improvement in the control group (p<0.05) at Week 16. Six (35%) patients in the intense pulsed light group had more than 50% improvement, compared to two (14%) patients in the control group. Two patients in the intense pulsed light group, however, experienced transient postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, and partial repigmentation was noted 24 weeks after the last treatment session.
Conclusion. Intense pulsed light is a safe and effective treatment for refractory melasma in Asian persons, with minimal side effects. Further treatment sessions are required for maintenance therapy.