SAN DIEGO –
“They need to understand that melasma is going to require long-term maintenance,” Dr. Ortiz, director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, said at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium.
Hydroquinone is a mainstay of melasma therapy, but instead of the commonly used 4% formulation, she prefers to use 12% hydroquinone with 6% kojic acid in VersaBase cream. “It’s a high concentration but the VersaBase makes it more tolerable,” she said. “I have patients take a pea-sized amount and mix it in a regular moisturizer. It’s too strong to spot treat, so it goes on the whole face.”
Mindful that chronic hydroquinone use can cause ochronosis (permanent darkening), she has patients alternate with a nonhydroquinone bleaching agent such as lignin peroxidase, oligopeptide, Lytera, Melaplex, 4-n-butylresorcinol, Cysteamine cream, tranexamic acid, or oral antioxidants. In a study sponsored by SkinMedica, investigators conducted a randomized, double-blind,
Chemical peels and laser treatments
Chemical peels are another treatment option for melasma, but Dr. Ortiz prefers glycolic peels over salicylic and other peels, “because there is no downtime,” she said.
As for laser-based approaches, melasma patients respond best to low energy devices such as the 1,927-nm fractional diode laser at a 3.75% density. “This also can increase the skin permeability of topicals, so when you’re combining it with hydroquinone it can be more effective,” she said.
In anof 27 women with refractory melasma, with phototypes II-V, New York City–based dermatologist , combined microdermabrasion with the Q-switched Nd:YAG laser “The settings she used were very low fluence, so there was no clinical endpoint or no whitening,” said Dr. Ortiz, vice president of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS). Specifically, Dr. Kauvar used the laser at 1.6-2 J/cm2 with a 5- or 6-mm spot size immediately following microdermabrasion every 4 weeks; Patients received an average of 2.6 treatments, and were assessed 3-12 months after the last treatment. Study participants were on a standard skin care regimen of a broad spectrum sunscreen, hydroquinone, and tretinoin or vitamin C.
Most of the patients showed at least 50% clearance of melasma 1 month after the first treatment, and 81% showed more than 75% clearance of melasma; remission lasted at least 6 months.
“I personally prefer to use picosecond over Q-switched lasers, because they deliver the energy faster, and you can use a 1,064-nm picosecond laser that is safe in all skin types,” Dr. Ortiz said. “There is minimal downtime, and it doesn’t require anesthesia. You have to consider these things when you’re treating melasma, because this usually requires monthly treatments. If you do something that requires a week of downtime every month, it’s not practical for patients.”
published in 2021, Dr. Ortiz and Tanya Greywal, MD, used three passes of the 1,064-nm Nd:YAG laser to treat melasma in 10 patients with skin types II-V. The device had a 650-microsecond pulse duration, a 6-mm spot size, and an energy mode of 11-14 J/cm2. The researchers observed a mean melasma improvement of 26%-50% as early as 3 weeks. “There was no downtime, and no anesthesia was required,” Dr. Ortiz said.
Researchers have discovered a vascular component to melasma, which may have treatment implications. Houston-based dermatologist, and his colleagues used spectrocolorimetry to detect an underlying prominent vascular component in a of 11 patients with melasma, with skin types II-IV. They determined that melasma lesions exhibiting subtle or subclinical telangiectatic erythema may be improved by combining vascular-targeted laser therapy with fractional low-powered diode laser therapy.
“So, combining a vascular laser with a 1,927-nm fractional diode laser showed more improvement than with just the diode laser alone,” said Dr. Ortiz, who was not involved with the analysis.
To optimize results following the laser treatment of melasma, she uses one application of