Topical Treatments for Melasma and Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation

C.B. Lynde; J.N. Kraft, MD; C.W. Lynde, MD, FRCPC


Skin Therapy Letter. 2006;11(9):1-6. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Hyperpigmentation disorders of the skin are common and can be the source of significant psychosocial distress for patients. The most common of these disorders are melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Sunscreen use and minimizing sun exposure are crucial in all cases. Topical applications are the mainstay of treatment and include phenols, retinoids, corticosteroids, and their combinations.


Hyperpigmentation of the skin is a very common problem, with many patients seeking therapies to improve their cosmetic appearance. It is the result of an increase in cutaneous melanin deposition either by increased melanin synthesis or, less commonly, by a greater number of melanocytes. The amount of color change depends on the location of the melanin deposition. Epidermal involvement appears as brown discoloration whereas dermal deposition appears as blue-grey.[1] Mixed epidermal and dermal depositions appear as brown-grey discolorations. The use of a Wood's lamp can often be very beneficial in determining the location of melanin deposition showing enhancement of color contrast in lesional skin for the epidermal type, but not the dermal types. The mixed type has enhancement in some areas of lesional skin, but not in other areas.[2] Whether the melanin is deposited in the epidermis or dermis is important therapeutically because dermal hyperpigmentation is much more challenging to treat.[3]

The most common pigmentation disorders for which patients seek treatment are melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). These conditions may have a major impact because disfiguring facial lesions can significantly affect a person's psychological and social wellbeing, contributing to lower productivity, social functioning, and self-esteem.[4,5]


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