Background: Melasma is an acquired hypermelanosis that is often recalcitrant to treatment with hypopigmenting agents. Objective: To assess the efficacy of 4% hydroquinone cream vs 4% hydroquinone cream combined with glycolic acid peels as treatment for melasma. Methods: Twenty-one Hispanic women with bilateral epidermal and mixed melasma were enrolled in a split-faced prospective trial lasting 8 weeks. Patients underwent 20% to 30% glycolic acid peels every 2 weeks to one side of the face only in addition to twice-daily fullface application of 4% hydroquinone cream and sun protective factor 25 UV-B sunscreen each morning. Pigmentation was measured objectively using a mexameter and the Melasma Area and Severity Index and subjectively using a linear analog scale and physician and patient global evaluation. Results: Hydroquinone treatment alone and treatment with the combination of hydroquinone and glycolic acid had a significant effect in reducing skin pigmentation compared with baseline (P<.001). However, no significant difference was found using combination therapy compared with hydroquinone alone (P=.75). Conclusions: Use of 4% hydroquinone and a daily sunscreen is effective in the treatment of melasma; however, the addition of 4 glycolic acid peels did not enhance the hypopigmenting effect of hydroquinone treatment alone.
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