Best Melasma Treatment Options

Written by Erin Foster, LA, Licensed Aesthetician on June 10, 2019 One Comment

melasma treatments

Melasma is a relatively common skin disorder that results in areas of dark discoloration forming along the skin. Melasma typically manifests as brown or grey discoloration patches on the forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, or upper lip area. These patches often occur symmetrically on both sides of the face.

While melasma can affect anyone, it’s most common among younger women of darker skin types. Melasma development often coincides with hormonal changes associated with altering levels of estrogen and progesterone. For this reason, women who are pregnant, using hormone-based birth control (particularly oral contraceptives), or taking hormone replacement therapy are most susceptible.

Not all forms of melasma require treatment, many individuals notice their symptoms fade away over time without intervention. However, individuals with persistent melasma, or affected women who wish to keep using birth control pills, may require prescription medication or in-office cosmetic treatments to lighten or eliminate their melasma.

Common Melasma Treatments

Laser Resurfacing

For severe cases of melasma, laser skin resurfacing treatments can be used to remove very dark discoloration from the skin. Laser resurfacing uses highly concentrated microscopic beams of laser energy to remove precise amounts of skin in a controlled, targeted fashion. It vaporizes the melanin in the affected skin, minimizing its appearance. Learn More

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are topically applied formulas that revitalize the skin surface by creating an even and controlled shedding of the skin cells. Peels remove the upper layer of the skin containing melasma related pigmentation, allowing new skin layers to be exposed. Learn More


Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive procedure that removes upper layers of the skin through controlled physical exfoliation. The procedure uses a handheld device that is guided over the skin to provide light abrasion. The device also features suction mechanism that removes sloughed off skin as it passes. Learn More

Cosmelan Skin Lightening System

The Skin Lightening System consists of an office treatment (application of a hydroquinone and retinoid mask) followed by a continual 7-day at-home treatment. In our office a facial mask is applied to the skin and remains for 5-10 hours depending on the patient’s individual need. In the 7 days following, patient applies Cosmelan 2 product at home. Learn More


Hydroquinone is a topical skin-bleaching agent that can be used to treat several skin pigmentation issues including melasma. Hydroquinone containing gels, lotions, or creams can be topically applied to the skin to lighten away melasma symptoms. While an effective treatment, it’s important to realize that any over-the-counter product contains very little hydroquinone (typically concentrations of less than 2%). More severe forms of melasma will require higher concentrations of hydroquinone, which can be prescribed by a dermatologist.

Other Topical Medications

The additional use of topical medications including tretinoin (a retinoid medication) and corticosteroids (a steroid) azelaic acid and kojic acid can further help correct melasma symptoms, especially for patients who do not respond to hydroquinone alone. An all-in-one cream containing hydroquinone, corticosteroid, and tretinoin is one of the most popular melasma treatment options today. Any treatment utilizing these ingredients should be overseen by a skilled dermatologist as they can result in irritation, dryness, the sensation of itching or burning, and additional hyperpigmentation. Additionally, some patients may need to undergo a skin patch test to ensure they are not allergic to azelaic acid or kojic acid.

Depending on each induvial patient’s skin characteristics a combination of in-office treatments and topical medications may be needed. This is why its important to always seek the guidance a skilled skin care professional who is experience in treating melasma.

Erin Foster, LA

Erin Foster is a licensed aesthetician experienced in analyzing and determining which treatments are best for each individual client’s needs. She has diverse knowledge in skin care products and ingredients. Erin specializes in laser hair removal, IPL, V-Beam, chemical peels, HydraFacials, Cooltouch, and microdermabrasion.

One Response to “Best Melasma Treatment Options”

  1. Avatar Heng says:

    Thanks for the informative article! Thanks for the info on topical medications and its implications

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