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01-03-2012 | Article

Lasers and dermabrasion offer new hope for melasma sufferers


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MedWire News: A treatment that combines lasers with microdermabrasion could offer new hope to people with the skin condition melasma.

Melasma is a patchy brown discoloration of the skin that is caused by overproduction of melanin, the skin's natural pigment. It can affect anyone but most commonly occurs in people with darker skin, such as those of Mediterranean, Asian, or Hispanic ethnicity.

Melasma is often associated with female hormones, and may occur during pregnancy, when it is also known as "chloasma" or the "the mask of pregnancy." It causes no symptoms, other than skin discoloration, but may be of great cosmetic concern to the person affected.

Various treatments are available for melasma, such as steroid creams, chemical peels, or in severe cases, laser treatment. The latter works by removing the dark pigment but can be harsh and damage the skin - sometimes even causing the melasma to worsen.

In the latest study, dermatologist Dr Arielle Kauvar (NYU School of Medicine, New York, USA) tested a new approach that combined microdermabrasion with a low-energy form of laser treatment, followed by a "pigment-suppressing" skincare regimen.

Dr Kauvar tested this treatment in 27 women with a particularly difficult-to-treat form of melasma known as "mixed-type". Impressively, four-fifths of the women said their skin had improved significantly after an average of just 2.6 treatments, and in half of the women the melasma practically disappeared.

Furthermore, these improvements were maintained for at least 6 months. This is important because long-term results are notoriously difficult to achieve, said Dr Kauvar.

The procedure itself was rated "painless" by all 27 women and treatment was similarly effective in women with a range of different skin types. The only side effect was mild redness of the skin immediately, which settled within a few weeks.

Based on the promising results, Dr Kauvar says she considers laser therapy plus dermabrasion to be "a simple, non-invasive procedure with minimal risk, no recovery time, and long-lasting remission."

She adds: "Treatment works on all skin phototypes in just two to three treatment sessions. Subject compliance with skin care was excellent, probably due to the dramatic improvement observed within 4 weeks."

Dr Kauvar's study is published in the journal Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Joanna Lyford