Melasma is a circumscribed brown macular hypermelanosis of the areas of the face and neck that are exposed to light. Clinical trials with various depigmenting formulations containing hydroquinone were conducted to determine the ideal concentration of hydroquinone, retinoic acid, and corticosteroids for the treatment of melasma. The compounds were tested with and without the concomitant use of topical sunscreen preparations. Based on the results of the trials and our earlier clinical experience, we conclude that treatment of melasma should involve the following: avoidance of sun exposure, constant use of broad-spectrum sunscreens, and topical application of a cream or lotion containing 2% hydroquinone and 0.05% to 0.1% retinoic acid (tretinoin). Patients should suspend use of oral contraceptives and other agents that promote skin pigmentation. The monobenzyl ether of hydroquinone should never be used in melasma therapy.
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