Is IPL Treatment the Best Option for Melasma?

Research has shown that regular IPL treatments can be beneficial in improving the appearance of melasma patches and more. Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a type of light therapy that reaches the deeper layers of the skin to treat minor blemishes and mild to moderate signs of aging.

IPL treatment

for acne scars can help reduce the color of depressed scars and hyperpigmented marks. A study conducted on twenty female patients with Fitzpatrick skin types II to IV found that a combination treatment with CO2 laser and long-term topical lightening cream showed the greatest improvement and were able to maintain the benefits of treatment for up to 12 months after treatment.

Several studies have found that although IPL can treat melasma on its own, it is most effective when combined with other types of treatment, such as topical creams. During an IPL treatment for melasma, patients may feel increased sensitivity in the affected areas, but this is just the light at work. A 10-week study of 56 patients who were randomized to receive IPL with a triple combination cream (TCC) or IPL with a placebo cream (PC) found that those who received TCC had greater improvement in their melasma patches. The IPL head size is larger than most laser spot sizes, allowing rapid treatment of large areas.

However, inexperienced clinics may recommend IPL for treatment, but this could worsen the condition. IPL treatment heats the surrounding tissue and melanin, with an increased risk of burns on darker skin types and, due to the heat produced, can stimulate and increase the appearance of darkened pigmentation and is therefore not recommended. This thermal damage appears to be the major drawback of conventional Q-switched laser treatment for patients with melasma and likely to be the cause of high rates of PIH after treatment. Depending on the severity of scarring, the number of sessions will vary, but after an IPL treatment for acne scars, you will see an improvement in skin color and tone.

Adding chemical peels to a topical treatment regimen is a second-line treatment, as peels help speed up the elimination of melanin pathways. To incorporate these findings and limit any inflammatory cascade of laser treatment or thermal injury, pre- and post-treatment regimens are recommended before laser and light treatments. The appropriate choice of procedural treatment will need to integrate the patient's specific medical history of melasma, Fitzpatrick's skin type, type of melasma (epidermal, mixed or dermal), other forms of hyperpigmentation that may be present within melasma sites, and topical therapy before and after procedure and maintenance treatments.In conclusion, laser and light therapy for the treatment of melasma is best suited for patients with refractory melasma who failed with topical treatment or a series of chemical peels. The solution is a treatment that provides rapid improvement of melasma resulting in immediate patient satisfaction, which then promotes long-term adherence to topical treatment to maintain improvement.

Gracie Szafraniec
Gracie Szafraniec

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