Is IPL Laser the Best Melasma Treatment?

Hi, I have very large melasma patches on my cheeks and forehead. A consultant at my local hospital prescribed me with quinone cream, which was very difficult for the pharmacist to get hold of as it is banned in our country (U.K). I have been given advice by a local clinic on IPL laser and wondered if this would be good for me.

Doctor Answers 5

IPL Treatment for Melasma

We believe that IPL (and Fraxel for that matter) treatments are the worst choice for Melasma for the vast majority of those that have it. Melasma can be an epidermal (upper skin), dermal (lower skin) or mixed (dermal and epidermal) condition. We have found that the only results we have achieved for treating Melasma were achieved with Q-switched laser technology and only in cases for epidermal Melasma. But so few patients have just epidermal Melasma that many actually get worse after light based treatments such as q-switched lasers, Fraxel and IPL treatments. Every patient that has come to our office after receiving Fraxel or IPL treatments elsewhere has had their Melasma worsen after treatment.

We will begin trials shortly using the Hoya Conbio Medlite C6 (or later) q-switched laser on skin type IV patients (Asian and Hispanic). Although we have used q-switched laser technology for Melasma in the past, the results were mixed with only 50% getting better and the other half getting worse. Our new protocols will take into account research that has been ongoing in Asia for several years with much higher energies and much shorter duration between treatments. Until we complete this research we will continue to treat Melasma with topical (hydroquinone based creams) treatment programs only.


Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

Melasma: Answers to the most common questions

Melasma is characterized by hyperpigmentation on the face that has four main causes:

  • Genetics
  • Sun exposure
  • Hormones
  • Inflammation

One of the most effective treatments is a topical combination of prescription hydroquinone and tretinoin. Keep in mind that treatments for melasma are not permanent as the above mentioned causes cannot be entirely eliminated.

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 63 reviews

IPL to treat Melasma

IPL is a great option for treating melasma. IPL is sensitive enough to not cause any further damage and can also be combined with various chemical peels to reach the pigmentation occuring in different levels of the dermis. There are certainly other pigment seeking devices that may be a bit more aggressive, but IPL is certainly a safe and effective option to start with. 

Dennis Gross, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.5 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

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Melasma and IPL

IPL treatment can sometimes help melasma  although it is tough. Some alternatives include treatment with hydroquinone and retin-A based products.  These creams provide a slow treatment that should hsow improvements over a few months.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

IPL and Melasma

IPL is not a good treatment option for melasma.  Using a topical hydroquinone cream with tretinoin (Retin-A) may be a better option. 

Sam Naficy, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 170 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.