Background: Melasma is a relatively common, acquired symmetric hypermelanosis characterized by irregular light to gray-brown macules involving sun-exposed areas. Kojic acid, with its depigmenting potential due to tyrosinase inhibition and suppression of melanogenesis, has become a vital component of the dermatologists' armamentarium against melasma.
Aim: To study and compare the efficacy of kojic acid 1% alone, vis-a-vis its separate combinations with 2% hydroquinone or 0.1% betamethasone valerate and a combination of all these three agents with respect to the duration of symptoms and level of pigmentation in the therapy of melasma.
Materials and methods: Eighty patients from a single tertiary care center objectively assessed by calculating the melasma area severity index (MASI) and randomized (simple randomization) into four parallel groups (A, B, C, and D) of 20 each were prescribed once daily local application at night, (participants blinded regarding the difference in identity of interventions), as follows: Group A - kojic acid 1% cream. Group B - kojic acid 1% and hydroquinone 2% cream. Group C - kojic acid 1% and betamethasone valerate 0.1% cream. Group D - kojic acid 1%, hydroquinone 2%, and betamethasone valerate 0.1% cream. Strict photoprotection and use of a SPF 15 sunscreen was advised during the day. Patients were evaluated every 2 weeks and a fall in MASI score was calculated at the end of the study period of 12 weeks by the same investigator.
Results: The response was compared according to percentage decrease in MASI score. Efficacy was evaluated among the groups at the end of 3 months using bivariate analysis and calculated by using the paired 't' test. The clinical efficacy of group B was the highest followed closely by group D and group A, that of group C being the lowest.
Conclusion: Kojic acid in synergy with hydroquinone is a superior depigmenting agent as compared with other combinations.
Keywords: Kojic acid; MASI score; melasma.