Near-visible light and UV photoprotection in the treatment of melasma: a double-blind randomized trial

Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2014 Feb;30(1):35-42. doi: 10.1111/phpp.12086. Epub 2013 Dec 3.


Background: Melasma is an acquired hyperpigmentation on sun-exposed areas. Multiple approaches are used to treat it, but all include broad ultraviolet (UV)-spectrum sunscreens. Visible light (VL) can induce pigmentary changes similar to those caused by UV radiation on darker-skinned patients.

Objective: To assess the efficacy of sunscreen with broad-spectrum UV protection that contains iron oxide as a VL-absorbing pigment (UV-VL) compared with a regular UV-only broad-spectrum sunscreen for melasma patients exposed to intense solar conditions.

Methods: Sixty-eight patients with melasma were randomized in two groups to receive either UV-VL sunscreen or UV-only sunscreen, both with sun protection factor ≥ 50, over 8 weeks. All patients received 4% hydroquinone as a depigmenting treatment. At onset and at conclusion of the study, they were assessed by the Melasma Activity and Severity Index (MASI; a subjective scale), colorimetry (L*) and histological analysis of melanin.

Results: Sixty-one patients concluded the study. At 8 weeks, the UV-VL group showed 15%, 28% and 4% greater improvements than the UV-only group in MASI scores, colorimetric values and melanin assessments, respectively.

Conclusions: UV-VL sunscreen enhances the depigmenting efficacy of hydroquinone compared with UV-only sunscreen in treatment of melasma. These findings suggest a role for VL in melasma pathogenesis.

Keywords: iron oxide; melasma; photoprotection; sunscreens; visible light.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Melanosis / drug therapy*
  • Melanosis / prevention & control
  • Sunscreening Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Sunscreening Agents