Laser therapy in the treatment of melasma: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Lasers Med Sci. 2022 Jun;37(4):2099-2110. doi: 10.1007/s10103-022-03514-2. Epub 2022 Feb 5.


Melasma is a highly prevalent and cosmetically disfiguring pigmented skin disease. The post-treatment results are often unsatisfactory. A large number of clinical trials have tried to prove the effectiveness of the combination therapy involving laser therapy, but the results have been indeterminate. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of laser treatment for melasma via a systematic review and meta-analysis. We respectively searched 4 databases and as of June 8, 2021. Two researchers independently searched for literature and extracted data. Study outcomes were computed by weighted mean differences (WMD). All statistical analyses were performed by the Review Manager version 5.3, STATA version 14 software at 95% confidence interval. We obtained 22 eligible studies which involved a total of 694 patients. After the heterogeneity test and sensitivity analysis, we took a subgroup meta-analysis on the before and after treatment of different laser types. We found that most lasers and laser-based combinations were associated with reduced melasma area and severity index (MASI), such as low-fluence Q-switch 1,064-nm Nd: YAG laser (QSNYL) (WMD: - 2.76; 95% CI: - 3.53 to - 1.99), fractional ablative CO2 laser (WMD: - 9.36; 95% CI: - 12.51 to - 6.21), and fractional ablative 2940-nm Er: YAG laser (WMD: - 2,72; 95% CI: - 3.94 to - 1.49). Significant decrease was seen in neither MASI score of non-ablative 1550-nm fractional laser (WMD: - 1.29; 95% CI: - 2.80 to 0.21) and picosecond laser (WMD: - 0.58; 95% CI: - 1.43 to 0.27), nor melanin index (MI) of low-fluence QSNYL treatment (WMD: 10.17; 95% CI: - 4.11 to 24.46). When using laser to treat melasma, various adverse reactions may occur, most of which will resolve quickly without subsequent treatment, such as edema, erythema, scaling, and burning sensation after treatment. However, for patients with darker skin, there are risks of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. The laser and laser-based combination treatment for melasma could significantly reduce the MASI score, which was showed by our systematic review and meta-analysis.

Keywords: Laser; Melasma; Meta-analysis; Randomized control trial.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hyperpigmentation* / etiology
  • Laser Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Lasers, Solid-State* / therapeutic use
  • Low-Level Light Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Low-Level Light Therapy* / methods
  • Melanosis* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome