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Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2009 Jun;28(2):77-85. doi: 10.1016/j.sder.2009.04.001.

Management of hyperpigmentation in darker racial ethnic groups.

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  • 1Vitiligo and Pigmentation Institute of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA.


Dyschromias, in particular hyperpigmentation, are major issues of concern for people of color. Pigmentary disorders such as melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) can cause psychological and emotional distress and can pose a negative impact on a person's health-related quality of life. The precise etiology of these conditions is unknown. Therapies for melasma and PIH target various points during the cycle of melanin production and degradation. Therapies for these conditions include topical agents and resurfacing procedures. Hydroquinone remains the gold standard of topical agents. Other efficacious agents include kojic acid, azelaic acid, mequinol, and retinoids. Cosmeceutical agents include licorice, arbutin, soy, N-acetyl glucosamine, and niacinamide. Resurfacing procedures that have been used to treat melasma and PIH include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, lasers, and intense pulsed light. These procedures are best used in combination with topical bleaching agents. Given the propensity of darker skin to hyperpigment, resurfacing procedures should be used with care and caution. Maximal results are best achieved with repetitive, superficial, resurfacing modalities. In addition, ultraviolet protective measures such as broad-spectrum sunscreens are fundamental to the successful management of these conditions.

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