Topical Liposomal Hydroquinone vs Conventional Treatments for Melasma: Which Is Better?

Liposomal hydroquinone has a significant therapeutic effect in patients with melisma but is not superior to conventional treatments.

The use of liposomal hydroquinone has a significant therapeutic effect in patients with melasma, but no superiority has been observed when compared with use of conventional hydroquinone, according to the results of a double-blind, randomized clinical trial conducted at Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Mashhad, Iran. Findings from the analysis were published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

The investigators sought to compare the therapeutic effects of 4% topical liposomal hydroquinone with the conventional form in patients with melasma, a common acquired hyperpigmentation disorder that is reported mainly among young women. A total of 20 women age ≥18 years were enrolled in the current analysis. Mean patient age was 36.5 ± 8.35 years (range, 20-50 years); all enrollees were women. Of the 20 participants, 35% (7 of 20) had Fitzpatrick skin type III and 65% (13 of 20) had Fitzpatrick skin type IV.

All participants applied a certain amount of topical liposomal hydroquinone on one side of their face and conventional hydroquinone on the other side of their face for 3 months. All data acquired from the study were recorded in a questionnaire and were evaluated using SPSS software, paired sample t test, and repeated measurement analysis of variance.

Skin pigmentation was assessed using the Melasma Area and Severity Index (MASI) at each visit separately for each side of the face every month through 1 month after the last treatment. MASI scores in both the case (liposomal hydroquinone) and control (conventional hydroquinone) groups were reduced significantly with the use of hydroquinone (P <.001); however, no significant differences were reported between the case and control groups at any time period studied (P >.22). The MASI scores from a second dermatologist did not reveal any significant difference prior to treatment or by the third month of treatment (P =.43)

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The investigators concluded that based on the results of this pilot study, use of liposomal hydroquinone is not superior to that of conventional hydroquinone in patients with melasma. Thus, the use of conventional hydroquinone can be considered in the treatment protocol for this disorder.


Taghavi F, Banihashemi M, Zabolinejad N, et al. Comparison of therapeutic effects of conventional and liposomal form of 4% topical hydroquinone in patients with melasma [published online August 13, 2018]. J Cosmet Dermatol. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12744