Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, 2013, 3, 4-7
Published Online November 2013 (
Open Access JCDSA
Effectiveness of a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen in the
Prevention of Melasma in Asian Pregnant Women*
Sophie Seité1#, Seok Beom Park2
1La Roche-Posay Pharmaceutical Laboratories, Asnières, France; 2Leaders Clinic, Seoul, Korea.
Received August 9th, 2013; revised September 7th, 2013; accepted September 15th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Sophie Seité, Seok Beom Park. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Chloasma, or melasma, is a commonly acquired pigmentary disorder among Asian women. It may be considered as a
physiological change during pregnancy. The incidence in Asian women is higher than that in other ethnic groups but
further epidemiologic data are needed. There are very few studies related to the benefits of sunscreens to prevent this
dermatosis. The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a broad-spectrum sunscreen in the prevention of
melasma in Korean pregnant women. We tested the effectiveness and tolerance of a sunscreen product (SPF 50+,
UVA-PF 30) during a 12-month clinical trial including 220 Korean parturients with skin type III and IV. 217 women
completed the study. Only 3 (1%) of the study population developed melasma, which was mild (MASI grade between
1.2 and 2.7). In addition, the clinical effectiveness of the evaluated sunscreen was judged “good to excellent” by the
majority of study participants and by the research dermatologists. The “excellent” tolerance of the sunscreen under
evaluation was confirmed “good” to “excellent” in 95% and 97% of cases. This study clearly demonstrates that this
broad-spectrum sunscreen is well tolerated and effective in the prevention of melasma in Korean pregnant women. Al-
though treatment remains elusive, prevention is possible.
Keywords: Broad-Spectrum; Sunscreen; Chloasma; Melasma; Pregnancy; Photoprotection; SPF; UVA-PF
1. Introduction
Melasma is a commonly acquired pigmentary disorder
among Asian women [1-4] and the associated psycho-
logical distress and altered quality of life [5,6] are of par-
ticular concern for most pregnant women. During preg-
nancy, melasma is not usually treated, aside from using
an effective sunscreen and avoiding photosensitizing
products or inappropriate skin care routines i.e. friction.
However, in the literature, there are very few studies re-
lated to the beneficial use of sunscreen to prevent this
dermatosis. Consequently, pregnant women with a high
risk of developing melasma (skin type IV to VI, with
family history or increased outdoor sun exposure) do not
use an effective and correctly applied photoprotection
during their pregnancy.
In 2007, a Moroccan study conducted with H. Lakhdar
et al. [7], demonstrated that the regular use of a broad-
spectrum sunscreen prevented the development of
melasma during pregnancy. During this study, 200 preg-
nant women applied a sunscreen with a Sun Protection
Factor (SPF) of 50+ and UVA-Protection Factor (UVA-
PF) evaluated with the persistent pigment darkening
method (PPD) of 28. At the end of the pregnancy, new
melasma occurrence was 2.7% as compared with 53%
previously noted by H. Lakhdar et al. in the general
population in 1999 [8]. Interestingly, during this study,
we also observed an improvement of pre-existing
melasma in 8 out of 12 women presenting with melasma
at the beginning of their pregnancy [7].
2. Materials and Methods
Two hundred and seventeen pregnant women were re-
cruited by the Leaders Clinic in collaboration with the
Kwak Gynecology clinic in Seoul which includes 12 gy-
necologists between October 2009 and July 2010. Each
participant’s skin type was classified based on the Fitz-
patrick’s classification of skin phototype [9] (Table 1)
*Conflict of interest statement: Sophie Seité is an employee of La Roche-
Posay Pharmaceutical Laboratories.
Funding: this study was supported by a grant from La Roche-Posay
Pharmaceutical Laboratories, France.
#Corresponding author.
Effectiveness of a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen in the Prevention of Melasma in Asian Pregnant Women 5
Table 1. Patients demographics.
Criteria N of patients (%) (N = 217)
Age* (years) 27.3 ± 1.6
Fitzpatrick skin type:
36 (17%)
181 (83%)
First pregnancy 182 (84%)
Number of children:
28 (82%)
6 (18%)
Single foetus 217 (100%)
Melanin index at the inclusion*
Forehead 180 ± 69
Chin 183 ± 36
Right malar 134 ± 35
Left malar 136 ± 36
Melanin index at the end
of pregnancy*
Forehead 177 ± 37
Chin 193 ± 34
Right malar 147 ± 28
Left malar 150 ± 27
*Data are mean ± SD.
although it is perhaps not really relevant to UV-sensitiv-
ity within the Korean population [10,11]. Throughout the
pregnancy, they applied once daily, a broad-spectrum
sunscreen (Anthelios XL, La Roche-Posay) with a SPF
50+ and a UVA-PF 30. Sunscreens and particularly
Anthelios XL have been already used in pregnancy to
treat or prevent melasma, and adverse events have not
been reported [7]. At the inclusion and at the end of the
pregnancy, several criteria were assessed including Mela-
nin Index, MASI on the Forehead, Chin, Right and Left
Malar of each subject. Melanin index was evaluated with
a Mexameter (Courage-Khazaka). The mean values of 3
measurements were used. The Melasma Area and Sever-
ity Index (MASI) is calculated by first ranking the sever-
ity of melasma in terms of its darkness, homogeneity of
appearance and the percentage area of the face affected
and then using the formula: MASI = 0.3(DF + HF)AF +
0.3(DMR + HMR)AMR + 0.3(DML + HML)AML +
0.1(DC + HC)AC. Darkness is ranked from 0 to 4, ho-
mogeneity from 0 to 4, area from 0 to 6 and total MASI
from 0 to 48 [12,13].
Standardized photographs were also taken. Further-
more, during the pregnancy, one to 4 phone calls were
made in order to ensure sunscreen use. During the last
visit, tolerance and efficacy of the sunscreen were evalu-
ated by both the investigator and patient. The weight of
product used was recorded.
3. Results
The baseline characteristics of the 217 pregnant women
included in this study are shown in Table 1. Only 26% of
women had had a previous pregnancy but none presented
melasma at the inclusion visit. Average Melanin Index
obtained on non-pigmented area of the Forehead, Chin,
Right and Left Malar of each subject at the inclusion and
at the end of the pregnancy is also noted in Table 1.
We noticed that all the participants, like most Asian
women, used their hands for facial cleansing and have a
complex, perhaps aggressive cleansing and skincare rou-
tine (Table 2). Interestingly, most of them usually use
daily photoprotection, 87% compared to less than 15% in
a European country (France) for example. Korean
women are fairly sensitive about their appearance, espe-
cially fair skin and cosmetic use, and are accustomed to
using sunscreen.
As previously reported in the Moroccan study [7], tol-
erance of the sunscreen was judged “good” to “excellent”
in 95% and 97% of cases and its effectiveness “good” to
“excellent” in 92% and 95% of cases by the women and
the dermatologist respectively. Each parturient received 4
tubes of 50 ml of sunscreen for the study, and used in
average 3 tubes (170 ± 32 g) during the study i.e. 30 g of
product per month of pregnancy.
Nevertheless, only 3 women out of 217 developed
Melasma, which corresponded to 1% of the study popu-
lation compared to 2.7% we saw in the Moroccan study
[7], this confirms the efficacy of the photoprotection use
during this study. These 3 women developed a Malar
melasma of very mild severity i.e. with a MASI between
1.2 and 2.7 (Table 3). This low severity was confirmed
by the difference of Melanin Index measured on a
non-pigmented and a pigmented area of the left and right
malar zone of these 3 women at the end of pregnancy
(Table 3). It is important to note that no adverse effect
was reported for these 3 women who judged the toler-
ance of the sunscreen product “good” and used the same
amount of product as the other women (Table 3).
4. Discussion
Pregnancy is a period of hormonal change that encour-
ages chloasma appearance [8]. Because this hyperpig-
mentation is aggravated by sun exposure [14], during
pregnancy, it is necessary to prescribe external sunscreen
and also provide advice on the sunlight avoidance, heat,
irritation of facial skin by rubbing or scrubbing, using
photosensitising products, etc.
The effectiveness of the sunscreen preparation evalu-
ated during this study was based on the fact that after the
pregnancy (8th or 9th month), only 3 cases of very mild
Open Access JCDSA
Effectiveness of a Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen in the Prevention of Melasma in Asian Pregnant Women
Table 2. Facial cleansing and skincare routine.
Products N of patients (%) (N = 217)
Make-up remover 9 (4%)
Cleansing product
(foaming cream, gel, bar soap…) 215 (99%)
Lotion or cosmetic water 216 (100%)
Essence/serum 207 (96%)
Milky lotion or fluid 215 (99%)
Cream (without photoprotection) 208 (96%)
Usual daily photoprotection 189 (87%)
Table 3. Characteristics of the 3 affected women.
No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
MASI 2.1 2.7 1.2
MASI forehead 0 0 0
MASI chin 0 0 0
MASI right malar 0.9 1.8 0.6
MASI left malar 1.2 0.9 0.6
Melanin index
Non-pigmented right malar 149 145 129
Pigmented right malar 155 176 144
%* +4% +21% +11%
Non-pigmented left malar 133 151 132
Pigmented left malar 178 154 175
%* +34% +2% +32%
Quantity of products used (g) 205 165 155
%* = (pigmented area value non-pigmented area value)/non-pigmented
area value × 100.
grade melasma were noted out of the 217 parturients who
completed the study, corresponding to 1%. This occur-
rence is much lower than the 2.7% we saw in the Mo-
roccan study [7] or than that in usual conditions in the
same geographical area [4]. Even if there are no pub-
lished data on prevalence melasma in Korea, according
to data obtained in 2001 (unpublished data) dealing with
normal Korean female population, the prevalence rate of
the perinatal and premenopausal women with melasma
showed 38% and 23% respectively.
Nevertheless, this study was not a comparative study
and it is important to note that it was limited by the lack
of a control group without sunscreen usage.
The Statistical Yearbook of Korean National Survey in
2010 says that the average age of women giving their
first baby is 30.1 years. In this study, the average age of
group was younger (27 years) and more than 80% are
women having their first baby. These young pregnant
women may have a lower risk of developing melasma.
Furthermore, the gestation stage of study group is usually
earlier than late stage. The later the gestation stage is, the
more melasma cases would be recruited. All these may
explain the very low occurrence rate noticed in this
Nevertheless, we would advise dermatologists and
gynecologists as well as general practitioners to recom-
mend a safe and effective broad-spectrum sunscreen,
associated with an appropriate skincare routine as part of
their pregnancy follow-up. This would avoid difficult
post-pregnancy treatment of melasma. The safety and
high-grade cosmetic properties of the sunscreen product
adapted to the Asian skincare routine to improve pa-
tients’ compliance are also important.
5. Acknowledgements
We thank Amy Whereat who provided editorial support,
Martine Fortuné, Guénaëlle Le Dantec and Bernard Gab-
ard for their administrative support and Stéphanie Ragot
for the statistical analysis. The Leaders Clinic Derma-
tologists and the Kwak Gynecology clinic team are also
gratefully acknowledged.
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