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Background: Periorbital skin hyperpigmentation, so-called dark circles, is of major concern for many people. However, only a few reports refer to the morbidity and treatment, and as far as the authors know, there are no reports of the condition in Asians.

Methods: A total of 18 Japanese patients underwent combined therapy using Q-switched ruby laser to eliminate dermal pigmentation following topical bleaching treatment with tretinoin aqueous gel and hydroquinone ointment performed initially (6 weeks) to reduce epidermal melanin. Both steps were repeated two to four times until physical clearance of the pigmentation was confirmed and patient satisfaction was achieved. Skin biopsy was performed at baseline in each patient and at the end of treatment in three patients, all with informed consent. Clinical and histologic appearances of periorbital hyperpigmentation were evaluated and rated as excellent, good, fair, poor, or default.

Results: Seven of 18 patients (38.9 percent) showed excellent clearing after treatment and eight (44.4 percent) were rated good. Only one (5.6 percent) was rated fair and none was rated poor. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation was observed in only two patients (11.1 percent). Histologic examination showed obvious epidermal hyperpigmentation in 10 specimens. Dermal pigmentation was observed in all specimens but was not considered to be melanocytosis. Remarkable reduction of dermal pigmentation was observed in the biopsy specimens of three patients after treatment.

Conclusion: The new treatment protocol combining Q-switched ruby laser and topical bleaching treatment using tretinoin and hydroquinone is considered effective for improvement of periorbital skin hyperpigmentation, with a low incidence of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.

(C)2008American Society of Plastic Surgeons