December 11, 2021 What Is Cysteamine And How Can It Treat Melasma?
If you have been researching solutions to address your melasma concerns, you may have heard about cysteamine. Why use cysteamine for melasma? Are there any side effects? Keep reading to learn whether or not cysteamine cream treatments for melasma are right for you.
What is cysteamine and how does it work?
Cysteamine is a lightening agent used to treat melasma, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, or lentigines. The dark spots and brown patches resulting from these conditions can be persistent and difficult to treat.
Cysteamine hydrochloride works by preventing the production of melanin, a biological pigment. It achieves this by inhibiting the production of enzymes necessary to make melanin, like tyrosinase and peroxidase. It may also reduce melanin production through scavenging of dopaquinone- interfering in the cellular reactions that normally produce melanin.
Cysteamine for melasma is believed to help treat or remove iron and copper ions that may contribute to melasma symptoms. It may also boost glutathione within cells, a naturally-occurring antioxidant that is also being studied as a treatment for melasma (Sonthalia).
Topical creams containing cysteamine hydrochloride are applied directly to melasma-affected skin. The cream is generally left on for approximately 15 minutes and then gently washed off. Experts also recommend that you use a moisturizer after treatments to help prevent skin irritation.
Why use cysteamine for melasma?
Multiple studies have revealed the benefits of using cysteamine cream to treat melasma. One trial involving 40 patients revealed substantial improvement in melasma as compared to subjects using a placebo (Grimes).
Another study had 50 patients use a 5% melasma cream over a 16-week period. Participants applied the cream once a day at bedtime during the four-month study. Patients who used the medicated cream had much lower Melasma Area Severity Index (MASI) scores than those using a placebo (Mansouri).
Unlike formulas containing hydroquinone or higher-concentration retinols, you do not need a prescription to use cysteamine hydrochloride to address your melasma concerns. Improvement may be visible in as little as 6 weeks, with optimal results typically being reached in 8-12 weeks. Once the desired results are achieved, cysteamine can become part of your skincare routine twice a week to prevent dark spots or brown patches from returning.
Cysteamine cream can also help prevent recurring melasma symptoms, as it is well-suited for long term use. Unlike some other melasma treatments, cysteamine hydrochloride creams are not affected by intensity of sunlight. (Note that while cysteamine does not make skin more sensitive to sunlight, proactively protecting your skin from the sun can improve melasma symptoms overall.)
Are there any side effects when using cysteamine for melasma?
Cysteamine is generally considered a safe treatment for melasma with few contraindications or side effects. Typical side effects include burning sensations and redness in the application area, which usually subsides within a half-hour of use. Skin at the area of application can become dry or irritated, which can be addressed with a moisturizer.
For most people, cysteamine is safe enough to use both as a treatment for dark spots, as well as a regular part of your skincare routine as a prevention measure. However, those with a personal or family history of vitiligo, a depigmenting disorder, should not use cysteamine. There also has not been sufficient research to determine the effect of cysteamine on pregnancy or breast-feeding, so it should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Our Dermatologist worked closely with Musely and found The Spot Cream to be the best treatment on the market
Cyspera – A Cysteamine Treatment For Melasma From ClearifiRx
Cyspera is a pigment corrector, the first and only topical cream containing cysteamine hydrochloride (HCI). This cream not only improves the appearance of dark spots, it also minimizes the recurrence of skin discoloration over time. Our formula is designed to effectively treat stubborn brown patches while being gentle on your skin. Cyspera is a simple, easy addition to your existing skincare routine that you can apply once a day for 15 minutes to address your melasma concerns.
ClearifiRx only carries products our own dermatologists use with their own families to reflect our dedication to safe and accessible skincare. We offer a wide variety of prescription and non-prescription products, including a moisturizer that can treat and prevent dry skin while using Cyspera. If you are looking for a non-prescription solution to brown patches or dark spots, consider adding Cyspera to your skincare routine.
- Grimes PE, Ijaz S, Nashawati R, Kwak D. New oral and topical approaches for the treatment of melasma. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2018;5(1):30-36. Published 2018 Nov 20. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2018.09.004
- Mansouri P, Farshi S, Hashemi Z, Kasraee B. Evaluation of the efficacy of cysteamine 5% cream in the treatment of epidermal melasma: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2015 Jul;173(1):209-17. doi: 10.1111/bjd.13424. Epub 2015 May 29. PMID: 25251767.
- Sonthalia S, Jha AK, Lallas A, Jain G, Jakhar D. Glutathione for skin lightening: a regnant myth or evidence-based verity? Dermatol Pract Concept. 2018;8(1):15-21. Published 2018 Jan 31. doi:10.5826/dpc.0801a04
About the author
Brandon Kirsch, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in clinical drug development and medical innovation. He is the founder of Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida and is also the Chief of Dermatology at the ...