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Acupuncture for melasma in women: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials
  1. Qianyun Chai1,
  2. Yutong Fei1,
  3. Huijuan Cao1,
  4. Congcong Wang1,
  5. Jinzhou Tian2,
  6. Jianping Liu1
  1. 1Centre for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China
  2. 2The 3rd Department of Neurology, Dongzhimen Hospital, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yutong Fei, Centre for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, 11 East Third Ring Road, Beijing 100029, China; yutong_fei{at}


Background Melasma is a common facial skin disorder seen in women. Manual acupuncture (MA) is widely used alone or in combination with conventional treatments for melasma in China.

Objectives To assess the effectiveness and safety of MA for melasma, and explore the range of treatments applied.

Methods Six databases were searched systematically for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on acupuncture for melasma in women up to November 2014. RevMan software was used for data analysis. The Cochrane tool of Risk of Bias was used to assess the methodological quality of the RCTs.

Results Eight RCTs involving 587 women were included. Seven studies used the encircling needling method, four studies used the quick needling method and four studies used intensive needle manipulations. Five studies provided individualised acupuncture treatments. Points used with highest frequency were SP6, ST36 and SP10. MA was compared with oral tranexamic acid, vitamin C and E, vitamin C and tamoxifen, topical 20% azelaic acid, hydroquinone, vitamin A and no treatment. Studies were too heterogeneous to conduct a meta-analysis. For global outcome measures, seven trials showed that MA groups were significantly better than the conventional treatments either with a better cure rate or with a better combined cure rate and markedly effective rate, and one trial did not (MA vs vitamin A). No acupuncture-related adverse events were reported.

Conclusions MA appeared to be beneficial and safe for women with melasma, but insufficient evidence was found to reach conclusions. The encircling needling method, the quick needling method, intensive needle manipulations and individualised points’ selection were widely used. Well-designed trials are required.

Trial registration number PROSPERO Systematic review registration: CRD42013006396.


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