White Patches on Skin

White patches on your skin are an unsightly condition and possibly embarrassing. While there is normally no reason to be concerned about them, you may want to understand what causes them and treatment options. In most cases, white patches can be due to tinea versicolor, psoriasis, vitiligo and eczema. Let’s take a look at each cause individually and then go over some common treatment options for each condition.

Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor (pityriasis versicolor) are small discolorations on the skin that is actually caused by a fungal infection. They usually appear either darker or lighter in color than regular skin tone. The shoulders and trunk of the body are most commonly affected. It is common in younger adults and teenagers, but can happen to anyone at any time.


Tinea versicolor appears as a fine flat rash on the skin and may have the following characteristics:

  • image001Pink, dark brown, white or tan discolorations
  • Mild itching, scaly and slow growth
  • Sun exposure increases the appearance of the rash
  • Most frequently seen on the neck, back, upper arms and chest


A mild case of tinea versicolor can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal cream, shampoo or ointment. Use these anti-fungals one to two times daily for two weeks. If the symptoms do not improve or worsen in four weeks, consult your physician for further advice and treatment, for some infections require stronger prescription medicines.

  • Recommended active ingredients are selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue shampoo), terbinafine (Lamisil cream), miconazole (Monistat), and clotrimazole (Lotrimin or Mycelex).
  • To use these products, you need to first make sure you wash and dry the area thoroughly. Fungal infections like warm moist areas and leaving excess moisture on the skin can worsen the infection. After you dry, place a thin layer of cream to the rash.
  • If you choose to use Selenium Sulfide shampoo, apply it to your skin in the shower and leave on for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.


Psoriasis is a condition of the skin that makes skin cells die off and regenerate too fast, which causes too many skin cells to remain on the skin. It appears as thickened silver scales or like light dandruff. You may notice patches of redness over small areas or over a large portion of the body.


The signs and symptoms of psoriasis are different for everyone, but here are the most common symptoms:

  • image002Silver, scaly red patches of skin
  • Scaly small spots most common in kids
  • Cracked and dry skin with possible bleeding
  • Burning sensation, soreness and itchiness
  • Joint pain with stiffness
  • Nail pitting, ridges and thickening


While there isn’t a cure for psoriasis there are some home treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms. The aim of treatments is to calm and stall the rapid production of skin cells as well as focus on the reduction of inflammation, formation of plaque and scale removal to make the skin smother.

  • The skin should be washed daily and moisturized with a good moisturizer. When sleeping, cover moist skin with occlusive dressings or plastic wrap. Fish oils and aloe vera can help to reduce scaling of the lesions and relieve the intense itching.
  • Daily exposure to small bits of sunlight can help to reduce lesions. But remember to avoid things like smoking, stress, injuries to the skin, too much sun and alcohol which can all increase the psoriasis lesions.
  • If you are unable to control the symptoms with home remedies you may have to see a physician for prescription medications that include corticoid steroid creams, coal tar, vitamin D, retinoids, salicylic acid, anthralin and calcineurin inhibitors.


Vitiligo can be an unsightly and embarrassing condition that causes white patches on the skin from the loss of melanin. Melanin is the actual substance in the body that gives your hair, eyes and skin their color. Vitiligo can occur on any part of the body, but the first losses of melanin most often occur where there has been sun exposure including the face, lips, feet, hands and arms.


Vitiligo most often starts between the ages of 10 to 30, but can manifest itself anytime in life. Here are the symptoms of Vitiligo:

  • image003White and milky patches of lost pigment on the skin
  • Diminished or changed color of the retina in the eye
  • Diminished coloration of the mucous membranes inside the mouth
  • Early graying of hair to the following areas beard, eyebrows, eyelashes and scalp hair


Vitiligo is an incurable condition. Treatments are aimed at slowing or stopping the advancement of ay pigment loss and possibly obtaining some of the color back in the affected areas of the skin. If you suffer from vitiligo, you can use a few home care techniques to help protect your skin.

  • Remember to use sunscreen especially if your skin is fair. Aim for an SPF of 30 with protection against both UVB and UVA sun rays as these are very harmful to the skin. Invest in a good quality cosmetic concealer to help reduce the look of the white patches and increase your self esteem. This is very helpful if others can see your vitiligo.
  • If your patches are over a large area and worsening, you night need to consult a physician for medical care. Physicians can prescribe treatments such as corticosteroids that are directly applied to the skin, psoralen with ultraviolet A, immunomodulators.
  • Excimer laser can be to reduce the white patches, do skin grafting, tattooing, autologus skin grafting, and depigmentation to help relieve the symptoms of vitiligo.


Eczema is a skin condition characterized by inflammation and itching. The patches usually occur all over the body and most often the chest, face, front bend of the elbow, back of the knees, ankles, feet, hands, wrists, and the neck. Some of the associated factors include hay fever and asthma.


Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, includes the following symptoms:

  • image004Severe itching, more so during the nighttime hours
  • Raised small bumps that leak and crust over
  • Patches of Grey, brown, red patches
  • Patches of sensitive and raw skin
  • Cracked, thick skin that becomes scaly looking


When treating eczema, it is important to focus on relieving itchy skin, lowering inflammation and the prevention of flare-ups in the future. If you have mild eczema, home care treatments can help keep the symptoms controlled.

  • Try not to scratch the patches as this will only increase the irritation to the skin. It is also important to find what triggers the eczema and try to avoid them. Place cold moist compresses to the areas as needed. If itching is severe, try using an over-the-counter itch relief cream or calamine lotion.
  • You can also try warm, but not hot baths. Hot water will dry the skin out. To your bath water, add some colloidal oatmeal or oatmeal that has not been cooked. Colloidal oatmeal is ground finer into a powder and tends to work better than large flakes. Other things you can add to the bath is baking soda or ½ of bleach. When using bleach, make sure the tub is filled all the way to the drain holes. After you bathe, do not dry the skin and rub a moisturizing oil or lotion to help moisture stay in the skin. Dress yourself in oft cotton clothing that is light and cooling.
  • If the condition is severe or persistent, you may need to see a physician for prescription steroid creams, antibiotic treatment or moist dressings containing astringents.
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