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Tinea Versicolor

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

What is Tinea Versicolor?

This is a common chronic fungal infection that affects the skin. It is also referred to as pityriasis versicolor, tinea flava, and dermatoymcosis furfuracea. This medical condition was first identified in 1846 and comes from the Latin word versare, which means to turn color. Tinea versicolor is more predominately found around the trunk area of your body but it can also be found in the underarm area, neck, back, lower legs, and upper arm.

Between two and eight percent of the population of the United States has tinea versicolor. Anyone of any skin color, age, or gender can get tinea versicolor, but commonly it is a disease that affects young male adults and male adolescents. This is especially true if they live in a climate that is humid and warm like a tropical area or they sweat a lot, which is why it may recur every summer. It is rare to see it in to see it in children or older adults unless they live in a subtropical or tropical area.

Tinea Versicolor Symptoms

  • The spots on the skin can be either oval shaped or have an irregular shape and range in diameter from point zero six to two point five centimeters.
  • There is a fine scaling of your skin with the fine-scale being ash-like.
  • They range in colors from pale, pink, and dark tan with a reddish undertone. In a warm or humid environment the reddish undertone will darken but in the sun they will not darken so on healthy skin they may appear lighter than the skin surround it. The yeast that is causing tinea versicolor keeps your skin from tanning.
  • The rashes will not be on your face.
  • Sweating that increases.
  • As the yeast continues to grow the spots may combine and form patches that can be darker or lighter skin.
  • Mild itching
  • It is slow growing.
  • Sometimes if your temperature is elevated because of being in a warm/hot environment or after exercising you may get severe itching that feels like pin pricks.

On African Americans they could have a lost of hypopigmentation, which is loss of skin color. They may also see hyperpigmentation, which is an increase in their skin color. Sometimes when the temperature drops and it is not so humid the spots might disappear but come back with it gets warmer and more humid.

Tinea Versicolor Causes

Tinea versicolor is caused by the yeast called malassezia furfur, which is commonly found on your skin and only seems to cause a problem when there is an over abundance of fungus. There are many different factors that can cause the fungus to overgrowth which can include:

  • Weather that is hot and humid
  • Sweating excessively
  • Skin that is oily
  • Hormonal changes
  • Your immune system is weakened

Tinea Versicolor Treatment

In order to treat tinea versicolor you should visit a dermatologist unless you have a mild case which you may be able to treat at home. If you opt to treat it at home if you do not see any improvement in four weeks you need to see a dermatologist. Usually the dermatologist can tell if you have tinea versicolor or not just by looking at the area(s) on your skin.

If there is any doubt they will either look at the skin under a Wood’s Lamp which is a special device that will make the skin appear a yellowish green color if it is tinea versicolor or the dermatologist can scrape off some of the skin and have it examined under the microscope.

Once a positive diagnosis has been made, it can be treated in various ways depending on where it is on the body, how thick the spots are, the climate, and how much of your skin is affected. Some of the treatments used can be:

Applying Medicine

Applying a medicine to your skin, which is the most common method of treatment used. This medicine can include anti-fungal soaps, lotions, shampoos, and creams that will help to keep the yeast under control and help prevent it from overgrowing. The active ingredients in these types of medicines that do this often are pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide, or ketoconazole.

When you are using an anti-fungal shampoo leave it on your scalp at least five to ten minutes before rinsing it out. With the cream it should be done for at least fourteen days, one or two times a day and apply only a thin layer. Before doing this you should make sure that you wash and pat dry the area that is affected.


Using medicated cleanser because this fungal infection will often return, especially if you live in a humid warm climate or sweat excessively. When you use a medicated cleanser you need to make sure that you are using it at least once, preferably twice, a month. This is especially important when it is humid and warm. This method is also another way to keep the yeast from becoming overgrown again.

Anti-fungal Medication

Taking anti-fungal medication in the form of pills if it covers a big area of your body, it comes back often even after treatment, or it is thick. These pills are normally taken for a short period of time and they can cause some side-effects that are unwanted. If your dermatologist prescribes anti-fungal pills they will be monitoring you while you are taking them.

If you use one or a combination of the above treatments the overgrown yeast that causes tinea versicolor is easy to kill. Unfortunately, your skin may stay darker or lighter for weeks, maybe even months, after it is treated. Eventually your skin will return back to its natural skin tone. In order to make sure that when it returns to normal and your skin tone is not uneven you should protect your skin from the sun, especially the area where the fungal infection was. You should not try to tan, either naturally or in a tanning bed either.

Is Tinea Versicolor Contagious?

The answer to that question is no, you cannot give tinea versicolor to anyone else nor can you get it from anyone else. It is a fungal infection due to an overgrowth of yeast on your skin.

Tinea Versicolor Pictures

Photos, Images and Pictures of Tinea Versicolor…

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