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White Patches and Spots of Skin That Won't Tan? Tinea Versicolor can be Treated Easily with Home Remedies.

Updated on January 10, 2017

Pale patches on the arms and back

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Patches of Light or Dark Skin That Will Not Tan - What is it?

If you have white or brown patches on your back, shoulders, neck or upper arms, you might have pityriasis versicolor also known as tinea versicolor. These small imperfections can sometimes also be a little itchy, and can be slightly raised, bumpy or flaky, but not always. These spots cannot tan like the rest of your body when using a sun bed or sunbathing outdoors, and are sometimes called sun spots.

These patches are caused by a commonly found yeast which is also related to dandruff on the head. You can get them without seeing any dandruff on your head, but the yeast is the same family and the pattern of the patches looks as if the flakes have fallen from the hair downwards. In some people, often in their teens or early twenties, this yeast multiplies for unknown reasons and causes a small problem on the skin. The skin pigmentation is altered and creates lighter or darker spots. It is not painful but it can be annoying and if left untreated the patches can get bigger and even join together. People are often embarrassed by the change in skin tone, or they are unhappy with the way it looks when wearing vest tops or strapless dresses. It may be something you want to get rid of before wearing a wedding dress for example.

Men and women who tan frequently tend to notice this more as they get an uneven colour. In some other cases, the patches really tan a lot and make much browner areas which looks like coffee stains. The darker the overall tan develops on a person, the more the difference can be noticed. This isn't something you catch from a sun bed, as is sometimes suggested. The reason people think that you can catch it from a tanning bed is because they see it for the first time after a couple of tanning sessions. But it was there all along on the skin, multiplying by itself.


Sun Spots on Skin - How to Treat

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Getting Rid of White Patches Caused by Tinea Versicolor

As tinea versicolor is caused by a common fungus, it is easily and simply treated at home. There are special applications available, but using inexpensive and easy-to-get-hold-of ingredients are just as effective.

1. Using a dandruff shampoo which contains selenium sulphide is straight forward and easy to do. These shampoos are available in the UK and USA in regular chemists, pharmacies and drug stores. The most-often used make is Selsun. Rub some neat shampoo onto dry, affected skin, using it like a lotion. Leave it on for about 10 minutes, and then shower it all off. This might sting some sensitive skin, so try diluting it a little bit if this happens to you. Also wash your hair with it according to the instructions to get rid of the yeast on your scalp. It will take a week or two to go, but it shouldn't take long. If you have tanned before treating this yeast, you will now need tan again to even up the colour, but the patches should now fade to match the rest of your body. Please do this sensibly and slowly so you do not burn!

Use Tea Tree Oil to Get Rid of Tinea Versicolor

2. Tea tree oil is a natural oil from Australia that is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-biotic. These tiny bottles pack some great alternative oil that is handy for treating and curing a huge range of ailments. I have a bottle with me at all times, it gets rid of jock itch, athlete's foot, spots, mosquitos, infected cuts and sores.

Using tea tree oil to get rid of discoloured patches on your back, upper arms and shoulders is straightforward. Mix a small amount of virgin olive oil or coconut oil with five drops of tea tree oil and massage it into the skin. That is it. After a week or two the yeast will be greatly reduced and the skin will be better. You may have to periodically re-treat the area if you are susceptible to this condition, but you will be able to keep down to only a very small patch.


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Treat Light Patches of Skin with Garlic and Yogurt

3. Garlic is an excellent, natural anti-fungal agent, if you don't mind the smell. You must use fresh, raw garlic for this to be effective, but this is very easy to get hold of and really cheap to buy. Peel and then crush a couple of garlic cloves in the usual way and apply it to the skin to get rid of the yeast causing the problem.

Natural, unsweetened live yogurt can also help cure most yeast conditions. Simple apply it to dry skin and leave it for a long as possible, preferably over night, before rinsing away.

Combining the two, garlic and yogurt, will be an excellent treatment.

Light patches of skin are not always caused by fungus

There are other conditions which cause a similar lack of pigmentation. These, however cannot be treated using anti-fungal medicines. Vitiligo, for example, is not a fungus but looks similar to tinea versicolor, it tends to occur on the hands, face and elbows and the skin is a natural skin texture, but is very pale in colour. It cannot be treated using these home remedies, unfortunately.


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    • Susan Hambidge profile image
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      Susan Hambidge 2 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      I'm sorry to hear this Kris, however if meds help you then there is some relief for you. My daughter suffers from this but the Selsun works well for her, she just dislikes the smell so only applies it when it gets bad or she wants to look good for a particular occasion. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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      Kris 2 months ago

      Several generations of my family have this. OTC's do not work for us. We have to use oral meds from dermatologist. The fungus makes the skin irritated also. Not pleasant. Starts at young age. Crazy stuff.

    • Susan Hambidge profile image
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      Susan Hambidge 11 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      Hi Darien, Thanks for reading. It is common for people to think it is the sun or tanning beds, and I guess it could be that for some, but the Selsun usually works after a few applications if it is in fact the yeast. I am fascinated by the number of things over-active yeast can do to different people, it seems a strange thing our bodies do to themselves!!

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      Darien 11 months ago

      I always thought it was literally caused by the sun! I've had them on my back and shoulders all through out middle school and high school and since I live in Florida and am outdoors often, I just put two and two together. It went away for a couple months recently so I thought but came back after a weekend on the water. Definite to trying the selsun blue! Thanks

    • Susan Hambidge profile image
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      Susan Hambidge 23 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      Thank your Flourish. I first became aware of it when tanning on bed (I go at the beginning of summer to get a base tan in a controlled way to prevent burning outside). Many tanners blame the tanning beds themselves because they only see it when they get darker, but it is a good ole natural fungus!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

      I've never heard of this but have seen photos. Didn't know of the fungal connection. Thanks for the information. You never know when it will come in handy. I'm a fan a tea tree oil.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 23 months ago from SW England

      Thanks for the extra info, Susan.

    • Susan Hambidge profile image
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      Susan Hambidge 23 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      Thanks Ann, I love tea tree oil - it helps with so many things on humans and animals, and once you have a bottle you can try it without it costing anything (as long as you aren't sensitive to it! - but you can dilute it in aloe vera, coconut oil, E45 cream or olive oil as you wish).

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 23 months ago from SW England

      Interesting. I have some dark patches which are dry and sometimes scratch away so I'll try the tea tree oil and see what happens. Thanks.