Tinea versicolor is a rash caused by a fungus in the top layers of the skin. This fungus is normally present in the pores of the skin and causes no symptoms. But when the fungus overgrows, it causes a rash. The fungus grows more easily in hot climates, and on oily or sweaty skin. Health experts don’t know why some people get this rash and others don’t. Experts also don’t know why the rash will suddenly appear in someone who has never had it before.
The rash is made up of irregular pale or tan spots and patches. The rash is usually on the neck, upper back, chest, and shoulders. You may have mild itching, especially if you become overheated. But it doesn't usually cause other symptoms. Because these spots don't change color with sun exposure like normal skin, the rash may be lighter or darker than your normal skin.
This rash isn't a serious problem. But it often causes mild itching and dry skin scaling. The main reason for treatment is to improve appearance. Follow the suggestions below to clear the rash. It might take a few months for normal skin color to return.
Use a special medicated shampoo over your whole body while in the shower. Over-the-counter dandruff shampoos containing selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, or ketoconazole are a good place to start. Don’t use regular soap. Let the shampoo stay on for about 10 minutes before rinsing off. Do this every day for one week.
As a different treatment, you may buy an antifungal cream (miconazole or clotrimazole, both available without a prescription). Use this daily for 2 weeks.
This rash is not contagious to others. It can’t be spread if someone touches it. So you don’t have to worry about exposing others at school, daycare, or work.
Your healthcare provider may also prescribe oral antifungal medicines to help stop the rash.
This fungus can come back again (recur) after treatment. To prevent return of the rash, use medicated dandruff shampoo over your whole body when in the shower. Do this once a month for the next year. This is very important to do in the summertime. That is when the rash is most likely to recur.
Other prevention tips include:
Don't use oily skin products.
Wear loose clothing. Try to let your skin stay cool and breathe.
Use sunscreen and protect yourself from sunlight.
Don't use tanning beds.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. Call your provider if the rash doesn’t get better with the above treatment, or if new symptoms appear.
When to get medical care
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
Increasing redness of the rash
Change in appearance of the rash
Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as advised by your provider