Causes and Treatment of White Skin Spots

" White skin spots are irregular patches marked by lack of color or pigmentation, which can appear in different parts of the body. Skin damage can cause an interruption in the production of melanin, the skin pigment produced by specialized cells in the skin called melanocytes, resulting in white spots on the skin. See the treatment section at the bottom of this page for Dermatologist administered and home treatment options."  


White skin spots are common but they can be distressing, especially for people who value their personal appearance or for those who are concerned about skin health. One of the most common causes of these discolorations is vitiligo, an autoimmune condition characterized by loss of brown pigment from some areas of skin, leading to irregular patches that look white but feel like normal skin. This skin condition affects about one out of a hundred people in the US and may affect people at any age.
Vitiligo is an Autoimmune Skin Condition that Causes White Skin Spots
Source: Meisenheimer Clinic

Another common skin condition that causes white skin spots is Pityriasis alba, which usually affects children and adolescents. The cause is unknown, but it is associated with eczema, a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy, scaly, white patches of skin. It is also seen in people that suffer from allergies or asthma.

face spots pityriasis alba

White Spots on Skin Caused by Pityriasis Alba is of Unknown Cause
Source: Meisenheimer Clinic

Skin infection caused by a type of fungus called Pityrosporumovaleor Malassezia furfur leads to a chronic condition called tinea versicolor. This leads to the appearance of reddish-tan discoloration and white skin spots. This skin condition is common among adolescent boys and young men and occurs in hot climates.

white spots tinea versicolor
Tinea Versicolor is a Fungal Skin Infection that Results in Red or White Skin Spots
Source: Meisenheimer Clinic

Other conditions that can lead to white skin patches are nevus depigmentosus, idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis, and halo moles.


White skin spots may be diagnosed by most doctors according to their clinical presentation. Laboratory work-up may consist of blood tests, skin scraping, skin biopsy, and by using Wood's (ultraviolet) light.


White skin spots caused by vitiligo are often seen in the face, elbows, knees, hands, feet, and genitals. The edges of the spots are well defined but irregular and may have dark borders.

White spots due to Pityriasis alba appear round or oval and may be seen on the face, neck, upper arms, and upper part of the body. The condition usually starts as red or pinkish blotches, which appear on a child or teenager. The color eventually dissipates and is replaced by white patches that are flaky, scaly and sometimes itchy.

Tinea versicolor patches have sharp edges and fine scales, which are found on the neck, back, chest, underarms, and upper arms. Other symptoms include itching and increased sweating.


White skin spots are not easy to treat because they usually persist for a long time. If caused by fungal infection, they may be treated by applying antifungal medicines such as ketoconazole, clotrimazole, and miconazole directly to the skin.Dandruff shampoos may also be applied to the skin for ten minutes daily as another treatment option. Other medications that may be applied topically include corticosteroid creams or ointments and immunosuppressant creams or ointments.

Other skin conditions that lead to white skin spots may be treated with phototherapy, a procedure where the skin is exposed to ultraviolet light by a dermatologist.

Home Treatment for White Skin Spots by Condition

Vitiligo Treatment: Dermatologist applied treatments such as Vitiligo laser treatment may or may not be effective. The condition can also go away on its own without treatment. There are several Vitiligo treatment options available:

  • Cosmetic Skin Cover: For some people, the best approach is the use of a cosmetic that covers the condition. Self tanners such as Idol Tan (free trial bottle)or a skin cover such as Dermablend.
  • Topical Corticosteroid: A prescription topical tends to work better for individuals with darker skin color. They work better on white face spots than on other parts of the body. Ask your Dermatologist about side effects from long term use such as thinning of the skin (a condition called skin atrophy).
  • Vitiligo Laser Treatment: Light box or laser treatment helps to re-pigment the skin. The treatment helps in 70% of patients. If treatments are discontinued, the white spots return in 44% of patients. After 4 years of laser vitiligo laser treatment, 86% of patients can no longer restore some pigment with treatment.
  • PUVA Light Treatment: The use of PUVA light vorvitiligo is combined with a medication called psoralen. PUVA light is 50% to 75% effective on the upper legs, upper arms, torso and face. There are side effects, particularly on the eyes (psorlen affects the eyes) requiring monitoring by a physician.
  • Supplements: The over the counter Ginkgo biloba has shown some success in restoring skin color. More research is being done on this approach.

Pityriasis Alba Treatment: Most people under age 30 with Pityriasis Alba will see the condition clear on its own with no treatment. There are treatment options available in the Dermatologist office, although they are not effective on all people. Home Pityriasis Treatment for white skin spots involves addressing discomfort associated with symptoms such as:

Tinea Versicolor Treatment: If the Tinea Versicolor is all over the body, a Doctor will prescribe anti-fungal prescription medications. For localized smaller cases, products that contain pyrithione zinc, selenium sulfide or ketoconazole can be effective. Shampoos that contain selenium sulfide can also help.

Another choice is plant abstract formulations such as Naturasil Tinea Versicolor can assist in eliminating Tinea Versicolor can penetrate the skin and help eliminate the fungus from the skin surface. After eliminating the infection, the continued use of medicated soap may help keep the fungal skin infection from returning.

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References for Red Spots on Skin:

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.Vitiligo. Pityriasisalba, Tinea versicolor.PubMed Health.

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