White Patches On A Baby’s Cheeks Could Be Pityriasis Alba

Pityriasis alba spots are completely benign, similar to a mild form of eczema. They are most common in children with dry skin.

Question

I have a question about my 14-month-old. He is African American and has light blotches on his cheeks. After looking in a few books, it seems that he may have pityriasis alba. Is there anything I can do? I notice that when he wakes up the blotches are red. For now I just apply a few coats of Aquaphor to the area.

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

I bet your 14-month-old is adorable. White patches on the face at that age are quite common. Sounds like you’ve done your homework about them!

Pityriasis alba (which is Latin for white, scaly patches), is the most common cause. Children develop uneven round or oval patches, especially after sun exposure. The patches are dry with very fine scales. They are most common on the face (cheeks), neck, upper trunk, and upper arms of children 3 to 16 years old.

These are completely benign, similar to a mild form of eczema. They are most common in children with dry skin. The involved patches don’t darken with sun exposure the way the surrounding skin does. Treatment involves daily lubrication with a good moisturizer such as Aquaphor, especially whenever the skin gets wet. Sometimes mild topical steroid creams help (1% hydrocortisone).

Even with no treatment at all, the spots will disappear on their own — although it may take months to years. Some people get pityriasis alba every summer during childhood. Even then, the pigmentation will eventually end up normal.

If this doesn’t sound like your son, tinea versicolor is another common cause — though it is usually found in older children. This is similar to athlete’s foot and needs an antifungal medication or a selenium shampoo for treatment.

With either pityriasis alba or tinea versicolor, even when the condition is effectively treated, the white patches will remain for a while. At least several weeks must pass for the newly healthy skin to adjust its color to the amount of ongoing sunlight exposure so that it will match the surrounding skin.

At your son’s upcoming 15-month-old well child exam, it would be wise to ask the doctor about the patches, just to be sure what they are.

Last medical review on: June 29, 2014
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Hi Andrea did you find out more about these?

Your doctor was probably mostly sure and wanted to save you money by not testing. She will want to know if it’s working or not. I say, call the doctor and tell her it’s not getting better. If she doesn’t offer to do a skin scraping test, suggest that it might need a test to make sure it’s a fungus.

If it is fungus, it might need stronger medicine. If it’s not, it will need a different medicine.

My son is 6 yrs old, I recently started to notice white spots on his face(upper cheeks) I toke him to a doctor she said that it was a fungus without doing any test and recommended an anti-fungal cream for him but I don’t see it getting better. What should I do?

Your doctor was probably mostly sure and wanted to save you money by not testing. She will want to know if it’s working or not. I say, call the doctor and tell her it’s not getting better. If she doesn’t offer to do a skin scraping test, suggest that it might need a test to make sure it’s a fungus.

If it is fungus, it might need stronger medicine. If it’s not, it will need a different medicine.

My baby is going to be a month on this Friday and he has the same marks exactly where your baby has it going to a pediatrician tommrw to find out what can be donw

Hi Shameka,

Have you had the rash tested by a dermatologist? They can take a sample of the skin and look at it under a microscope to get a better idea of what it is.

I hope that helps.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I am a 35 year old woman. And I have small to medium size circle rashes on my body there are white. My dermatologist told me that it was eczema but I’m not for sure that is eczema because they’re is she a little bit but not at all really but they are all over my body arms legs stomach back and they come it takes usually a long time to go away but by the time one go away two or three more has come. I am looking for a different dermatologist to get a second opinion can you please help me

Hi Shameka,

Have you had the rash tested by a dermatologist? They can take a sample of the skin and look at it under a microscope to get a better idea of what it is.

I hope that helps.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

My 3 months old daughter was suffering from an extreme case of dry skin where the skin turned all dry and red with tiny bumps all over her body and face, Atopic Dermatitis is what the doctor mentioned. After applying an ointment prescribed by her, my baby’s skin started drying off and peeling by itself which afterwards turned white. As of now her body and face is filled with white patches.
Would you kindly mention as to whether the white patches will disappear and whether she will regain her natural color.

did u get your answer then reply me plzzz too same with my baby😭😭😭😭😭

my baby is 4months old and she has a very light scar on her face what can i do plzzzzzz answer plzzzzz

Hi did yiu find out what was wrong i to have an mixed child she came out with dark skin like mines but she has white patches thats taking over her face