White Patches of Skin

Many different conditions can produce new white patches of skin in children. This article highlights two of the most common causes of white patches of skin.


Dr. Greene, I was giving my nephew a bath the other night and noticed white patches on his upper arms. Is this normal? Are they a sign of malnutrition? They never feed him any greens or fruits -- just cereal and chicken nuggets. We are worried about these spots. He is turning 3 years old, and we fear he is not growing up healthy.
Amy W. - Maryville, Tennessee

Dr. Greene’s Answer:

Every year as the final weeks of summer come to a close, I am asked by parents on the phone, in the office, and online about white patches of skin that their children have developed. It’s almost a Labor Day tradition.

Fun in the sun often brings out these white spots — especially noticeable at the end of the summer. While a healthy, balanced diet of whole foods is very beneficial, diet is probably not responsible for your nephew’s white patches of skin. Many different conditions can produce new white patches of skin in children; I will highlight two of the most common.

White Patches of Skin: Pityriasis Alba

Doctors call one of these conditions pityriasis alba, which is Latin for white, scaly patches. Children with this extremely common condition develop uneven, round or oval patches after sun exposure. The patches are dry with very fine scales. Varying from 1 to 2 inches in diameter, 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.

Treatment of Pityriasis Alba

The involved patches don’t darken with sun exposure the way the surrounding skin does. Treatment involves daily lubrication with a good moisturizer, especially whenever the skin gets wet.

Using sunscreen can decrease the appearance of the patches by inhibiting the skin around them from darkening. Sometimes topical steroid creams help. 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.

White Patches of Skin: Tinea Versicolor

The other extremely common white-patch condition is called tinea versicolor. This is a mild, superficial fungal infection, somewhat similar to ringworm (true ringworm can also result in white patches). Since the affected skin doesn’t change color well with sun exposure, it usually becomes apparent as white patches during the summer months. In the winter it may seem to disappear, or even seem to become slightly darkened patches as the surrounding skin gets paler (this is where the name versicolor comes from).


Tinea versicolor is most common in adolescents and young adults 15 to 30 years old (although it can certainly happen at any age). The infection is chronic and recurs easily, but it causes no other health problems. People are most susceptible to the fungus during hot months in humid areas. Taking steroids, excessive sweating, wearing tight-fitting clothing, and chronic illness can all predispose a person to tinea versicolor, but someone without any of these factors can still get this mild infection.

The patches of tinea versicolor can appear white, tan, or pink. The white patches look very similar to pityriasis alba. There are two good ways to tell them apart.

The most reliable way is to have a doctor gently scrape the white patch, dissolve the scrapings in potassium hydroxide, and look at what is left under a microscope. The classic “spaghetti-and-meatball” appearance of budding yeast confirms the diagnosis of tinea versicolor. A quicker and easier approach is to look at the patches under a black light. The patches of tinea versicolor will usually light up with a blue-white, yellow, or orange color.

Treatment of Tinea Versicolor

Topical antifungal medicines are very effective for treating tinea versicolor, but there is a more convenient, less expensive, highly effective alternative.

Selenium shampoos are great at getting rid of the fungus. Simply apply a thin layer over the affected skin before bed (with a wide surrounding margin, since it may already be beginning to spread). Wash thoroughly the next morning.

The problem is that no matter what the treatment, it comes back easily. Whatever treatment is used for tinea versicolor, all bedding and nightclothes should be changed after treatment to prevent recurrence. Also, re-treating once a week for 3-4 weeks and then once a month for 3-4 months makes it much less likely to come back.

With either pityriasis alba or tinea versicolor, even when the condition is effectively treated, the white patches of skin 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 nephew’s upcoming three-year-old well child exam, it would be wise for his parents to ask the doctor about the white patches of skin (just to be sure that it isn’t one of the other more unusual causes). But in the meantime, relax. Both of these mild, benign, primarily cosmetic conditions are so common, Amy, that “got some white patches” could show up on many “What I did this summer” essays.

Did you find this article helpful? Need more information? Let us know in the comments below.

Last medical review on: September 14, 2017
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
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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Recent Comments

So i decided to wax my arms with wax strips then it messed up my skin so i got these white patches on my arms and i’ve always been insecure and would wear hoodies everyday, then recently i went to the beach and i got tanned and i was happy cuz the patches and tiny spots sorta went away but then my arm peeled and it made my patches worse please help me

My 83 year old father just started getting white patches on his front of legs and arms. His face also has red /white irritation. He is otherwise healthy.
He does not want to go to doctor but it looks terrible.

So a couple months ago i noticed a white spot on my left butt cheek….not a pimple. Almost like a birthmark. Feels a little wrinkled and there isn’t as much muscle there as there is in the rest of my butt. Is it cancerous? I also have a large patched birthmark that is the same color as the spot on my butt on the left side of my body


So sorry. We can’t diagnose online. If I were you, I’d see a dermatologist and have a full-body skin check. I say this because I do see a dermatologist annually and see looks at very inch of my body for anything suspicious. In this age of increased skin cancer, it’s the responsible thing to do.

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.

Hlw dr i m 18yrs old nd frm lst 7 to 8yrs i m suffering frm this white spots nd i have suggested many doctors but doesnt relly work for me plz suggest somethig wht should i do

I did some research if your vitamins D is low can cause white patches from the sun and dry skin. I had my blood work done and my vitamin be was very low. Currently taking supplements also probiotics. Research vitamin D you be amazed about what you read. I seen 3 dermatologist they say Use moisturizer use less hot showers. I I decided I had enough and started doing my own homework. Currently starting a YouTube channel to keep track of my progress and how long to take to clear up. To help others. Currently I have them on both arms a few on my face not noticeable

I am a 19 year old girl and Suddenly , white patches are appearing on my face . I don’t know why and I am very tensed .
Please tell my why is this happening and what should I apply on my face to get rid of it .

Ok lam 19 yrs old and I recently got white spots on face around a month ago and my diet is also good.It is growing day by day on different places of the skin
Plse tell me what to use

Have to kill the fungus. it’s just the same as athletes feet but on your face. You can use this soap called defense which is very good.

try sapat lotion
it may be work

Hi doc I’ve had a rash that itches really bad for couple months now..i thought it was poison oak but it hasn’t went away I’m taking antibiotics but not helping its only on my face arms and now my legs what could it be

See a doctor before treating, but sounds like you may need a steroid.

Hi Doc, I hope you are well

My daughter is 8 years of age, at the age of 6 she started getting white patches all over her body , please can you assist

Mydaughter recently developed circular white patches on her chest abdomen and neck..what is the cause of it

Hi sir, i have dry white patches on face. In winter also i have this patches, so please give some ideas about this and what i have to do? Plz say about treatment sir

Sir ,Now I am 16. I have dry white patches around my nose region.I consulted many doctors.Eventhough it becomes lighter in colour after some medications it has not (even once) gone completely till last 3 years. .

Hi, I have 3 white circles on my back closely together and in perfect circles, I wondered if this was down to sun exposure? As this only appeared while I have been in Mexico. But they are noticable and it worries me.

My partner n I have these rashes

Sir in every 6 months I get white spots on my face after treatment they remove in 10 days but it is recurring pls reply m worried

Hi,my 6 weeks baby have some white spot on her face ,neck and chest.but her skin is very soft.also on her VG the is big red patch.pls help.

Hello sir i am pankaj 25 years old from india i have white spors on my body on difrent difrent place and they are incresing day by day when i use betnovate cream then they see light other wise dark .this is fungs problem or any dangrous diesese please reply me i am worried

Hii doctor my baby having white patches on face i consult skin specilist she gave fultison tecum 0.03 ontiment but patches are lok alike i am using ointment since 15 days

my name is romaisa . i am 19 years old girl. i had many white dry patches on my face especially in winter. after washing face skin looks normal but after sometime it becomes the same dry and stretched. one doctor said that due to dandruff in head this fungus also reaches to the face .some says that this is due to lack of calcium. i was recommended CONAZ shampoo. but the result is same every winter.my skin is very uneven, non absorbing and pigmented .plz tell me the remedy .i will be very thankfull to you.

hello sir i am romaisa , i am 19 years old i, have dry skin and especially in winter white dry patches sometimes itchy appears on my face (cheeks) . during washing face they disappears and skin looks normal but after 5 minutes skin becomes more dry and stretched. my face skin is very un even and non absorbing. i am very fed up of this condition plz tell me a complete treatment and precautions for curing the disease. i have also consulted many doctors some of them says due to dandruff in head this fungus also reaches to the face . some says that due to lack of calcium it occurs.plz help me

Good evening Doc, when I was pregnant I had itches on my vulva. Treated it ytacan plus cream and the itch left. After giving birth while doing sitz bath I discovered some whitish rash growth on the same area. What could it be?

hi I’m hanee from india i got ringworm and i applied the garlic and after 3 days ringworm gone but at same part i got white patches is it normal or its starting of vertiligo?

hi I’m hanee from india i got ringworm and i applied the garlic and after 3 days ringworm gone but that part i got white patches is it ormal or its stating of vertiligo?

Hii my daughter is 4 month old n has lighter white spetches on her face what is the reason please reply me m worried about that
Thank you

Hi Natalie my daughter is 13 years old she is having white patches in her face, obviously, it was disappeared when she was admitted in the hospital with the complaints of Dengue fever . Again it started… Is it due to what?

Hi… I have white spot on my body and neck . May I know how to get rid of it


hi doc. i am 23 years old female. it started when i was 14 years. these white spots kept growing on more area of my body. these are sometimes itchy. how can i get rid of these. thanks

I found this article very helpful. My son has a few white patches on his cheeks. I remember getting the exact same thing every summer on my face then it would disappear until the next summer. So I figured it wasn’t nothing major. It’s just nice to hear the name of the spots and to know it’s really common in children. My family has a dark complexion which this is why I think we noticed it more.
Thanks again,

High Dr Green,you really helped me.I had white patches on my upper thighs, and was resently treated,but it always seems to come back.I will try and buy new clothes after the next treatment. May I ask if this disease could have any long term effects. Like can it cause infertility?

I have white patches on my face l am 20 years old

Good morning doctor.today in the morning I saw white patches around of my daughter privet part.she is only 6 years old.

I had this as a kid for over a decade. It was near my elbow and about the size of a quarter. I’m the whitest person I know and this was whiter. Then I went through a crazy tanning booth phase in the 80’s. It went red, tanned, and 3 decades later it’s the same as the skin around it. I don’t know how or why this happened but it did.

I’m 94 years old, in good health. I have eczema elsewhere but the patches of
dry skin spreading quickly across my back are new

Hi Sir ,
I am prince. one of my friend suffering a problem of whit spot in hand and legs .she is doing medicine near about 9 years but no any creat any good response on skin. please sir give me any bestree advice for this problem

Hi Dr
So I have normal half skin but there are pale patches of skin on my arms around the elbows and my chest I’m very self-conscious about them and I don’t know how to remove them they feel just like normal skin just look weird. Thanks

My son had chiken pox n after that he have white spot chest and back i dont understand what the reson of behind n he is only 12 years he is not taking proper diet example he dont eat meat fish chiken motton n even vegetables he like banana n grapes in fruit enounhh what i do i m very worrying about him n white patches appearing in 8 to 6 months what should i do suggest me what the reson

Hi Doctor, my son has this ptyriasis alba he has white patches on head and face from this year may starting onwards. He is undergoing treatment but with no result. Can u suggest me any remedy for it

We try very hard not to allow the Comments section of this site become a venue for marketing. As a result, comments with links to products are not typically approved. This comment, while it does include a link to a product, may be a service to readers, so we are publishing it, link and all.

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.


Hi Dr Greene,

I just read your newsletter on white patches on skin. I would like to briefly tell you my story.

I had tinea versicolor twice. The forest time I got it, an antifungal took care of it. The second time, I tried everything – including the Selsun Blue remedy you mentioned (which left a metallic taste in my mouth after about 20 minutes, so I nixed that) and nothing worked. I had it for a year, and it spread almost everywhere. After the metallic tasted freaked me out, I set out to create a cure on my own… And I did. After using the sugar scrub I created, for about 2 weeks, it was gone… And it’s never returned. That was ten years ago.

While I cannot claim to cure, it worked for me, and last year I started marketing it as an all natural beauty product. Since then, I have helped many people get rid of this chronic fungus, safely and quite pleasantly. Here is website: http://www.lidomareskincare.com
Have a great day.

Carol Niotta,
Founder, Lido Mare Skincare

Can someone please help me ? It’s been a month that I’ve noticed a white patch growing on my left side of my face and it has a roughy texture. Does anyone know how I could get rid of it or what’s causing it ? Please let me know ? Anyone?

Alma I am having same patches on my face but now they have turned black I’m so much worried about my skin….on the contrary I am having a same black spot on the other side from years!

Thank you so much Dr. Greene. You saved me from so much worry.
I have dark skin (Mexican ethnicity) and had never had patches of white skin on my face before. I thought this would be permanent, but after reading your wonderful article, I see hope that it will fade away. Thank you again. I will try the recommendations.

I had a few spots of eczema on my trunk and used foderma eczema serum to help clear it up. I applied to the affected area 3x a day and it healed within a week. Works great on dry patches of skin as well.

Sir…my son is just 2 month and he has a white paches on his neck,below the chin. And I think it is spreading little by little. …so I need to know about this..

Thank you for this information. My 8 y.o. Son has white spots on his checks for the 1st time. It came early summer, after sun exposure. This relieves my fear of it being food allergies. We will treat with aquaphore & hope it resolves with time. It is decreasing the ‘cuteness’ of his freckled face. 🙂

Mama Cheryl

My son has white scaly spot & patches from his legs to his feet,it itches him,doctor treatment him for tinea psorasis but medicaction not working,he is 2 but it is getting worse don’t know what to do?

Sir, my right testicles pain after I get erection and it swells…I believe some sort of hard flesh is engulfing my right testicles. Please help.

Pityriasis Alba, apparently that’s what I have up and down my legs, hoping it won’t end up on my face

well, i have a white mark in my face but the doctor said that is a type of fungus and they gave me a shampoo but i doesn’t go away

Hi I’m name is shumaila & I’m 22 years old my skin is dry & I’m also facing white spot on my face since childhood what’s the reason behind it i can’t understand because its disappear after few months but again happen after while so please guide me & tell me the reason … Its consult to food which i skip ??

Hi I m 19and i have white spots on my face. The doctor had provided some medicines to me but its been a month and the spots are not recovered. what else should i do??

Me too, i have it for almost 6 weeks now using topical creams but the spots doesn’t to fade. Let me know how long you been dealing with this and what alternative treatments we can use?

My son is 6 year old I have seen some whit pitches on his chest and neck. I consulted local skin doctor last few months but still no improvement. Now I need some suggestions for best treatment for him kindly update me ASAP.

My younger brother chick white spot increases with time, can you suggest me what I do with him and What type of mark that is?

idid not have white spots until i worked in the hot sun

This has been helpful for me because it’s been a while since I have these patches on my thighs and legs, it started from dry, scaly and discolored on my skin, I’ve been wondering what it is and because of the picture attached I’ve diagnosed it with tinea versicolor. I went to a doctor for a check up and she gave me a betamethasone valerate for medication . But is there any quick medication for this or any medication that can heal it for a short time? because I noticed that it has been spreading my thigh and leg. And i felt awkward for that, I became shy on wearing shorts. Also, I dont even get out of the house and I seldom get heat from the sun so how did I get this?

I am a kidney transplant patient for many years already and recently realise i have white patches appearing on my legs. I am not expose to the sun but i take prednisolone long term. What do you think can help me? Please do reply.