Tinea Versicolor

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Tinea versicolor is a very common rash that causes scaling pink, light brown or white patches, usually on the chest and back. It arises from a reaction to an overgrowth of a yeast that is commonly found on skin. Tinea versicolor tends to be recurrent in susceptible individuals.


Tinea versicolor can be itchy or completely symptom free. It may present with a solitary patch or a multiple scattered spots.

People tend to notice this rash more in the summer time or during times with more sun exposure when the surrounding skin is tan, which highlights the color contrast & temporary inability of involved skin to tan. Tinea versicolor is often slightly scaly, and pink to light brown or even white. Even after successful treatment, involved skin may remain lighter colored & unable to tan for several months.


Tinea versicolor is a reaction to increased counts of a yeast called Malassezia that normally lives on our skin and hair. For most people this yeast does not cause any problems. However, when there is an overgrowth of yeast in susceptible individuals (which may happen more frequently in warmer & more humid environments), the yeast causes inflammation and a rash.

Tinea versicolor is not considered an infection, and is not contagious. Some people are simply reactive to this yeast.


There are many OTC treatments that can help this condition. Most treatments are targeted at reducing the amount of yeast that is on your skin and are available as shampoos, medicated bar soaps, and creams. More severe cases are occasionally treated with a prescription oral antifungal agent.

OTC Treatment Options

OTC Topical Treatments



Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

(1% ketoconazole)

  • Head and Shoulders Classic Clean Dandruff Shampoo (1% zinc pyrithione)
  • Selsun Blue Medicated Dandruff Shampoo (1% selenium sulfide)
  • Vanicream Z-Bar (2% zinc pyrithione)


Lotrimin AF Cream

(clotrimazole 1%)

Miconazole Nitrate 2% cream


After working out or exercising, or participating in activities that lead to a lot of sweating, be sure to shower quickly and do not keep sweaty clothing on. Wash with Nizoral shampoo (use as a body wash) and leave the affected area covered with this product for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. For best results, apply Lotrimin AF cream twice per day for several weeks until the dryness or scaliness of the rash has resolved. Discoloration will persist longer, but does not necessarily mean that tinea versicolor is present.

OTC Tips

In individuals who are prone to tinea versicolor, post- treatment recurrence may be prevented by the use of topical anti-yeast washes such as Nizoral shampoo several times a week while showering. This will help to keep the yeast count on skin lower.

If these measures do not clear your rash, see your dermatologist. They can prescribe stronger topicals or prescribe oral anti-yeast medications that can clear your rash more quickly. Note that after effective treatment of your rash, the dryness of the rash will resolve, but the pigment changes are slower to resolve. Allow 1-2 months after treating your rash for 2 weeks to see the pigment changes recover.

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