Pityriasis Versicolor

(Tinea Versicolor)

Pronounced: tin-EE-ah ver-si-COH-lar; pit-AH-rye-i-sis ver-si-COH-lar


Pityriasis versicolor is a common infection of the skin. It is causes small, scaly patches with different colors.


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Pityriasis versicolor is caused by a fungus. It affects skin color. The fungus is normally found in small numbers on the skin and scalp. A change in environment can lead to an overgrowth of the fungus. This leads to symptoms.

Risk Factors

Pityriasis versicolor is more common in teens and young adults. Other factors that may increase your chance of pityriasis versicolor include:

  • Having naturally oily or excessively sweaty skin
  • Living in warm and humid climates
  • Having a weakened immune system


Pityriasis versicolor may cause:

  • Uneven skin color, with either white or light brown patches—most often on back, chest, or neck
  • Light scaling on affected areas
  • Slight itching, which is worse when the person is hot

Patches are easier to notice in the summer.


You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. A special light may be used to examine the skin. Pityriasis versicolor can be diagnosed by sight.

You may need to be referred to a specialist. A sample of the patch may be scraped off. It will be sent to a lab for testing.


Pityriasis versicolor is treated with antifungal medication. This may be:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal:
    • Lotions or creams—used for 2 weeks
    • Shampoos—left on for 5-10 minutes and rinsed off
  • Prescription oral antifungal pills such as

Your skin may return to its normal color after the infection has cleared. It may take several months to a few years. The condition may also improve in the winter only to return in the summer.


If you know you are prone to pityriasis versicolor, talk to your doctor. A treatment may be used to keep it from returning.


American Academy of Dermatology

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases



The College of Family Physician of Canada


Tinea versicolor. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed December 13, 2017.

Tinea versicolor. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed December 13, 2017.

Tinea versicolor. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114485/Tinea-versicolor. Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2017.

Last reviewed February 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 2/12/2019