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Pityriasis Versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor is a harmless skin fungal infection that is easily treated. It is not something to be alarmed by, although some people may feel self-conscious due to the appearance of the discoloured patches. If you experience recurring pityriasis versicolor, it has spread to a wide area, or you’re not sure if it actually is pityriasis versicolor, and you want to be able to treat it, or you want to be able to catch it early, keep reading.

The guide details everything you need to know, including:

  • What is Pityriasis Versicolor?
  • Pityriasis Versicolor: Causes
  • Pityriasis Versicolor: Who Gets it?
  • Pityriasis Versicolor: Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Prevention
  • Conditions with Similar Symptoms
  • FAQs

What is Pityriasis Versicolor?

Pityriasis versicolor (also known as tinea versicolor) is a fungal skin infection that produces discoloured patches on the skin, particularly around the chest, shoulders, and back. 

It is a common infection that can affect anyone and causes little harm other than visible patches and potentially an itch. While people with pityriasis versicolor don’t have to worry about physical harm, it can cause self-confidence issues due to how it looks.

back man

Pityriasis Versicolor: Causes

Pityriasis versicolor is caused by an overgrowth of yeast from the Malassezia family. This fungus generally lives healthily on your skin, even protecting you from other infections. The problem occurs when there is an overgrowth of the yeast fungus, and that is what causes pityriasis versicolor. 

The exact reason this overgrowth of fungus happens is still unknown, but certain environmental and biological factors put some people at a higher risk.

Pityriasis Versicolor: Who Gets it?

You might wonder: how did you get pityriasis versicolor? Is it something you did? The answer is that anyone can get pityriasis versicolor, and doctors don’t know the exact cause. There are certain risk factors, however, such as:

  • Being a teenager or young adult
  • Living in a humid climate
  • A weakened immune system
  • Excess sweating
  • Hormonal changes

It has been found that those who live in tropical and subtropical areas are more at risk – it has been found prevalent in around 50% of people in tropical countries, compared to only around 1% of people in Scandinavia. 

People going through hormonal changes are more at risk of getting the infection, too. That means you are more likely to get it as a teenager going through puberty or if you are pregnant. 

It’s important to note that even though there are risk factors, anyone can get pityriasis versicolor no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, or location.

Group of teenagers from the back

Pityriasis Versicolor: Symptoms

The symptoms of pityriasis versicolor are usually mild. However, you may experience:

  • Patchy discoloured skin (often on the back, chest, and shoulders)
  • Mild itching
  • Scaly skin
  • Patches that don’t tan

The discolouration on the skin can either be lighter or darker than the surrounding area, usually appearing in the colours red, white, pink, and brown. The patches are flat, but they might become slightly scaly and itchy over time.


Getting diagnosed with pityriasis versicolor is usually simple. A doctor will inspect the area and often be able to diagnose it right there and then. However, if the doctor needs more confirmation, they can scrape off a small sample of your skin to inspect under the microscope. Doing this will help them determine whether you have the fungus that produces pityriasis versicolor. 

A pityriasis versicolor diagnosis is nothing to worry about. With treatment, it usually clears up very quickly.

Pityriasis Versicolor: Treatment

Treatment for pityriasis versicolor is simple but effective and usually comes in the form of creams, shampoos, and oral medications.

Creams and Lotions

Antifungal creams and lotions fight the fungus causing the infection. One of the best topical creams is the Pevaryl Antifungal Cream, which you can apply two to three times a day for fourteen days to get rid of the overgrown fungus. If your pityriasis versicolor keeps returning or you need to use it for longer, you can.

Medicated Shampoos

Another treatment is pityriasis versicolor shampoo. Apply the shampoo to the affected area, leave it on for the set time, and then rinse off. You can do this until the infection clears.

Antifungal Tablets

Sometimes, pityriasis versicolor doesn’t go away with treatments. In this case, and in cases where it has spread far across the body, your doctor may prescribe antifungal tablets. 

It should be noted that it can take months for the discoloured patches to completely disappear after treatment. Pityriasis versicolor can also return. If you find it keeps recurring, see your doctor.

woman from the back in shower


Knowing the risk factors means knowing some ways to prevent pityriasis versicolor from happening. Here are some things you can do: 

Use Medicated Soap

If you are prone to pityriasis versicolor, your doctor may recommend that you use a medicated soap each day. Doing so will stop the fungi from growing.

Reduce Sweating

You can’t stop sweating altogether, but you can do things to reduce how much you sweat. Wearing loose-fitted clothing, avoiding the hottest part of the day, and staying hydrated can help reduce the amount you sweat. You can also seek medical treatment for sweating if you suffer from excessive sweating.

Avoid the Sun

Pityriasis versicolor seems to get worse in the sun, particularly in tropical climates. To prevent it, try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Find shade, go inside during midday, and wear sun-protective clothing. 

Sometimes, pityriasis versicolor will happen without a known reason, and there is not much you can do to prevent it. In these cases, try effective over-the-counter treatments like Pevaryl antifungal cream or see your doctor if it keeps coming back.

Conditions with Similar Symptoms

Pityriasis versicolor is sometimes mistaken for other conditions due to the similarity in symptoms. 


Vitiligo is a long-term condition that forms white patches on the person’s skin. It usually appears on the mouth, eyes, wrists, fingers, groin, and armpits. The patches range in size from person to person – some people experience only small patches, whereas in rarer cases, the infection can cover nearly the entire body. 

Vitiligo is caused by a lack of melanin in the skin that reduces the pigment, making those patches appear lighter. These patches also often appear symmetrical on the body, unlike pityriasis versicolor. Another big difference is where it appears – vitiligo affects places like the fingers and mouth, whereas pityriasis versicolor usually shows up on the chest, back, and shoulders.


Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that forms dry, scaly patches on the skin. Unlike pityriasis versicolor, it’s a condition a person has for life. Another difference is that psoriasis’s patches are dry and scaly – much more textured than those caused by pityriasis versicolor. Psoriasis treatment involves phototherapy and heavy moisturizers.

Frequently asked questions

Is Pityriasis Versicolor Serious?

No – pityriasis versicolor is not a serious condition in that it won’t harm your overall health. However, it can get worse by spreading, and some people find that it keeps coming back.

Can Pityriasis Versicolor Go Away on its Own?

Pityriasis versicolor can go away on its own, although that’s not always the case. The best course of action is to seek treatment to eradicate the fungi growth and clear the infection.

How Did I Get Pityriasis Versicolor?

There is no known cause for pityriasis versicolor. You might have been more at risk due to your country’s climate, your age, or if you’ve been going through hormonal changes. It’s nothing to do with hygiene habits.

What is the Best Treatment for Pityriasis Versicolor?

To treat pityriasis versicolor, you can use creams and lotions, like the Pevaryl Antifungal Cream, use medicated shampoos, or take antifungal tablets.

What’s the Best OTC Cream for Pityriasis Versicolor?

If you want a cream to clear the infection quickly, Pevaryl does the job within fourteen days. You can use it again in the future if you find the infection keeps coming back. You can also keep using it to ward off future infections.

How Can I Get Rid of Pityriasis Versicolor Fast?

To get rid of Pityriasis Versicolor fast, you need to use antifungal creams, lotions, shampoos, and soaps in order to stop the fungus overgrowth. If this doesn’t help, then you can turn to your doctor to get prescribed tablet treatment.

Is Pityriasis Versicolor Contagious?

No – unlike some other fungal infections of the skin, pityriasis versicolor is not contagious. You cannot spread it to anyone else, and no one else can spread it to you.

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