Tinea versicolor is a fungal disease found on the skin. It is caused by an over-production of natural yeast found in the pores on the body. It looks a small, scaly rash that can vary in color from white to brown and is usually found on the chest, upper arms, and back although it can be seen on the face and neck. It thrives in humid conditions and is more prevalent during summer months. Tinea is not dangerous, but it can be embarrassing.
Doctors will typically prescribe a prescription-strength topical cream such as ketoconazole. When used as a cream, this treatment has no known side serious effects, although burning and itching may occur. If a topical treatment is not enough, anti-fungal pills may be given. However some of these can have serious, even fatal, side effects ranging from headaches to liver failure.
Creams and sprays typically used for treatment of other fungal infections have been helpful in treating tinea versicolor. Look for creams that contain clotrimazole, tolnaftate (found in Tinactin) or miconazole nitrate. These are most often found in the athlete’s foot treatment section of a pharmacy.
Anti-dandruff hampoos such as Selsun Blue and Head and Shoulders used as a body wash can help treat tinea versicolor, but they are not as effective as prescription shampoos because they only contain 1 percent selenium sulfide. Prescription-strength shampoos contain 2.5 percent selenium sulfide.
Essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, tea tree oil and chamomile have anti-fungal properties. They can be added to the bath, used in a tincture or salve, or combined with a carrier oil like almond oil and applied to the skin. Undiluted essential oils should never be applied directly to the skin. A diet rich in acidophilus (found in yogurt) and anti-fungal herbs such as garlic, cinnamon and oregano can help. Bread, beer, and other foods high in yeast should be avoided until the condition clears up.
Once tinea versicolor occurs, there is a strong likelihood that it will come back in the future. It is most likely to reoccur during the summer months. Prescription medication may be given to prevent its return. Using a dandruff shampoo as a body wash during these months can help prevent it. Since the yeast thrives in moist conditions, avoid oil-based lotions and keep the skin as dry as possible.