White Patches and Skin Spots? Treat Tinea Versicolor With Home Remedies

Updated on December 9, 2017
Susan Hambidge profile image

Susan enjoys travel, art, writing, and natural products. She lives outside of London.

Pale patches on the chest caused by tinea versicolor.
Pale patches on the chest caused by tinea versicolor. | Source

What Are These White Patches on My Skin?

If you have white or brown patches on your back, shoulders, neck or upper arms, you might have pityriasis versicolor, also known as tinea versicolor. These small imperfections can be itchy and may be slightly raised, bumpy or flaky. These spots cannot tan like the rest of your body and are sometimes called sunspots.

Tinea versicolor is caused by the fungus, Malassezia globosa. Malassezia globosa is in the same family of yeasts that cause dandruff. People in their teens or early twenties are typically affected by this condition. The yeasts multiply for unknown reasons and cause either hyperpigmentation (an increase in colour) or hypopigmentation (a loss of colour).

Tinea versicolor is not painful, but it can be annoying. If left untreated, the patches can get bigger and even join together. People are often embarrassed by the change in skin tone, or they are unhappy with the way it looks when wearing clothes that show skin.

Men and women who tan frequently notice this condition more because their colour will be uneven. Some people think that you can catch this condition from a tanning bed, but in actuality, tanning beds simply make the appearance of tinea versicolor more pronounced.


Home Remedies for Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor can be easily treated at home. There are prescriptions available, but you can effectively use inexpensive and easy-to-find remedies.

Dandruff Shampoo

Using a dandruff shampoo that contains selenium sulfide to reduce the fungus is straightforward and easy. These shampoos are available in the UK and USA in regular pharmacies and drug stores. Selsun Blue is a common product that contains selenium sulfide.

  1. Rub the shampoo onto dry, affected skin as you would a lotion.
  2. Leave it on for about 10 minutes and shower. (Selenium sulfide might sting sensitive skin, so try diluting it if this happens to you.)
  3. Wash your hair with Selsun Blue according to the instructions to get rid of the yeast on your scalp.

It will generally take a week or two before symptoms disappear.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a natural oil from Australia that is both antifungal and antibacterial. Using tea tree oil to get rid of discoloured patches on your back, upper arms and shoulders is fairly straightforward.

  1. Mix a small amount of virgin olive oil or coconut oil with five drops of tea tree oil.
  2. Massage it into the skin.
  3. Retreat the area if you are susceptible to this condition.

After a week or two, the yeast will be greatly reduced and your skin will normalize.

Tea Tree Oil to Treat Sun Spots

Tea Tree - LARGE 4 OUNCE - 100% Pure Essential Oil (Best 4 fl oz / 118 ml)
Tea Tree - LARGE 4 OUNCE - 100% Pure Essential Oil (Best 4 fl oz / 118 ml)

These tiny bottles are handy for treating and curing a huge range of ailments. I have a bottle with me at all times. It gets rid of jock itch, athlete's foot, skin spots, mosquitos bites and clears infected cuts and sores.



Garlic is an excellent, natural antifungal agent if you don't mind the smell. You must use fresh, raw garlic for this to be effective. Garlic is easy to get a hold of and is cheap to buy. Peel and crush a couple of garlic cloves and apply it to the skin to get rid of the tinea versicolor yeast.


Yogurt can also help cure most yeast overgrowths. Simply apply yogurt to dry skin and leave it on for as long as possible. Allow this treatment to sit overnight before rinsing it away if tolerable.

You can combine both garlic and yogurt as a treatment for tinea versicolor or use each remedy individually.

Natural remedies can resolve skin patches within a week or two.
Natural remedies can resolve skin patches within a week or two. | Source

Vitiligo Can Be Mistaken for Tinea Versicolor

There are other conditions that cause a similar lack of pigmentation. These conditions, however, cannot be treated using antifungals. Vitiligo, for example, which presents similarly to tinea versicolor, is not a fungus. It tends to occur on the hands, face and elbows, and the skin is often very pale in colour. It cannot be treated using these home remedies, unfortunately.


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    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 5 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      I'm sorry to hear this Kris, however if meds help you then there is some relief for you. My daughter suffers from this but the Selsun works well for her, she just dislikes the smell so only applies it when it gets bad or she wants to look good for a particular occasion. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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      Kris 5 months ago

      Several generations of my family have this. OTC's do not work for us. We have to use oral meds from dermatologist. The fungus makes the skin irritated also. Not pleasant. Starts at young age. Crazy stuff.

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 14 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      Hi Darien, Thanks for reading. It is common for people to think it is the sun or tanning beds, and I guess it could be that for some, but the Selsun usually works after a few applications if it is in fact the yeast. I am fascinated by the number of things over-active yeast can do to different people, it seems a strange thing our bodies do to themselves!!

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      Darien 14 months ago

      I always thought it was literally caused by the sun! I've had them on my back and shoulders all through out middle school and high school and since I live in Florida and am outdoors often, I just put two and two together. It went away for a couple months recently so I thought but came back after a weekend on the water. Definite to trying the selsun blue! Thanks

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 2 years ago from Hertfordshire, England

      Thank your Flourish. I first became aware of it when tanning on bed (I go at the beginning of summer to get a base tan in a controlled way to prevent burning outside). Many tanners blame the tanning beds themselves because they only see it when they get darker, but it is a good ole natural fungus!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I've never heard of this but have seen photos. Didn't know of the fungal connection. Thanks for the information. You never know when it will come in handy. I'm a fan a tea tree oil.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks for the extra info, Susan.

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 2 years ago from Hertfordshire, England

      Thanks Ann, I love tea tree oil - it helps with so many things on humans and animals, and once you have a bottle you can try it without it costing anything (as long as you aren't sensitive to it! - but you can dilute it in aloe vera, coconut oil, E45 cream or olive oil as you wish).

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Interesting. I have some dark patches which are dry and sometimes scratch away so I'll try the tea tree oil and see what happens. Thanks.

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