This is a fungal infection of the outermost layer of the skin. Also known as pityriasis versicolor, it can appear anywhere on the body. Tinea versicolor is most prevalent among adolescents and adults but also can affect children. The main symptom is skin discoloration—variable pink, white, or brown patches. A powdery coating is also present.

This disorder occurs when the fungus Pityrosporum invades the skin. It can remain dormant within the hair follicles for long periods of time. With proper moisture and temperature conditions (such as humid summer weather), the fungus becomes active and reproduces. The use of corticosteroids can foster the growth of this organism.

Because of the unique characteristics of the rash, doctors usually identify tinea versicolor on appearance alone. Topical antifungals are usually used for treatment because the infection is on the surface of the skin rather than in deeper tissue.

Doctors may recommend selenium sulfide or a number of creams, lotions, or shampoos. In severe cases, oral antifungals may be necessary. It can take several months for the skin's normal color to return.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Aug 2000

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015