Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a very common fungal infection of the skin. It is caused by a type of yeast that occurs naturally on human skin. Normally, this yeast is harmless, but in certain conditions it can lead to infections, causing the development of a rash, typically around the area of the shoulders, upper arms, neck, chest, and back. Areas that tend to retain moisture, such as the underarms and the underside of the breasts, can also be affected. The skin in the affected areas typically appears discolored – it may appear either lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. Although the discoloration is usually in the form of spots, sometimes entire patches of skin can become discolored.

Tinea Versicolor Rash

This fungal infection is among the commonest ones to affect humans. Many people suffer from the infection during childhood, and the incidence decreases as people grow older. Tinea versicolor in babies is not very common, but among adolescents it is extremely common. People living in hot and humid climates are especially prone to this infection, and it seems to occur more frequently among men than women.

Symptoms of Tinea Versicolor

These are the typical symptoms of tinea versicolor:

  • Patches or spots of discolored skin, usually in the area of the upper arms and torso. In some cases the infection, and therefore the discoloration, can extend to the neck or even the face. These spots and patches can sometimes extend and merge into one another, to form a large area of even discoloration.
  • People with dark skin usually find that the patches and spots are areas of hypopigmentation – they are lighter in color than the normal, healthy skin. On the other hand, people with light skin experience hyperpigmentation – the spots and patches tend to be darker in color than normal skin.
  • Rather severe, pin-prick itching may be present in the affected areas of skin. This itching tends to occur most frequently when the body starts to heat up, for example at the start of an exercise session. The itching usually subsides once the body starts to sweat.
  • In some cases, there may be a fine layer of scaling or peeling of the skin.

Causes of Tinea Versicolor

The basic cause of tinea versicolor is a fungus that is normally present on all human skin but under normal circumstances is harmless. Under certain conditions however, the balance may be upset and it could become responsible for a variety of problems – the Malassezia fungus, formerly known as the Pityrosporum fungus – is known to cause a variety of skin infections, ranging from dandruff to dermatitis. This usually happens when humidity is high, thus allowing the growth of the fungus to get out of control. Like all fungi, the Malassezia fungus thrives in warm, humid conditions. In addition, problems with a person’s immune system or hormone levels can allow the fungus to grow uncontrollably, leading to an infection. Tinea versicolor seems to be more common in women who are pregnant or on contraceptives, and this may be due to changes in hormone levels. However, there is not enough evidence to conclusively confirm this. Lack of proper nutrition also seems to be a factor that can contribute to tinea versicolor infections.

There are two species of Malassezia that are known to be causes for tinea versicolor. These are the Malassezia globosa fungi, which are responsible for the majority of cases of this infection, and the Malassezia furfur fungus, which is responsible for a relatively small number of cases.

Remedies for Tinea Versicolor

There are a number of different treatments for tinea versicolor. The treatment that is used most often is a course of topical antifungal medication. Selenium sulfide is the key ingredient in most antifungal medications used to treat tinea versicolor. Anti-dandruff shampoos are sometimes an effective tinea versicolor cure, because they usually contain an antifungal element (often selenium sulfide itself). You can apply the shampoo to your skin, leave it on for ten to fifteen minutes, and then wash it off and dry thoroughly. This treatment needs to be repeated daily for 12-14 days. There are several other over the counter products that contain selenium sulfide, which you can use in a similar manner. However, these treatments are not always successful, because they contain a maximum of 1% selenium sulfide. Formulations that contain more than this percentage are only available on prescription. You can try first using an over the counter product, and if this does not work, ask your doctor to prescribe something stronger. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication. However, these medications are also not available over the counter, and should only be used under medical supervision.

If you’re wondering how to get rid of tinea versicolor without using regular medication, there are a few home remedies and herbal remedies that you can try, but the efficacy of most of these remedies remains questionable, as they are not subjected to the rigorous testing applied to pharmaceuticals:

  • Tea tree oil is one of the most common herbal antifungal agents, and is quite effective against a variety of skin infections. If you suffer from tinea versicolor, a natural treatment such as this is a good option. Simply apply a small amount of tea tree oil to your skin once a day, for two weeks. However, remember that tea tree oil can be quite harsh on the skin. If you have sensitive skin, you should dilute the oil and apply it on a very small area of skin. Use a small area of skin as a test patch, and only proceed to use it as a treatment if there is no adverse reaction.
  • Candle bush, also known as senna alata, is another herbal treatment for tinea versicolor. It too is used to successfully treat a variety of skin infections, including ringworm and tinea versicolor. You can either buy a preparation made of candle bush, or else grind fresh candle bush leaves with olive oil and apply the mixture to the affected area twice a day.
  • Apple cider vinegar is also believed to be an effective antifungal agent. You can dilute a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water, and apply this solution on the affected areas of skin.

Remember that like most tinea infections, tinea versicolor has a tendency to recur, especially when the weather becomes hot and humid. It is therefore advisable to repeat whatever treatment has proved effective at least once a month, even after the infection seems to have cleared up. If a full-blown infection recurs, you will need to start daily treatment once again.

When treating tinea versicolor, home remedies can be quite useful. However, if these treatments show no results within a few weeks, it is advisable that you consult a doctor. Stronger medication may be needed, and in some cases, your symptoms may be caused by a condition other than tinea versicolor.

Diet for Tinea Versicolor

Since malnutrition often seems to be a factor that contributes to tinea versicolor, diet is an important part of your treatment. There are no specific foods that are directly linked to tinea versicolor, but in general, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are known to weaken the immune system. The only way to address this without having identified a specific deficiency is to have a lot of variety in your diet. Avoid an excess of any particular type of food, and at the same time do not leave any particular food out. Fruits and vegetables are of course particularly important, but other foods are necessary too. A lack of fat in the diet can also make it difficult to absorb minerals and vitamins. This is why a strict weight loss diet can sometimes lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies. If you are trying to lose weight or are on a diet for any other reason, try to ensure that it is not severely restrictive. Moderation is the key to a successful diet, not entirely cutting out carbohydrates or fats, as is sometimes recommended.

It is also thought that an excess of carbohydrates in the diet can aid the growth of yeast, while probiotic foods such as yogurt can inhibit their growth. There isn’t enough evidence to back this up, but regularly consuming yogurt and restricting your intake of carbohydrates is unlikely to harm you, so you could try this out.

Suggestion for Tinea Versicolor

A tan can make the spots of discoloration in tinea versicolor more prominent, so you may want to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. Although tanning does not aggravate the infection itself, it does make the symptoms more noticeable, and is therefore best avoided.

If you have suffered from tinea versicolor in the past, or are prone to frequent infections, there are a number of steps you could take in addition to your diet. Women should try to observe whether there is a link between contraceptive use and outbreaks of the infection, and then take appropriate action. Personal hygiene is of course another important factor in controlling and preventing any skin infection. Always wear clean clothes, and bathe regularly – twice a day if necessary. Try bathing with an antibacterial, antifungal soap. It might also help to dry clean your clothes, especially while you are suffering from tinea versicolor. As far as possible, you should also try to wear light clothes made of natural fibers, since these will keep you cool and dry.


  1. Nenoff P, Haustein UF, Brandt W. Antifungal activity of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree oil) against pathogenic fungi in vitro. Skin Pharmacol. 1996;9(6):388-94. PubMed PMID: 9055360.

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12 Tinea Versicolor remedies suggested by our users
Cheap & effective way to cure TV in a week
suggested by alice on Sunday, December 9, 2007

I went on a vacation and tanned for 2 weeks straight, it cleared up half of the Tinea Versicolor on my body and i suffered from TV chronically for eight years. Recently I tried Sulphur powder (with only a few bucks you can get tons) mixed with alcohol, any brand that contains about 30~40 % alcohol.. vodka would be good. if you add in too little or too much alcohol it wont stay on ur skin. apply it on the affected area and leave it on for 5~10 mins until the alcohol has dried off. My TV faded within a week and the scaley texture disappeared.

suggested by olivia on Friday, December 7, 2007

Here is how I got rid of my tinea versicolor: 30 drops of Propolis tincture on a small piece of bread. Eat it 3 times a day on empty stomach. Keep this treatment for 2 months! To prevent tinea from recurring do this cure every year (February-March)! Apply propolis tincture(alcohol free) on the affected areas every evening after showering! In the morning apply organic calendula ointment. Do a body peel with (salt,lemon juice & olive oil mix) once a week! Replace the synthetic creams with olive oil, shower gels with organic soaps. Drink at least 33.8 oz. of water a day! Propolis is the best natural anti fungal remedy!

suggested by Olivia on Friday, November 2, 2007

Besides the sea salt peel remedy you should also try to use margosa and tea tree organic soap bars. Once a week(preferably in the evening) after you do the sea salt peel massage your entire body with this mix: (Prepare it once, it will last for a month!) 10 ml of virgin olive oil 3 drops of tea tree essential oil 3 drops of margosa essential oil. Do not use more than the stated quantity! Tea tree and margosa essential oils are the best anti fungal remedies!

Versicolor at bay
suggested by Conley on Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm 54 and could write a book on the subject.Soaps,creams,oral med's,ect,ect,ect. Long story short [for me at least]is start with your feet.You wouldn't believe how much of your blood is passing through those sweaty shoes that don't breath well and under your nails.So clean them,clip them and change your socks and shoes,often as you can.Sue was the closest with the Clotrimazole but get it in a topical solution and apply it to your toenails each time you shower. Do some research on nail fungus to understand this problem and their consequence.My Best

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