Tinea versicolor (aka pityriasis versicolor)
Courtesy American Academy of DermatologyThis condition is essentially a yeast injection that presents as white spots on skin, Green says. It occurs when a yeast found naturally on the skin—pityrosporum ovale or Malassezia—experiences something of a growth spurt and affects skin color. Spots can be white, pink, salmon, red, tan, or brown, the America Academy of Dermatology points out. These spots may be dry, scaly itchy, and they tend to stand out more when you get a tan because the yeast prevents skin from tanning). Risks may include time spent in warm, muggy climates, excessive sweating, oily skin or anything that weakens the immune system. To the rescue: Over-the-counter anti-fungal creams, she says.
Courtesy American Academy of DermatologyThis condition is of particular concern to millennials. Vitiligo often starts out as small hypo-pigmented or light, white spots, explains Seemal R. Desai, MD, FAAD, clinical assistant professor of Dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the founder and medical director of Innovative Dermatology in Dallas, Texas. "The advantage of catching this early is when the skin is just lighter and not fully depigmented or lost you have a higher chance of repigmentation," says Dr. Desai, who is also the president of the Skin of Color Society. Fully 70 million people across the world have vitiligo, an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system misfires against its own melanocytes (the cells that give our skin its color).
To the rescue: Vitiligo treatment goals are to stabilize the disease process, add pigment back and maintain this effect. Certain steroid creams cool inflammation and ointments containing tacrolimus or pimecrolimus (calcineurin inhibitors) may also be effective, he says. In some cases, therapy can lighten the unaffected skin so that it blends better. Light therapy and/or surgery is also options, and the vitiligo treatment pipeline is also full.
Courtesy American Academy of DermatologyRound or oval patches of skin that look light may be found on the face and neck of children and young adults. This form of hypopigmentation tends to occur more commonly in the summer months. "The reason for this is that children's skin tends to get tanner and darker in the summer when they're out in the sun, and these hypopigmented patches therefore become more prominent because they don't tan evenly," Desai says. To the rescue: "In reality, these hypopigmented spots are a type of eczema and topical anti-inflammatory prescription often times helps to resolve this," he says.
Hypopigmented mycosis fungoides (MF)
Courtesy Furlan, F. C., & Sanches, J. A. (2013). Hypopigmented mycosis fungoides: a review of its clinical features and pathophysiology . Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, 88(6), 954–960. http://doi.org/10.1590/abd1806-4841.20132336This can be a serious skin condition, Desai says. It is a form of skin lymphoma or cancer. Symptoms vary and MF is often mistaken for eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis, making it difficult to diagnose at first, Desai says. "Several biopsies may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Symptoms include rash, skin lesions patches or Itching. "It typically happens more in darker skin type individuals and particularly in children, which is why it's very important to get anyone with hypopigmentation evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist," Desai says.
To the rescue: There are several treatments that can be used to treat MF including creams, light therapy and radiation.
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White spots in skin after sunburn
sutulastock/shutterstockWhen we think of sun spots, most of us picture brown or dark marks on sun-exposed skin, but there is a such thing as white sun spots on skin after sunburn, says New Canaan, CT-based dermatologist Maritza I. Perez, MD."The white scattered spots on the skin are call gutate hypo melanosis and they are the result of sun induced death of melanocytes," says Dr. Perez, a spokesperson for the Skin of Color Society.
To the rescue: "There is no effective treatment for them and they are not associated with any danger," she says. "Sun protection and avoidance is recommended."
Courtesy the Skin Cancer Foundation Avoiding sunburn can go a long ways toward preventing this deadly type of skin cancer, which is why you might want to purchase a sunscreen that top dermatologists use on themselves. Most melanoma skin cancers are colored—usually darkly colored, but some can be clear or white spots on the skin. Such cancers lack melanin, the dark pigment that gives most moles and melanomas their darkish hue, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. "Melanoma can be white and clear," Green says.
To the rescue: Regular skin checks by a dermatologist can help catch skin cancer early when it is in its most treatable form. "Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that blocks both ultraviolet B and A rays," she says.
Courtesy American Academy of DermatologySufferers are desperate for psoriasis remedies that can ease symptoms. Psoriasis may be a cause of white spots on the skin as patches can be scaly, which can look white, explains Jerry Bagel, MD, director the Psoriasis Treatment Center of Central New Jersey. If you have psoriasis, your skin grow at an abnormally fast rate, resulting in the buildup of psoriasis lesions or patches.
To the rescue: In addition to the solutions above, doctors may prescribe topical ointments, steroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs.