What Can Cause White Patchy Skin?

HK Vitals

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

White spots on skin can manifest due to various conditions. While they are generally not a cause for major concern and don’t typically produce significant symptoms, it is crucial to consult a dermatologist for a proper evaluation of their cause and the most effective treatment. Notably, treatment options may involve the use of topical products and medications, depending on the underlying cause. Read on for a comprehensive overview of the causes and treatments for white patches on skin.

Top 5 Potential White Patchy Skin Causes

Numerous health conditions and factors contribute to the development of white spots on various parts of the body. Common white patchy skin causes include:

  • Guttate Hypomelanosis (Sunspots)

Sunspots are areas where skin pigment is lost, typically 1-3 mm in size. They often start on the legs and progress to the upper back, arms and face. While the exact cause is unclear, factors may include a lack of melanin. Sunspots are harmless and more common after 40 years, posing no cancer risk.

  • Tinea Versicolor

Caused by a fungus overgrowth on the skin, tinea versicolor leads to dry, scaly, itchy patches that may be lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. The condition is prevalent, with symptoms becoming more noticeable in warm, humid environments, especially after sun exposure.

  • Vitiligo

It results in white patches where cells producing skin pigment are destroyed. Potentially an autoimmune condition, it may develop slowly or spread quickly. Familial tendencies are observed, with onset typically in the 20s and patches often appearing in sun-exposed areas.

  • Pityriasis Alba

A non-cancerous skin condition, pityriasis alba (PA) causes red, itchy, scaly patches that, after healing, leave faint white spots. Common in children aged 3 to 16, it affects the face, shoulders, neck and arms. Its cause is uncertain, but it might be a mild form of atopic dermatitis or eczema.

  • Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

It is an inflammatory skin condition causing dry, itchy skin that may leak clear fluid when scratched. The appearance varies with skin color, and it can affect people of all ages, often starting in childhood and persisting throughout life. Common in individuals with allergies, such as hay fever.

White Patches on Skin: Remedies

The white patches on skin treatment or remedies depends on the underlying cause of these spots.

  • Prevention plays a pivotal role in managing sunspots. Prioritize sunblock application and minimize exposure to sunlight to prevent further skin damage. In cases where sunspots have already appeared, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is recommended. Dermatologists can provide insights into potential interventions, such as laser treatments or calcineurin inhibitors, aiming to reduce the visible appearance of existing sunspots.
  • For mild cases of tinea versicolor, over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal products can be effective in managing symptoms. However, persistent or severe instances may require professional attention. Dermatologists have the expertise to prescribe stronger topical creams or oral medications, tailoring the treatment approach based on the individual’s specific condition and needs.
  • In treating vitiligo cosmetically, the aim is to repigment affected skin areas. There are a number of medical treatment options, including steroids, immunomodulators and UV light therapy. Ruxolitinib is another alternative. The seriousness of this condition may give rise to the need of exploring surgical options.
  • Pityriasis alba usually heals on its own, but recurrences can occur. Moisturizing creams can be used to minimize the appearance of white patches. Nonsteroidal creams and topical steroids are also potential treatment options.
  • Eczema needs to be approached through appropriate strategies for symptom control. These include using mild cleansers instead of harsh soaps to wash the skin and treating rashes with medicated creams. It is also important that you use gloves during cleaning chores, keep your skin clean and moisturized and not take excessively long hot baths or showers. Other measures, such as the use of oral antihistamines or anti-itch creams can also be effective. As for persistent symptoms, a doctor should be consulted. According to the type and severity of eczema experienced by an individual, healthcare professionals may suggest various treatments such as topical corticosteroids.


Various skin conditions can contribute to the development of white spots on skin, and the accompanying symptoms can aid a doctor in identifying the specific cause. The diverse range of conditions may include sunspots, tinea versicolor, vitiligo, pityriasis alba or eczema, each requiring distinct treatment approaches. Seeking the guidance of a dermatologist is advisable, especially if the white spots do not resolve on their own within a short period.

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