Tinea Versicolor Treatment Methods
Although tinea versicolor is not fully understood, treating it is often fairly easy and inexpensive. Many over-the-counter products can be used effectively to treat tinea versicolor. The condition may recur after it has been successfully treated, particularly when the weather gets hotter and more humid during the summer months, but you can simply use the same treatment method that was successful the first time. Many people experience recurring tinea versicolor, and although it is embarrassing, it is not a harmful condition. Tinea versicolor is only a nuisance, not a serious health risk. The Mayo Clinic's tinea versicolor prevention site has more information about treating and preventing tinea versicolor at home.
However, even though home treatment is possible and preferable for many people, it is important to note that tinea versicolor can be misdiagnosed. Several conditions such as vitiligo and a host of other skin rashes look and behave similarly to tinea versicolor, so it is important to confirm the diagnosis with a doctor or dermatologist. Usually, a sample from the affected area is taken and analyzed. The cost involved in getting a diagnosis is minimal, since treatment can be performed at home.
Tinea versicolor may also be symptomatic of a related condition, such as an immune disorder. If you experience other symptoms along with the tinea versicolor, it is especially important to visit a doctor, since some of these other conditions can severely impair your health. The American Academy of Dermatology's Find a Dermatologist tool can help you find a local dermatologist. For more information about immune disorders and other risk factors for developing tinea versicolor, see our article Tinea Versicolor Risk Factors.
The most commonly used treatment for tinea versicolor is anti-dandruff shampoo. The same fungus that causes tinea versicolor also causes dandruff. The conditions differ only in the areas that they affect. Tinea versicolor affects the skin, while dandruff affects the scalp. Both conditions present with itchy, flaky skin. Since the same fungus causes both conditions, they can both be treated with the same drug.
Not all anti-dandruff shampoos contain the drugs that will cure tinea versicolor. Some anti-dandruff shampoos contain coal tar or salicylic acid as the active ingredient. These ingredients do not have antifungal properties, but treat dandruff in other ways, usually by making the skin shed skin cells more rapidly. When choosing an anti-dandruff shampoo to treat tinea versicolor, it is important to look specifically for antifungal ingredients such as selenium sulfide or ketoconazole. These are the easiest to find, since they require no prescription and are available in most shops that sell hair care products, such as pharmacies and supermarkets. They are also among the most reliable non-prescription treatments for tinea versicolor.
To use an anti-dandruff shampoo to treat tinea versicolor, lather the shampoo all over the affected area. Some areas of your body to pay special attention to are the face, neck, chest, back, arms and hands. Leave the shampoo on for five to ten minutes and rinse it off. It is important to remember that the infection may not be visible in its earliest stages, so being proactive and using the shampoo all over the body may prevent an invisible rash from spreading and becoming more visible.
For most people, one treatment with anti-dandruff shampoo is enough to rid themselves of tinea versicolor, but if you treat it more than once and the condition still does not subside, a stronger treatment may be necessary. At this point, you may wish to visit a doctor to get a prescription medication for the sake of convenience. However, if this is not an option for you or if you want to try other at-home methods, there are some more intensive therapies you can try.
If your first treatment of anti-dandruff shampoo does not work, try using an exfoliant such as apricot facial scrub over the affected area. Do not scrub so hard you cause abrasions, since this can allow the yeast to penetrate deeper into the skin. The intent here is to scrub off the outermost layer of affected skin cells to allow the shampoo access to a deeper layer of skin, which may be more effective in killing the yeast. Applying the anti-dandruff shampoo overnight leaves the yeast exposed to the medication for a longer period of time and may be what is needed to completely cure the condition. Wearing long sleeves and pants during sleep and protecting bedsheets with towels can prevent the bedding from being stained by the shampoo.
Some natural remedies work to kill the tinea versicolor infection. Substances that cause an acidic environment make the environment on your skin untenable for the yeast. However, care should be taken with these substances, because they can cause severe chemical burns if left on the skin for too long. Many people are tempted to leave acidic substances on their skin for a long time because they feel it is the best way to eliminate the infection, but three minutes should be the limit.
Apple cider vinegar is the most commonly recommended natural treatment for tinea versicolor. The vinegar must be raw and unfiltered in order to work. The apple cider vinegar is applied by soaking a cotton ball or gauze pad and rubbing it over the affected skin. This method takes longer than other remedies. Applying the vinegar to the skin once a day for seven days clears many infections. People who have recurring tinea versicolor often incorporate apple cider vinegar into their skin care routine to prevent another breakout. Taking the vinegar by mouth mixed with baking soda may also help lessen the reappearance of tinea versicolor, but this is not proven. If the skin begins to dry or sting, applying coconut oil to the treated skin can relieve the discomfort.
Topical applications of hydrogen peroxide are also frequently used to treat tinea versicolor. Soaking a gauze bandage in peroxide and taping it with medical tape to the skin will provide a sustained exposure to the yeast. This can take up to two weeks to completely alleviate the symptoms. Depending on the peroxide's strength, the skin may burn and sting. Stop the treatment immediately if this occurs.
Using a combination of these methods may help if using just one method alone does not work. Stop at the first signs of discomfort, since any injury caused by the treatment can actually worsen the infection.