Medically Reviewed by Dr. Yasir Bari
Bsc, (Med) Bsc, (Nutrition), MBBS, DCN (Diploma in Clinical Neurology) – Reviewed & Approved on October 26, 2018
-Written by Marc Seward
What is Pityriasis Alba?
Pityriasis alba is a type of eczema or dermatitis that is most common in children between the ages of 3 and 16 years old.
It is a low-grade skin condition and is benign, which means it is harmless other than a few mild symptoms.
The rash most typically occurs on the face, especially the cheeks and chin, or the upper arms, neck, and shoulders; it occurs less frequently in places like the legs and trunk.
The pink or red oval patches that develop on the skin due to pityriasis alba will typically go away without any need for treatment, but patches of lightened skin will often be left behind from where the red patches faded.
What Causes Pityriasis Alba?
Like many other similar skin conditions, the exact causes of pityriasis alba are, unfortunately, unknown.
Doctors have, however, associated pityriasis alba with atopic dermatitis, which is a mild form of eczema. (1)
Some doctors believe that skin conditions like eczema and pityriasis alba could possibly be caused by an immune system that responds too aggressively to irritants found in the body.
Eczema calls on the body’s immune system to attack healthy bacteria and substances found in your body, causing your skin to be weaker in its ability to act as a barrier.
Pityriasis alba is not contagious, so it cannot be caused by catching it from someone else.
Who Can Get Pityriasis Alba?
Pityriasis alba is commonly found in children ages 6 to 12 years old; however, it may show up anywhere between 3 and 16 years old, as well.
There seems to be a connection between pityriasis alba and kids who frequently take warm baths or have frequent exposure to the sun, but it isn’t clear if those things are direct causes of the condition.
Generally speaking, kids tend to grow out of the condition as they enter adulthood.
Boys and girls are equally likely to get it, and skin color doesn’t matter, either.
What Are the Symptoms of Pityriasis Alba?
There aren’t many symptoms of pityriasis alba, as the condition is harmless outside of the unpleasant appearance. When it starts, pale pink or red patches in round, oval, or irregular shapes will develop on the face, upper arms, neck, chest or back.
These patches are typically dry and scaly, and, other than itchiness, they don’t typically come with any other symptoms.
After a couple of weeks, these red patches will fade away and turn into lighter areas of skin.
The faded patches may last a few months or a few years. They may be very noticeable or blend into the rest of the skin, depending on the person’s skin color and other circumstances.
In the summer, when the skin starts to tan, these patches will stand out more as their color is unable to change. By wearing sunscreen, you can keep these lighter patches from standing out too much in the summer.
How Is Pityriasis Alba Diagnosed?
Like other recognizable skin conditions, many doctors will only need to look at your rash to know how to diagnose you.
However, pityriasis alba can be easily confused with some other similar skin conditions, so your doctor may order some tests to rule out any other possibilities before fully diagnosing you. These tests may include a skin scraping, blood test, or biopsy.
How to Treat Pityriasis Alba
Generally speaking, pityriasis alba will go away on its own without any type of prescribed or home treatment.
With that said, there are some treatments that could ease some of the mild symptoms that come with the red patches, such as dryness, itching, and inflammation.
It is important to remember that, because pityriasis alba more commonly affects babies and children, the methods of possible treatment might differ than those for adults.
A child’s skin is much more sensitive than the skin of an adult, so great care must be taken not to irritate it further; always speak to your doctor before trying any treatment to ease your child’s symptoms.
It is unclear whether any diet changes may help prevent or treat pityriasis alba, but a diet that benefits a healthy immune system might help prevent the condition or ease its symptoms if you already have it.
This diet might include different foods like garlic, yogurt, bell peppers, broccoli, almonds, spinach, ginger, and citrus fruits.
While these foods will likely have a positive effect on your immune system, it is not guaranteed that they will help or prevent pityriasis alba or other similar skin conditions.
If you’d like to seek treatment for pityriasis alba to ease some of its mild symptoms while you wait for the rash to disappear on its own, you should speak to your doctor about what kind of treatment you would prefer.
Your doctor can prescribe a topical treatment such as a steroid cream or moisturizing cream to help reduce discoloration and ease symptoms such as dryness, itching, or scaling.
If your pityriasis alba is severe or extensive, your doctor may prescribe Psoralen Plus Ultraviolet Light A (PUVA) photochemotherapy to help with repigmentation; he or she may also prescribe laser therapy for similar purposes.
Home Remedies for Pityriasis Alba
There are also some natural home remedies you might consider seeking to help ease the mild symptoms of pityriasis alba. Moisturizing ingredients such as vaseline, petroleum jelly, or coconut oil could be used to help with dryness; buttermilk and olive oil may also be good naturally moisturizing options.
A puree of avocados applied to the rash could help soothe the skin and retain moisture to combat dryness.
You should also always make sure to apply sunscreen whenever you plan on going outside and exposing your skin to the sun, even after your pityriasis alba has faded.
Applying some fresh aloe vera gel to the rash can help moisturize the skin and is useful to combat scaling and dryness which pityriasis alba can cause. Unfortunately, it can not help diminish the white marks left behind but it provides excellent nourishment for the skin.
Simply cut open a fresh aloe vera leaf and apply the gel to the affected areas of your skin several times a day.
Virgin coconut oil is an outstanding home remedy for a wide variety of skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.
While it may not help reduce the white patches characteristic of pityriasis alba, it can help nourish the skin and eliminate dryness and scaling. Coconut oil is full of medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid which are easily absorbed into the skin keeping it moist and supple.
Apply virgin coconut oil with a cotton ball to the affected areas of your skin for as long as necessary.
Avocados are rich in vitamins A and E as well as being high in healthy fats that are good for the skin. Not only do they taste great but you can make a puree of your avocados and apply it topically to the skin.
Applying the puree to the affected areas of your skin acts as a natural emollient and should help protect against dryness.
Simply peel a few avocados and blend them in a blender until you have a nice, smooth puree. Apply it to your skin and leave it in place for around 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
Turmeric is very well known for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits.
Some people have had success when applying it to the white patches caused by pityriasis alba. According to anecdotal reports, a combination of mustard oil and turmeric powder can actually help eliminate white patches from your skin.
- Mix up some turmeric powder with enough mustard oil to make a smooth paste.
- Apply the paste to the affected parts of your skin every day.
- Let it sit for 30 minutes and then rinse it off.
Neem or Indian lilac is widely used to treat a number of skin conditions and it may also help combat autoimmune disorders like pityriasis alba.
You can add a teaspoon of dried neem powder to a glass of water and drink it up every day. You can also apply neem topically to the skin. If you apply a paste made with neem leaves to the white patches of skin on a regular basis, it may help reduce the appearance of the patches considerably.
Good quality honey is great for the skin because of its outstanding antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It can help nourish and moisturize the skin and may even help return the patches to their natural color.
Simply take a dollop of honey and apply it evenly to the affected area of your skin. Let it absorb into your skin naturally, You can also make a paste with honey and turmeric powder and apply this to your white patches every day for as long as needed.
Reduce Sun Exposure
Prolonged exposure to the sun can make the white marks caused by pityriasis alba stand out even more. White patches of skin are also more susceptible to the sun’s rays because they are lacking in melanin to protect your skin.
Make sure that you use a wide-brimmed hat or an umbrella to protect your face from the sun especially during the hottest parts of the day.
No matter how old you are, you should always speak to a doctor before trying a home remedy of any kind. Some natural ingredients may tend to work for a specific purpose but could still make your condition worse depending on your skin and other circumstances.
Your doctor would be able to properly advise you regarding what kinds of home remedies you could try other than the creams that he or she may prescribe.
Kids, especially, have much more sensitive skin than adults do, so you should be extremely careful putting anything on a child’s rash to avoid irritating it further and making them feel even more uncomfortable.
Pityriasis Alba Frequently Asked Questions
Is Pityriasis Alba the same as Vitiligo?
Pityriasis alba is not necessarily the same thing as vitiligo although they do share some similarities. Pityriasis alba starts with red, scaly patches that leave behind lighter areas of the skin as the redness goes away.
Vitiligo, on the other hand, is simply a condition that causes pigment to be lost from spots on the skin. There are studies that show that pityriasis alba may turn into vitiligo; however, the two are not necessarily the same.
If I’ve already had Pityriasis Alba, will I get it again?
Unfortunately, there is a chance that you might get the condition again after you’ve already had it.
With that said, the likelihood of getting it in adulthood is very slim, so the chances are low that you would be diagnosed again. If you do think you are developing the condition again, however, you should speak with your doctor about how to handle it.
Do I have Pityriasis Alba?
If you’ve read about the symptoms and appearances of pityriasis alba and think that you have it, you should go see a doctor to get a full diagnosis.
Pityriasis Alba may look similar to other skin conditions to the untrained eye, so your doctor will be able to tell you more accurately what condition your skin rash is caused by. He or she will also be able to prescribe or advise treatments that might help ease any itching, inflammation, or dryness that you may be experiencing due to the rash.
Is Pityriasis Alba contagious?
Luckily, pityriasis alba is not contagious, so you don’t need to worry about anybody catching it from you while you have it. Doctors still aren’t sure what exactly causes the skin condition, but it is known that it’s not caught from someone else.
Because pityriasis alba is not contagious, you won’t need to worry about covering it up to keep it from spreading it to other people.
With that said, protecting your skin with breathable materials made from natural fiber is still a good idea to help combat any uncomfortable symptoms you may be dealing with while you wait for the rash to fade on its own.
Do I need to see a doctor for my pityriasis alba?
While you don’t necessarily need to see a doctor, it would be beneficial for you to visit one so you can be sure that you really do have pityriasis alba and not a similar skin condition that may need different treatment.
If you do have pityriasis alba, no treatment is necessary, and you can simply wait for the rash to go away on it own. If your rash is uncomfortable due to itching, dryness, or inflammation, you could talk to your doctor about treatments to ease these symptoms. Otherwise, no treatment is necessary.
How long does it take for Pityriasis Alba to go away?
The patches on the skin caused by pityriasis alba can last between a month and a year but the patches on the face usually last longer. The long-term prognosis is good and the skin will eventually return to its normal color without any special treatment.
- Pityriasis alba is a form of dermatitis which affects children usually from the age of 3 to 16. It causes red patches of skin which can become white over time.
- The condition is not serious and will go away without treatment within a few months to a year or so.
- No treatment is usually necessary but you may have some minor symptoms of dryness and itching.
- Certain home remedies can help relieve dryness, irritation, and scaling. Aloe vera and coconut oil are great options.
- Some home remedies like turmeric paste and honey may help reduce the appearance of white patches on the skin but there is no real evidence to prove that they work.
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