Pityriasis Versicolor

Pityriasis Versicolor

Pityriasis Versicolor is a skin condition. Its strange name actually describes its appearance. Pityriasis refers to fine skin scaling and versicolor means changing colour.


  • Rash (mostly on the body rather than limbs)
  • Flat, scaly areas of altered colour
  • Varying colour depending on sun exposure

What causes Pityriasis Versicolor?

This condition is caused by an overgrowth of a common and normally harmless yeast (Malassezia furfur or Pityrosporum orbiculare) that lives on our skin. It is not the same yeast that causes thrush. When the conditions are right (usually in warm, moist climates) these yeast can multiply out of control to cause a rash known as pityriasis versicolor.

On white skin the rash is fawn or pinkish in colour. When exposed to sunlight the yeast produces chemicals that upset the skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes) causing the rash to stay pale while the rest of the skin tans normally. The darker the skin, the easier it is to see the pale-coloured rash.

Pityriasis versicolor usually affects people in their early 20s and in those who sweat a lot.

Disruption of the skin surface, such as scratches or eczema, can also trigger the condition as this allows the fungus to penetrate the skin. The condition is also more common in people with a weakened immune system.

How is the condition treated?

The rash is usually treated with antifungal treatments applied directly to the skin in the form of lotions, creams or shampoo. A medicated shampoo containing ketoconazole and selenium sulphide used as a body wash is usually sufficient to destroy the yeast on the skin. Many antifungal treatments are available over-the-counter.

  • If the rash is widespread or the shampoo method hasn’t worked, a doctor may prescribe an antifungal treatment to be taken orally.
  • The pale areas can take several months to get back to their normal colour even after treatment.
  • The condition often recurs.

Alternative Remedies & Self-help:

Use an anti-yeast shampoo as a bodywash a few weeks prior to being in the sun.