Tinea Versicolor

What is tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor, also affectionately known as “Haole Rot” to Dr. Liu's Hawaiian friends, is a common skin condition related to the overgrowth of yeast (most commonly Malassezia furfur) on the skin surface. The most common scenario Dr. Liu encounters is a young healthy adult comes in during a summer month and says, “Doctor, my skin is tanning unevenly and my skin feels a bit itchy and scaly.”

Who can get tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor most commonly affects teenagers or young adults. People of any skin type are equally prone to its development. People with oily skin may be more susceptible than those with naturally dry skin, too.

What does tinea versicolor look like?
People frequently complain of uneven skin color and sometimes scaly or itch skin. Tinea versicolor is most commonly seen on the upper back, chest, and mid-abdomen, but can also appear on the neck and/or face.  The rash can appear as lighter or darker patches on your skin.  

Why does tinea versicolor occur?
 Yeast is normally present in small numbers on everyone's skin. Tinea versicolor can develop when there is an overgrowth of the yeast on your skin surface. The yeast thrives in oily environments, which is why we see it most commonly affect teenagers and young adults (who have healthy skin with plenty of oil) on the upper chest, and back (skin areas with high concentration of oil glands in the hair follicles).
As the yeast grows, it prevents the skin from tanning normally, which results in the light or dark spots on the skin. This becomes most apparent in the summer months when people are getting more amounts of sun, resulting in obvious uneven tans.
How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?
Dermatologists will often diagnose tinea versicolor from the physical examination because of its characteristic appearance. If necessary, an examination of the fine scales scraped from the skin can be confirmed under the microscope at your visit. Rarely, a skin biopsy can be performed.

How is tinea versicolor treated?
Tinea versicolor is treated with a variety of topical and/or oral medications, mostly directed at reducing the yeast on the skin or treating any inflammation that has developed secondarily to the yeast overgrowth. An individualized treatment regimen should be designed for you by your Dermatologist.

How soon will my skin color even out?
It may take several weeks to months for the uneven color of the skin to even out. You can speed the recovery of your skin color by following the recommendation of your Dermatologist to treat the skin and keep it clear from future recurrences of the tinea versicolor. If the yeast overgrowth has been eliminated from the skin surface, the skin will tan return to tanning normally.

Will I get tinea versicolor again?
Tinea versicolor may recur, especially if the skin is exposed to an environment where the yeast will flourish. Maintenance treatment recommended by your Dermatologist is advised, especially during the warm and/or humid months of the year.