How do I Choose the Best Medication for Tinea Versicolor?

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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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There are several options for treating a tinea versicolor rash, and choosing the best one for you can depend on several factors. The severity of the rash can help your doctor determine what medication for tinea versicolor will be most effective in your case. Topical ointments and creams may take time and effort to use, but have fewer possible side effects than oral medications. If you want to try a treatment that is available over the counter, dandruff shampoos are effective for some people when applied to the rash as a lotion.

One of the main types of medication for tinea versicolor are topical creams, typically antifungals, which can kill the excessive yeast causing the rash. Some common topical agents are ketoconazole, clotrimazole, and terbinafine. Other possible drugs that can be applied as ointments are selenium sulfide, sodium sulfacetamide, ciclopiroxolamine. Topical treatments may be best for you if your rash is not too severe or does not cover too much of your skin; topicals may not be as effective on severe rashes, and since they need to be applied liberally, using them on a widespread rash may become expensive. You may also find them preferable if you have concerns about the side effects of oral medications, which can range from nausea to liver damage.


Oral medication for tinea versicolor, such as drugs like ketoconazole, fluconazole, and itraconazole, is another possibility for treatment. Using topical creams can be time consuming, messy, and take several weeks to cure a breakout, while oral medications are easy to take and frequently work in less time; the convenience of these drugs may mean they fit with your lifestyle better than topicals. This can make them particularly attractive if you are prone to repeat occurrences as well. Oral drugs are also often better for clearing an extensive rash. In very severe cases, it may be necessary to combine both oral and topical treatments.

Most topical and oral antifungal medication for tinea versicolor needs to be prescribed by a doctor. Patients who wish to treat themselves at home may wish to try using dandruff shampoo. Though typically less effective than prescription drugs, they do work for some people and have the advantage of being readily available and less expensive. Shampoos containing sulfur and salicylic acid, zinc-pyrithione, or selenium sulfide can all be used as lotions to treat tinea versicolor.


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