What is Pityriasis Alba?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 February 2020
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Pityriasis alba is a skin disorder that primarily affects people under the age of 20. Round patches of light-colored, rough skin appear on the face, neck, or arms, but do not typically lead to uncomfortable symptoms. Spots can persist for many months, and tend to dissipate completely by early adulthood. In most cases, pityriasis alba can be treated with over-the-counter facial moisturizing creams. If spots become scaly or do not disappear after several months, an individual can obtain prescription topical corticosteroids from a dermatologist.

The causes of pityriasis alba are not well understood by doctors. Research does not indicate that any specific genetic or environmental conditions predispose individuals to developing the disorder. It is one of the most common skin disorders; about five percent of young people worldwide experience noticeable cases. It is more prevalent in children and adolescents with darker skin, and both males and females tend to be affected at about the same rate.

Pityriasis alba usually manifests as up to 20 small white patches of skin. The rounded patches can appear on the cheeks, neck, arms, or shoulders. Most cases of pityriasis alba do not cause pain or irritation, though if skin is excessively dry the patches can become red, scaly, and itchy. Scaly skin may begin to flake if exposed to direct sunlight and high temperatures for extended periods of time.


The condition is typically short-lived, as patches usually fade away in one to six months. In addition, very few people over the age of 20 experience recurring cases of pityriasis alba. Treatment is not typically necessary since most individuals do not experience adverse symptoms. In order to improve the appearance of skin or reduce dryness, however, a person can choose to apply lotion or over-the-counter skin moisturizers. Keeping the skin hydrated and free from oils can promote faster healing and disappearance of spots.

Some children and adolescents suffer from severe cases of pityriasis alba that persist for years at a time or recur frequently. If white spots are unaffected by moisturizers, an individual can visit a dermatologist for a thorough examination and diagnosis. The dermatologist can conduct a physical examination and take a biopsy of skin tissue to check for the presence of more serious skin disorders or cancer. Treatment usually involves the application of corticosteroids to the affected part of the body. Many patients are prescribed a topical hydrocortisone cream to be applied to the patches daily until they are gone.


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Post 4

@jmc88 - I'm not a doctor, so take my advice with a grain of salt, but it sounds like you may possibly have a minor case of eczema.

With eczema, the area will usually be red and itchy as well as flaky. I'm not sure how long it takes for all the symptoms to show up, or if they all show up every time. It doesn't really sound like pityriasis alba from what I've seen and heard about it.

If you think it might be something that could get out of hand, it never hurts to have someone take a look at it. Your doctor might just tell you it's nothing, but you never know for sure. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Post 3

I have been noticing dry spots on my elbows lately. It's not really in the form of small spots, though. It's more just like a big dry area. Everything else sounds similar. The skin is kind of flaky.

I have been putting lotion on my elbows a couple of times each day, but I don't know if I'm seeing much of a difference. Do you guys think this is just pityriasis alba, or could it be something else? I don't really want to have to go to the doctor if it is something that will go away on its own. On the other hand, if it is something more serious, I would want him to look at it.

Post 2

I went to school with someone who had a case of pityriasis alba that was on his face. At first glance, it kind of looked like chicken pox, which we thought was odd. After a while, you could tell that wasn't it. He said they didn't itch, they just looked bad.

I felt sorry for him having to deal with it, but luckily the spots went away after a while. He was well-liked, otherwise I could see how having this conditions could cause someone to get teased at school.

This got me to thinking, though, since the article says people with darker skin are more prone to the condition, could that mean that the cause is something to do with melanin production in the skin?

Post 1

I used to have pityriasis alba when I was younger, around 17. Fortunately, I only had it on my arms, so it wasn't as noticeable as if it was on my face.

I didn't know what it was at first. I got worried and went to a doctor to have him look at it. He assured me it wasn't anything major. I just put lotion on the area every day, and the spots disappeared after a couple of months. I haven't had a problem since.

At the time when I was looking for information about the condition, they thought it was spread through public swimming pools, but I never went swimming around that age, so that wasn't my cause.

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