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White Skin Spots: Causes and Treatment

Have you ever had small white spots somewhere on your skin? This is a common occurrence, and although it can be alarming at first, it generally isn’t an indicator of anything serious. Skin conditions can take on different forms, such as dry or flaky patches, hives, rosacea, or spots that are lighter than your normal skin tone. There are several reasons why white spots appear on your skin, and most cases are easily treated. 

It’s important to consider other symptoms that appear along with the spots in order to identify the cause and determine the proper treatment. We created a useful guide to understanding what causes white spots, the different treatment options, and when to see a dermatologist.

What Are White Skin Spots?

White spots are areas of depigmentation on the body caused by a variety of skin conditions. Usually this occurrence isn’t painful. Depigmentation can be associated with dead skin cell buildup or hormonal imbalances that influence protein accumulation that alters skin’s appearance. Spots can appear on both children and adults and affect all people equally, regardless of gender. 

Types of White Spots

Many factors can result in the appearance of white spots on your skin. Analyzing their size, shape, and location of the spots can help determine the cause. The following are the most common types of white spots:

Tinea versicolor 

Also known as pityriasis versicolor, this disease is caused by the fungus Malassezia, which causes white patches to appear on your skin. These patches tend to be seen in areas like your chest, arms, and back. This condition doesn’t usually cause pain or discomfort aside from some itchiness. Most cases occur in young people and in humid environments where fungus can reproduce easily. 

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that causes skin depigmentation as a result of the spontaneous destruction of melanin-producing cells. Melanin is what gives your skin, hair, and eyes their color. It also protects your skin and body from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Vitiligo affects up to 3% of the world's population.

Milia

Milia are small, whitish bumps that are common in newborns and babies, though they can also appear in adults. They tend to appear on the nose, eyelids, and chin. If your baby has these, they are most likely due to a buildup of protein in the skin’s lower layer, which causes the bumps to fill with fluid. While there is no way to prevent milia, they tend to clear up on their own after a few days

Sun spots

As the name suggests, these spots form as a reaction to extended sun exposure without protection against ultraviolet rays. They’re usually flat and brown and can appear anywhere on the body, typically on the face, chest, back, and legs. Sunspots are not dangerous and removing them isn’t necessary, unless you want to do so for cosmetic reasons. 

Keep in mind: To prevent sunspots, we recommend using sunscreen every day. This will protect you from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays which can lead to premature skin aging as well as more serious diseases such as skin cancer. 

Pityriasis alba

This skin condition is usually related to atopic dermatitis. It mainly affects children and young people and causes white spots to appear on the face, neck, and arms. Patches of urticaria often appear with the spots, which may eventually flake off and cause discomfort.

Most Common Treatments

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Depending on their cause, there are many treatment options for white spots on the skin. The most common treatments are: 

Antifungal creams

As their name indicates, these creams are ideal for spots that are caused by a fungus. They work by killing the fungus and preventing the infection from spreading. Many of these creams are available over-the-counter, meaning they don’t require a prescription.

Keep in mind: This type of treatment is usually effective in the initial stages of infection. If the fungus doesn’t clear up in a few days, we recommend seeing a dermatologist for other treatment. 

Low-dose topical corticosteroid creams

Corticosteroids are useful for combating pityriasis alba, atopic dermatitis, and milia. These creams focus on reducing symptoms like itching and combating underlying conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. Corticosteroids should be administered in low doses to manage their potential side effects, which include fluid retention, increased appetite, or hypertension. 

Ultraviolet light therapy

This option is usually used to treat vitiligo, which isn’t life-threatening but can affect a person’s quality of life depending on its severity. Phototherapy aims to balance the pigmentation of the skin that’s been lost due to the destruction of melanin-producing cells. 

Vitamin supplements

These supplements can help restore your body’s vitamin and mineral levels. As a result, a properly balanced organism contributes to an increased immune response, which prevents the spread of fungal and other skin infections.

Tips to Prevent Skin Blemishes

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As always, prevention is the best medicine. Prioritizing healthy lifestyle, diet, and skincare habits will help you avoid ending up with white spots, no matter the root cause. Some tips to prevent skin issues include:

  • A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain beneficial vitamins and minerals
  • Daily sunscreen use 
  • Use of moisturizing creams to avoid flaky skin and dermatitis
  • Proper hygiene of areas where fungus can grow, such as your face, hair, and hands 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are white spots related to vitamin deficiencies?

White spots can sometimes be related to a vitamin E or D deficiency. A lack of these vitamins prevents the melanin cells in the body from reproducing properly, causing white spots to appear. Certain fish, grains, and nuts are rich in these vitamins, and eating them can help correct your deficiency. 

How do I know if it's fungus or vitiligo?

Spotting the difference between a fungus and vitiligo is complicated. We recommend visiting a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. Observe how long the skin spots last after treating them with an antifungal cream. If they don't disappear right away, it might be a more serious condition.  

What is stress acne?

Although stress spots tend to be reddish in color, sometimes they appear white. Stress triggers an imbalance in your entire nervous system, which causes repercussions in other areas of the body, especially your immune system. This causes defense cells to attack healthy cells by mistake, resulting in the appearance of spots. 

Can white skin spots mean cancer?

Although the percentage of skin cancer cases that present symptoms associated with white spots is low, there is a possibility that it can manifest itself in this way. Keep an eye out to see if the white spots are located near moles, bumps, or bulges that suddenly appear on your body.

Keep in mind: If you notice white spots forming near moles or other bumps, see a dermatologist as soon as possible for a comprehensive exam.

Say Goodbye to White Spots! 

Skin blemishes can be unsightly and bothersome, but with proper prevention and treatment you can keep infections and fungus from spreading. Bye bye, blemishes and hello clear, healthy skin!

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