Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection of the skin caused by an overgrowth of yeast. People with the condition will have small, whitish-pink or tan spots on the skin--most often on the upper arms, back and chest, and sometimes on the face and neck. The skin also will not tan normally, with the patches remaining a pale colour. The condition is fairly easy to treat because yeast is easy to kill. However, the skin discolouration typically remains for weeks or months.
Most cases of tinea versicolor respond well to over-the-counter anti-fungal products. Common examples include Lotrimin, Lamisil and Micatin. Anti-fungal products are available as creams, lotions and ointments, so you can choose the product you prefer. Over-the-counter anti-fungals should be applied to the skin twice a day for 10 to 14 days. Because the affected skin from tinea versicolor can be hard to reach yourself, you may need help applying the anti-fungal medications.
Anti-fungal shampoos such as Selsun Blue and other products containing selenium sulphide or ketoconazole can be successfully used to treat tinea versicolor. Even though these products are shampoos typically used on the hair, they can also be used to treat fungal skin infections. Some doctors will recommend applying the shampoo to the skin and leaving it on for 15 minutes before rinsing it off. Others may suggest allowing the shampoo to dry on the skin and leaving it on overnight before rinsing it off. Leaving it on the skin for so long may cause irritation, however.
In severe cases of tinea versicolor that do not respond to over-the-counter treatment, a prescription from your doctor will probably be necessary to clear up the infection. Prescription-strength anti-fungal medications are available as topical solutions, such as creams and ointments, shampoos and as pills. The topical and shampoo forms of the prescription anti-fungals should be used similarly to the over-the-counter products. Regardless of what product you are using, though, follow the doctor's orders and take it only for as long as prescribed. Even after the infection has been cured, the skin discolouration will remain for a period of time. That does not mean that the infection is still present, however.