White Patches on Skin - Causes and Treatment
How do these white patches look?
They usually appear on the face (usually the cheeks), neck or arms. The patches are irregular in shape and don't have defined borders. It looks different to vitiligo. Vitiligo has clear boundaries.
It's also called pityriasis alba.
What causes these white patches?
These patches are post-inflammation hyperpigmentation. Sometimes when inflammation occurs on our skin, the cells that produce the pigment that gives skin its colour, stop producing the pigment. This is not a permanent stop. They stop producing for a period of time and then start back again. The inflammation that triggers this stop could be eczema, dry skin, some kind of trauma to the skin, breakouts - basically any kind of stress to the skin. The inflammation might not always lead to white patches.
In vitiligo, the cells permanently stop producing the pigment. In pityriasis alba, the stop is only temporary.
These white patches are most common in...
- Young children
- People with eczema
- People with dry skin
- People with dust allergies
Are they more prominent in darker-skin-toned people?
Not necessarily. They are however more pronounced in darker skin toned people. In darker skin toned people, these white patches stand out. They are completely different in colour to the surrounding skin. Hence they look more visible.
Do we get them more in summer?
Not necessarily. In summer we tan. And so the surrounding skin becomes darker than these patches. This makes the patches more visible.
Does Sun play a role?
Yes. Exposure to the sun is known to further increase the chances of these patches appearing in people whose skin is prone to these patches.
How do we treat these white patches?
The main cause is some kind of inflammation / breakout / dryness in the skin. The treatment is to help the skin with these triggers. These patches are temporary. All that they need would be the following:
- regular moisturising
- sunscreen (a must)
- no long hot showers - long hot showers cause dryness in the skin.
- avoid anything that dries up your skin
- use the same skincare routine that you would use for dry skin.