Tinea Versicolor Treatment Options

These antifungals can help clear up your skin

Treatment for tinea versicolor can include topical over-the-counter (OTC) anti-fungal medications and prescription anti-fungal creams and oral medications. Untreated, the condition won't lead to serious issues. Treatment can help improve the patches of discolored skin and symptoms like itching, however.

Tinea versicolor is a yeast-like fungal infection of the skin. It is also known as pityriasis versicolor. The condition is neither contagious nor dangerous, but it can be persistent, recurring, and bothersome. Some people may need to use a tinea versicolor treatment every month to keep it at bay.

This article discusses types of tinea versicolor treatments, including home remedies, and when each is used.

An illustration with information about how to treat tinea versicolor skin infection

Illustraiton by JR Bee for Verywell Health

What Is Tinea Versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal skin condition caused by yeast-like fungi called Malassezia. It's called "versicolor" because the yeast produces a lightening substance that affects the pigment-producing ability of the melanocytes.

Tinea versicolor isn't dangerous or contagious, but other tinea infections can be. These include tinea corporis and tinea capitis.

A tinea versicolor infection produces a characteristic rash on the torso and shoulders. The discolored patches can appear lighter or darker than the surrounding skin and are made up of either flat skin lesions (macules) or raised plaques. These are more noticeable on tanned skin.

Some people report itching with tinea versicolor, though this does not happen for everyone.

pityriasis versicolor white
Pityriasis versicolor white.


pityriasis versicolor pink
Pityriasis versicolor pink.


pityriasis versicolor brown
Pityriasis versicolor brown.


OTC Tinea Versicolor Treatment

Over-the-counter topical antifungal medications are usually effective in the early stages or first occurrence of the infection.

OTC anti-fungal treatments for tinea versicolor include:

  • Lamisil AT (terbinafine) cream or gel
  • Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole) cream or lotion
  • Micaderm (miconazole) cream

Antifungal washes including zinc pyrithione soap, sulfur salicylic acid shampoo, and Selsun Blue (selenium sulfide) shampoo are also used to treat mild cases of tinea versicolor. These remedies can cause skin irritation and should be tested on a small patch of skin.

The tinea versicolor fungus typically clears up within one to two weeks after you begin treatment. The discoloration can persist for much longer. You can expect the discolored patches to gradually fade over time until they are no longer noticeable. It may take up to a few months or even years for them to disappear.

Topical Prescription Medications

If OTC remedies don't clear up the rash, your healthcare provider can prescribe a topical antifungal medication. The most effective prescription antifungals for tinea versicolor include:

  • 2% Nizoral (ketoconazole) cream or foam
  • 2% Nizoral (ketoconazole) shampoo
  • 1% Lamisil (terbinafine) solution
  • 1% Lotrimin (clotrimazole) solution

Oral Antifungal Treatments

Tinea versicolor lives in the top layer of skin (epidermis) and usually responds to topical antifungal medications. However, more often than not, the rash returns. The goal is to manage the yeast population, which requires constant maintenance when conditions for overgrowth are present.

Oral antifungal pills can be used for harder-to-treat cases. Diflucan (fluconazole) is an oral antifungal that is effective against tinea versicolor.

Side effects of oral antifungal medications include nausea and reversible liver damage. However, the course of treatment is usually short and these side effects are not common.

Home Remedies

Antifungal medications are the best treatments for tinea versicolor, but some people prefer to try home remedies. It won't hurt to try these remedies, however, it's important to keep in mind that there isn't strong evidence to support their effectiveness.

  • Apple cider vinegar: One small study found that apple cider vinegar used alongside 2% ketoconazole shampoo was more effective than the ketoconazole shampoo alone. Symptoms also resolved faster in subjects who used the combination treatment. 
  • Honey: Acacia honey has been shown to improve symptoms of tinea versicolor in small studies. One study also found that honey mixed with olive oil and beeswax is effective against tinea versicolor. 
  • Aloe vera: Aloe vera may inhibit the growth of the fungus that causes tinea versicolor. One study found that aloe vera was effective even against strains resistant to anti-fungal medication.
  • Turmeric: This Ayurvedic remedy is said to reduce itching and pigmentation. Try applying a turmeric powder paste to the affected area.
  • Coconut oil: This remedy is said to prevent fungal growth. Some people add camphor to the oil before applying it to the skin.

Maintenance Treatments

Once successfully treated, tinea versicolor has an 80% chance of recurrence. Many people require ongoing maintenance treatments to keep the fungal infection in check.

Using dandruff shampoos as a body wash is a common, low-cost solution. Shampoos that have been shown to be effective as treatments for tinea versicolor include:

  • Sulfur shampoo
  • Zinc-pyrithione shampoo
  • Selsun Blue (selenium sulfide) 2.5%

If these remedies cause skin irritation, talk to your healthcare provider about other preventive options.


Tinea versicolor is a skin infection caused by overgrowth of a common fungus. It causes patches of discolored skin that are treated with antifungal medication.

If you suspect you have tinea versicolor, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options. Tinea versicolor treatment is usually based on the extent of your rash, how long you've had it, and if it is your first rash or a recurrence.

Tinea versicolor usually responds well to topical treatments but more stubborn cases may require prescription antifungal pills. Maintenance treatments may be needed to prevent recurrences. Some people have success using dandruff shampoos to treat tinea versicolor and prevent a recurrence.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does tinea versicolor last?

    Tinea versicolor responds well to treatment, but it is very likely to come back. The spots usually resolve quickly. The changes in skin color may take longer. If conditions for overgrowth subside, the yeast population may go away on its own if left untreated.

  • How can you treat tinea versicolor at home?

    Home remedies for tinea versicolor include over-the-counter anti-fungal creams and lotions like Lotrimin AF or Lamisil AT.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gupta AK, Foley KA. Antifungal treatment for pityriasis versicolor. J Fungi. 2015;1(1):13-29. doi:10.3390/jof1010013

  2. Thayikkannu AB, Kindo AJ, Veeraraghavan M. Malassezia-can it be ignored? Indian J Dermatol. 2015;60(4):332-9. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.160475

  3. Bamford JTM, Flores‐Genuino RNS, Ray S, et al. Interventions for the treatment of pityriasis versicolorCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;2018(6):CD011208. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011208.pub2

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Tinea versicolor.

  5. Gupta AK, Lyons DC. Pityriasis versicolor: an update on pharmacological treatment options. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2014;15(12):1707-13. doi:10.1517/14656566.2014.931373

  6. Almirañez JE, Almonte SH, Alvarez AD, et al. Efficacy of apple cider vinegar as an adjunct to 2% ketoconazole shampoo in the treatment of tinea versicolor: a randomized controlled trial. UERM Health Sci J. 2015;4.

  7. Israili ZH. Antimicrobial properties of honey. Am J Ther. 2014;21(4):304-23. doi:10.1097/MJT.0b013e318293b09b

  8. Fozouni L, Taghizadeh F, Kiaei E. Anti-microbial effect of aloe vera extract on clotrimazole-resistant malassezia furfur strains isolated from patients with seborrheic dermatitis in the city of Sari. Ann Mil Health Sci Res. 2018;16(2):e82841. doi:10.5812/amh.82841

Additional Reading
  • Weller RB, Hunter HJA, Mann MW. Clinical Dermatology. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Inc; 2015.

By Heather L. Brannon, MD
Heather L. Brannon, MD, is a family practice physician in Mauldin, South Carolina. She has been in practice for over 20 years.