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August 8th, 2011
09:02 AM ET

What are these dry white spots on my child's face?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Question asked by Lee of Maryland:

We just got back from the beach and I noticed that my 6-year-old daughter has some dry white spots on her face. I make sure she always wears sunscreen, and she has not had a sunburn. I've put lotion on her skin but it's not helping. She had eczema when she was younger but that always showed up on her arms and legs and not the face. What could this be?

Expert answer:

Thanks for your question. In the summer, it's common for children and young adults to develop a benign skin condition called pityriasis alba. It consists of multiple lighter round patches of skin on the face and often is a little scaly so that it looks rough or like it's peeling slightly. It is unclear exactly what causes pityriasis alba but it does seem to be more common after sun exposure and in people who have eczema.

Pityriasis alba can last for weeks to years and is more noticeable in the summer when the surrounding skin is more tan than the affected spots. The lighter areas usually occur on the face but can also show up on the neck, shoulders and arms. The majority of people with this skin condition are between 3 and 16 years of age.

It's best to continue using sunscreen when outside to avoid sunburns and try to keep the skin color on the face about the same shade throughout. Moisturizers can help, and sometimes using a mild steroid cream such as hydrocortisone may improve the appearance of the skin as well as any itching that might accompany the spots.

Other skin conditions may also look like what you describe so it's always best to get confirmation from your child's doctor. Good luck.

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soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. kelly

    I have been using 100 % Pure Moroccan Argan Oil for my Eczema. I use Essence of Argan and am thrilled w/ the results... nothing else seemed to work. http://www.essenceofargan.com

    August 8, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Carmen

    We used to call these sunspots, and used Selsun Blue or a similar product to clear them up.

    August 8, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JULIO

      If I remember right the selsun blue was used only to clear up fungi infections under the skin that causes similar light white spots. As for sun induced spots it is more and likely to irritate it.

      August 8, 2011 at 22:29 | Report abuse |
    • Paulina

      I Bought Selsun Blue For My Daughter But How Many Times Do I Use It Each Day ?

      July 17, 2012 at 17:55 | Report abuse |
  3. mom

    Sounds like tinea versacolor to me. My daughter gets it on her neck and shoulder every once in a while. It's a fungal type thing and Sesun Blue clears it up. There is also a prescription that can be used. Since its on her face, I'd check with a doctor.

    August 8, 2011 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. san

    My girls get the same thing every summer. Last year it was so bad that we went to the doctor because it looked more like they were losing pigment in the skin, than the usual sun spots. We were told that the areas were damaged from being dry, probably occurring in the "winter". The dryness from winter can take a long time to heal and the best action is to apply a daily moisturizer or sunscreen year long until it clears. It definitely works, but does take a long time to clear (whole year before we noticed an improvement this summer). One of my girls did not stick to the daily moisturizer and her face is very mottled again and feels extra dry. Sunscreen doesn't seem to make a difference either other than it provides protection. The white spots are very noticeable all summer, even with good sunscreen. The girls who stuck to the routine no longer have the spots.

    August 8, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. julie

    I am with the others... my husband gets these spots every few years and he went to the dermatologist who said it was a type of fungus. everyone has it in them, it just comes out on certain people when exposed to the sun or tanning beds a lot. he prescribed a medicated body shampoo, but said that in the future, use selson blue. before going in the sun, let it sit for a little while on the skin and then rinse. do this a few times and it should start to tan with the rest of your skin.

    August 8, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • fluff

      Here in Central Florida we call it Florida Fungus, most of the time people getting from swimming in the lakes, and, yes, Selsun Blue is the cure.

      August 8, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
  6. IAH

    Tinea versicolor! I had it from about 15 to 25. Now I'm 28 and I finally grew out of it. Try Nizoral for two weeks (plus a little tanning afterwards) and the Selsun Blue method.

    August 8, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Fifi

    So many "cooks" in this kitchen! I had to look up both conditions, and it looks like the doctor (surprise!) is much more likely to have pegged it. Everyone thinks they know better than the person who went through almost a decade of education and training.

    The fungus was a surprise, though. I spent my youth on a beach and saw that frequently, but always assumed it was the result of a bad sunburn and peeling.

    I know I've said this before, but why would anyone e-mail an online doc instead of taking a child to the doctor?

    August 8, 2011 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lia

      I took my soon to the doctor and the doctor said that looks like eczema but did not give us anything to apply. Some doctors not always know everything.

      August 10, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
  8. sarah S

    I get white spots on my back when i tan. i showed my doctor and she said it was the fungus tinea versacolor and to use selsun blue. maybe the commenters are more likely to be right since they, like me probably actually had a doctor look at it and tell them it was TV and to us SB. instead of just emailing some online doc.

    August 9, 2011 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fifi

      On your back, as you say. The case mentioned concerns dry spots on the face (not a common spot for tv). Tinea versicolor is a fungal overgrowth, whereas pityriasis alba is a skin condition that can later affect pigment. The child had eczema previously. Put it together.

      August 9, 2011 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
  9. John Mont

    I am 41 and have tinea versicolor. At least I did when I was a teenager playing football. The constant sweating during practice made it really bad all ove my back. I went to the doctor and he gave me ketoconazole cream and it helped cure it. I would then have selsun blue (active ingredient is Selenim Sulfide – an antifungal agent) rubbed on my back and then washed off after 15 min. I did this once a week for almost a year and never had a problem until a few years ago when I got it again. Instead of going to the doctor, I just went to walmart and picked up Walmart's brand of Selsun blue. Wiped it on my back and then off after 10 minutes. Did this three times a week for three weeks. I have not had a problem since. I don't believe you can be 100% cured. According to my doctor when I was a teenager, people that get this do not produce the necessary aunifungal chemicals in their body to fight it off when exposed to high levels of fungus. Anyway.... if you have this, get Selsun blue (or generic Selsun blue) and rub it on the area and let it sit for a while. As long as the shampoo has 1% selenisum slufide, it will work.

    August 9, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. John Mont

    Oh, and if you do go with the selsun blue method, watch out. Selsun blue, from what I remember, has menthol in it. It starts to feel like it is burning after a while. Use the Walmart generic brand with Selenium Slufide in it. And no, I am not promoting Walmart in anyway. Their shampoo is just easier on the skin when you need it to sit on your skin for 10-15 minutes.

    August 9, 2011 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Daniella

    Protect your skin from the sun with a natural, oral capsule called Sunsafe Rx. It is made with natural ingredients from foods and plants clinically proven to protect skin from damage from both UVA and UVB rays. It is an amazing anti-aging product and after years of research it has finally hit the market! Search for Sunsafe Rx to find the website with more information.

    August 9, 2011 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sujeesh N T

    My wife is a 25 years old lady having white spot on face, having itching, redness & rashes can you help me to solve the problem........

    April 1, 2012 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Huile d'Argan et Produits BIO Naturels au Maroc

    Great items from you, man. I have bear in mind your stuff previous to and you're simply too excellent. I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are stating and the way through which you are saying it. You are making it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible. I can't wait to learn far more from you. That is actually a tremendous website.

    April 24, 2012 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. umaima

    my daughters have these same kind of white spots. are you talking about the selsun blue shampoo to put on the face to get rid of these spots? please help me.

    June 20, 2012 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Signs of Vitiligo

    It's best to continue using sunscreen when outside to avoid sunburns and try to keep the skin color on the face about the same shade throughout. Signs of Vitiligo

    July 24, 2013 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Kanchan

    I am kanchan.
    my daughter has
    white spots on
    her face. I had
    apply sunscrean,
    but she has not
    sunburnt. I use
    lotion but its not
    helping. What
    should i do for my
    daughter.

    October 8, 2013 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. krishna kumar

    hi..i am 22 years old
    my problem: from last 5 years in winter i am getting white spots on my face only after the season they getting disappear
    whats the reason behind this..........please provide me the solution

    November 19, 2013 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. joanne982

    Thank you this was helpful my daughter is 9 and also has white spots on her face.

    June 11, 2014 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply

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