Pityriasis versicolor (harmless superficial skin infection)

The skin infection is caused by a certain yeast (the pityrosporum yeast). Pityriasis versicolor is not contagious.

A yeast is a type of fungus that is found on the skin of many people. In some people, yeast can damage the top layer of skin. This is what doctors call ‘yeast overgrowth’.

This yeast overgrowth favours oily skin (also called sebum-rich skin). The areas of skin on some parts of the body are oiler than on others - for example, the scalp, chest and body folds. That is why pityriasis versicolor mainly occurs on those body parts.

What does pityriasis versicolor look like?

On fair-skinned people, you will see light brown or reddish-brown patches with fine scaling. This scaling increases when the skin is pulled. Dark-skinned people actually get patches that look lighter than their skin. The patches are not all the same size. They are mainly seen on the upper back, chest and upper arms and they can also spread to the forearms and thighs. Sometimes they itch a little.

How do you get pityriasis versicolor?

Pityriasis versicolor is particularly common in young adults. It is more common when:

  • It is humid
  • It is warm
  • You have oily (sebum-rich) skin.


Your doctor will discuss the treatment options with you.

Last modified on 6 July 2022


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