Makeup & Skincare

What Are White Spots? An Overview of White Spots


Skin discolorations, especially on the face, are quite common. You may have experienced white spots speckled on your face at some point. Sometimes, these speckles can mask a large surface area of your face and may even extend to various other parts of the body. White spots can develop in several different forms.

Possible conditions of white spots

A number of possible conditions can cause white spots formation on your face. In this article, you will get to know the most common causes of white spots and how to handle them.

1. Milia

Milia are small, hard, round, or white bumps which develop when keratin gets trapped under your skin (also called primary milia). It can appear around your eyes, the cheeks, and on the nose and when milia develop on your face; they are often mistaken as the white heads.  Keratin, a protein that makes up the upper layer of skin, along with other dead skin cells component cause the formation of tiny white-colored cysts on the skin due to skin resurfacing procedure or after using a topical steroid cream. Milia can also develop on skin as the result of a poison ivy, irritating face cream, burn, or sun damage.  

This condition can occur at all ages, but most often it is seen in children, adults, and newborn babies (also called milk spots).

White spots usually do no cause pain or itchiness, and the condition may recover itself without any treatment within a few days or weeks. You can change your face cream or other products you are using that might have caused reactions, may help treating white spots. Managing a good skin care routine, such as dead skin removal with exfoliants and wearing sun block cream, is also recommended for adults.

If the white spots do not vanish on their own, or if you find them unsightly, it’s better talking to a doctor about having them removed. Your doctor or dermatologist can treat milia in a multiple ways. Your doctor might perform lancing by using a medical-grade fine needle to extract the additional keratin from your skin. Microdermabrasion is another technique to remove the outer layers of the affected area.

Your dermatologist can also prescribe a topical retinoid cream or microdermabrasion to repair your damaged skin. Skin peeling is also recommended. This is a treatment applied to remove the upper layer of your skin and thus, effectively can be used to get rid of milia.

2. Pityriasis alba

Pityriasis alba is considered to be a type of eczema that appears as flaky, pale pink or red, oval patch of discolored whiteness, scaly areas on the skin, which appear to the smooth white (hypopigmented) patches.

Primarily, pityriasis alba develop as many as 20 patches, but appear more often on the areas of face and arms, shoulders, and neck. Cases of this skin disorder are more observed in people with preferably darker skin or after exposure to sun.

Pityriasis alba typically affects about 5 percent of children around the world developing the condition at some point, frequently between the ages of 3 and 16. Children who take hot showers regularly or those who are exposed to the sun without any shield are more likely to affect by pityriasis alba. Nevertheless, no strong evidences have proven whether these factors are behind the disease or not.

Its exact causes are not known yet. It’s usually seen among the surroundings of the atopic dermatitis. It may also be thought to have a connection with yeast that causes hypopigmentation.

The white patches might treat on their own within a few months but discoloration can last up to three to four years. When you start observing symptoms of this skin disorder, apply moisturizing lotion on your dry white patches and employ an over-the-counter (OTC) topical steroid like hydrocortisone cream, to remove any itchiness or redness.

In case, the patches start feeling uncomfortably dry, you should consult a doctor.

3. Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a condition in which patches of your skin may lose their color pigments. It can form anywhere on your body, including the face, scalp, arms, hands, legs, feet, and genitals. Vitiligo affects about 1 percent of people around the world and afflicts both male and females equally. Although, it is more commonly observed in people with darker skin tones. As the white patches of your skin lack pigments so it can be noticed in fair-skinned people as well.

These white spots appear when melanocytes, specialized cells of skin) that make skin pigment are destroyed and stop making melanin (a pigment that imparts color to your skin, hair, and eyes).

This condition can develop at any age, but around half of the people with the vitiligo develop notice symptoms before their 20s. Vitiligo does not cause pain and itchiness.

Causes of vitiligo are still not certain. The condition may develop because of an autoimmune disorder causing the body’s immune system to attack the healthy cells by fault. If you have been suffering from other autoimmune diseases, like hypothyroidism or alopecia areata, you are at more risk of developing vitiligo. Similarly, if you have vitiligo, you are more likely to develop another autoimmune disease.

The chances of vitiligo also increase if someone else in the family has the same condition. So, the inheritance factor has to be fully gotten; if you have vitiligo, your kid will not necessarily develop it as well.

Treatment depends on the severity of your skin condition and on your age as well. Skin grafts are highly effective to get rid of oval white patches of your skin. For this, your dermatologist might remove skin from some part of your body and paste it to another part of your body.

Medications and light-based therapies can help treating the white patches and restoring your skin color, even though, the results may vary. Phototherapy or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light treatment are often used, often over a period of several months. Laser treatment will also be helpful to treat your affected skin areas.

Do not use corticosteroids because it can result in worsening side effects, like thinning of the skin, ultimate dryness, and losing pigmentation. Your doctor might recommend some other types of anti-inflammatory creams.

A few treatments may exert serious side effects as well, which is why it’s necessary to consult your dermatologist first.

4. Pityriasis versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor, also called as tinea vesicular, is a common skin condition, caused by a yeast infection. This results in the formation of lighter or darker, scaly, and dry patches on the skin. The white spots are sometimes tiny and sometimes only observable when your skin is tanned.

These patches can develop in people of all ages, but more frequently found in adolescents and younger adults and commonly in the areas of tropics and sub-tropical regions. Pityriasis verscolor is more likely to occur if you have oily skin or compromised immune system and if you live in humid climates. Tinea vesicular can develop anywhere on your body.

There’s yeast called Malassezia, has been a living on the skin of over 90 percent of adults. This is quite natural occurrence and does not cause any harm to your skin usually. However, in a few cases, that yeast can overgrow resulting in a skin discoloration. Thus, it causes pityriasis versicolor.

These kinds of white patches can also develop during pregnancy but do not affect any harm. According to some studies, yeast that is the cause of pityriasis versicolor is more abundant during the last months of pregnancy and maybe right after the delivery.

There are multiple ways to successfully treat tinea versicolor. The spots may take some time to return to their original skin color and skin condition. White patches usually fade once the yeast is under control. Without appropriate treatment with topicals, it may persist. Always use sun cream to protect your skin from the sun.

Antifungal medications are the primary treatment to overcome the growth of yeast. Consult your doctor about OTC or recommended antifungal medications. Antifungal products may include soaps, shampoos, and creams. Use them according to your dermatologist prescriptions until the white spots improve.

In order to overcome and prevent the overgrowth of yeast on your skin, doctor can also recommend an oral antifungal medicine, like fluconazole.

5. Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (sun spots)

Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH) is often known as white sun spots which causes white, small, round spots on your skin as a result of long-term exposure to UV light. These white spots range from 1 to 10 millimeters in size. They are not harmful, usually benign, and do not cause any symptoms.

These spots can occur on different parts of the body including face, upper back, arms, legs, and the shins. Although they are most commonly develop in people with fair skin, elderly people, and those with dark skin can get such spots as well. However, IGH has also seen in young women than young men.

More commonly, these white spots are caused by direct or indirect exposure to UV light; you must use sun protection to prevent your spots from worsening. Sun block will also help preventing new spots from forming.

Different kinds of treatments can lower the formation of white spots and restore color. Topical steroids help reducing the skin inflammation and retinoids function by stimulating the cell growth and hyperpigmentation.

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