Images of Pityriasis Alba (5)
Pityriasis alba is a common skin condition that most commonly affects children. It appears as patches (flat areas of skin larger than a thumbnail) that are lighter than the surrounding skin (hypopigmented). The patches most commonly occur on the cheeks or elsewhere on the face.
Pityriasis alba can be bothersome because of its appearance, but the condition is not a serious one. The cause of pityriasis alba is unknown, but it seems to be more common in children and teens who also have allergies or asthma.
Who's At Risk?
Pityriasis alba can occur in anyone of any race / ethnicity or sex. It is most common in children aged 3-16 years.
Children at higher risk for pityriasis alba include those with:
Pityriasis alba is often most obvious in darker skin colors due to the contrast between the pityriasis alba patches and the surrounding skin.
Signs & Symptoms
Pityriasis alba appears as several (2-20) light-colored patches ranging in size from 0.5-5 cm. The patches may have overlying scale. There is sometimes a distinct raised pinkish border around the patches, and the shape may be round or irregularly shaped. Occasionally, pityriasis alba patches are mildly itchy.
The most common locations for pityriasis alba include the:
- Cheeks, around the mouth, and chin.
- Shoulders, upper chest, and upper arms.
Pityriasis alba can become more obvious in the summer as the normal surrounding skin becomes darker with UV exposure.
The most important self-care measure for pityriasis alba is to keep the skin well hydrated, such as by:
- Using nonsoap cleansers or moisturizing soaps (eg, Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar).
- Applying fragrance-free ointments such as petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or moisturizing creams (eg, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream) to damp skin after bathing.
It is also helpful to avoid potential triggers such as heat, humidity, heavily scented detergents or soaps, abrasive clothing, smoke, and stress.
It is important to avoid sun exposure and to wear sunscreen that blocks UVB and UVA rays (ie, broad spectrum) with SPF 30 or higher every day.
Applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream sparingly for 3-7 days can help relieve itch, if present.
Your child’s medical professional may scrape some of the scales onto a slide and examine them under a microscope to make sure the rash is not a fungal infection.
Pityriasis alba is a harmless condition that usually goes away on its own with time, so no treatment may be necessary. However, your child’s medical professional might recommend further self-care measures to help improve the appearance of the affected areas, such as by keeping the skin moisturized.
In severe, widespread infections with pityriasis alba, the medical professional may recommend prescription-strength corticosteroid (cortisone) cream.
Call your child’s medical professional for evaluation if the condition does not improve with self-care measures, if it seems to be getting worse, or if it spreads to other areas.
Bolognia J, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018.
James WD, Elston D, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA. Andrew’s Diseases of the Skin. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019.
Kang S, Amagai M, Bruckner AL, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2019.
Paller A, Mancini A. Paller and Mancini: Hurwitz Clinical Pediatric Dermatology. 6th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022.
Last modified on October 10th, 2023 at 2:20 pm
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