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Have you recently observed pale white spots on your child’s face? You must be wondering from where has these spots appeared on your kid’s cheeks and how to get rid of them? I am talking about a condition called Pityriasis Alba where in round or oval de-pigmented patches usually ranging from 0.5 to 2 cm in diameter appear most commonly on the cheeks of children between the ages 3 to 16 years. The patches may also be seen around the mouth, chin, neck, arms or shoulder area.

I am writing this blog to let you know that it is a self-limiting condition. It heals on its own and resolves in some months to years. Also I will be talking about what is Pityriasis Alba, what are the causes and how to get rid of it.

What is Pityriasis Alba?

Pityriasis Alba is a fairly common skin condition defined as dry hypo pigmented (less pigmented) patches on the face of children or young adults. As the name suggests, Pityriasis means ‘fine scales’ and Alba means ‘white or hypo pigmented’. Itching may or may not be present. It is not contagious i.e. it does not spread by contact. Also it is not a hereditary condition.

The margins in Pityriasis Alba are ill-defined. That is how it can be easily differentiated with another skin condition called ‘vitigo’ where the white patches are more prominent with sharp margins and are caused by lack of skin pigment (melanin).

Causes of Pityriasis Alba

The exact cause of Pityriasis Alba is not known with certainty, however some studies have reported the causes like mineral deficiencies such as iron and copper.

How to make a diagnosis of Pityriasis Alba?

The diagnosis is made solely on clinical appearance of the spots. No tests are required. Presence of the following symptoms indicate Pityriasis Alba:

  1. Shape: Round, oval or irregular hypo-pigmented (white) patches.
  2. Size: The patches are 0.5 to 2 cm in diameter.
  3. Presence: Patches are most commonly seen on the face especially cheeks and sometimes around the mouth, chin, neck, arms or shoulder area.
  4. Age: Children between the ages 3 to 16 years are usually affected.
  5. Itching: May or may not be present.
  6. Dryness of skin: Almost always present.

There are few other skin disorders that cause white spots on face such as vitiligo (caused by absence/disappearance of skin pigment producing cells from the affected areas of skin), tinea versicolor (yeast infection on skin), milia (small white bumps on the skin caused by allergic reaction of skin in response to chemicals in cosmetics), sun spots (Caused by prolonged sun exposure in people over 40 years of age). It is recommended to consult a dermatologist to get a differential diagnosis done and other conditions ruled out.

How to cure Pityriasis Alba

Usually the white spots heal spontaneously. The skin color gets back to normal in some months to few years although most cases resolve within one year. Therefore no treatment is required. It is best not to apply any topical ointments if it is symptomless. Here are few tips to simple home remedies:

    • To avoid dryness, keep the skin hydrated by using pure cold pressed coconut oil and chemical free organic non-drying soaps. Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils that one can use on skin due to its anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties. It softens rough and dry skin.
    • Some research studies have linked the appearance of Pityriasis Alba with low copper levels in body. If this is true, then place water overnight in a copper vessel and drink it the first thing in morning. Do this for a month or two.
    • Stay away from chemical based soaps and creams.
    • Give nutritious diet to your child. Include more iron and calcium rich fruits and vegetables in their diet.
    • De-worming is also a good option especially if you haven’t given your child anything to de-worm since a long time. 

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