Pityriasis versicolor: fungi on the skin

Pityriasis versicolor is the most common fungal infection of the skin.

Skin fungus is more common than we think. In fact, we know that there are different types of fungi living with us on our skin in a symbiotic way, such as Malassezia globosa, the cause of pityriasis versicolor.

When we say that we have “fungus on the skin” we mean that there is an exaggerated growth of a fungus that is usual on our skin or that a new and different fungus appears that has the capacity to infect and therefore produce an inflammatory reaction of the skin.


Forms of manifestation

They are small, slightly raised, scaly lesions with a tendency to coalesce. It is called “versicolor” because they can adopt different shades of color: white, ivory, pink or light brown. The area of the body where they appear most frequently is on the trunk: back and neckline. In children it also affects the cheeks with some frequency.

Pityriasis versicolor on the back
Pityriasis versicolor causes skin blemishes


Pityriasis versicolor lesions are usually not itchy or painful. Its main consequence is the alteration of the pigmentation it produces in the skin, which can last for months even if the infection is resolved.

Pityriasis versicolor
Residual lesions typical of pityriasis versicolor

Causes of pityriasis versicolor

The fungus that causes pityrasis versicolor is a yeast that lives on our skin on a regular basis and is called Malassezia Globosa. The reason why this fungus begins to grow in an exaggerated manner and produces inflammation on the skin is multifactorial and is not known exactly, but we know that there are people predisposed to suffer from it and that it usually appears in hot and humid situations.

Pityriasis versicolor
Malassezia globosa is the main cause of pityriasis versicolor.

Is pityriasis versicolor contagious?

No. It should be remembered that it is a fungus that lives symbiotically with humans. It is not spread by human contact or by the common use of towels or clothing.

Pityriasis versicolor treatment

In case of an outbreak of pityriasis versicolor, the recommended treatment is the use of antifungal substances. If there are few lesions it can be treated with topical medications in the form of soaps, sprays or creams. If the lesions are extensive or very recurrent, they should be treated with oral drugs. The duration of the complete treatment is 1 to 2 weeks. However, it should be remembered that the spots left by pityriasis versicolor may take months to disappear and this does not mean that we still have the infection.

In predisposed persons, the best treatment is prevention by avoiding moisture on the skin. This can be done by changing clothes often if you sweat profusely and avoiding heat whenever possible. In addition, these individuals benefit greatly from the regular use of antifungal soaps to prevent disease flares.