Pityriasis Alba: A Common Skin Condition in Children

This summer in clinic, I’ve been hearing a recurring question: what are these white spots on my child’s face?

In most cases, the answer has been: Pityriasis Alba

And though the name is somewhat fancy and possibly confusing, this skin condition is quite common in children between the ages of 3-16.

What is Pityriasis Alba?

Pityriasis Alba is seen in up to 1/3 of school aged children. This common skin condition presents most commonly as flat hypopigmented round or oval patches (“white spots”) on the face; though they can occur on the upper arms, neck, and/or shoulders as well.

It is more common in boys and usually occurs in children who have a history of very dry skin and/or eczema. Although these skin lesions are more noticeable during the spring and summer due to sun exposure and the surrounding skin becoming darker, the lesions are typically exacerbated during the winter months when skin tends to become drier and eczema flare ups more common.

How should I treat it?

Pityriasis Alba is a self-limited, benign skin condition. Meaning, it will resolve on its own in usually several months to a year. In some cases, the condition can linger for a few years. The mainstays of treatment are good skin care especially if your child has eczema. Keep your child’s skin well moisturized with a non-perfumed, non-dye emollient cream and be sure to use daily sunscreen.

Topical hydrocortisone may be used if your child has itching and/or visible scaling. However, this condition will resolve without it and use of steroid creams on the face can potentially cause discoloration.

If your child’s skin condition seems extensive or has persisted for over a year, be sure to consult with your pediatrician and/or dermatologist.

The bottom line is that these “white spots” will eventually go away and will not leave any scarring on your child’s face. Most children are not bothered by it but parents worry about the cosmetic appearance. Just be sure to care for your child’s dry skin and protect with a daily sunscreen. Soon enough those “white spots” will subside without a trace.

Have you heard of Pityriasis Alba before? If your child has or has had it, how long did it take to resolve?


6 Responses to Pityriasis Alba: A Common Skin Condition in Children
  1. April K.
    September 23, 2011 | 2:59 pm

    Both of my kids have had it – right around when each of them was 5 or 6. Even with knowing what it was and that it would go away on it’s own without any lasting effects it was a bit difficult to just wait it out. But, the kids never even noticed. It took a few months for it to subside with each of them.

    • Melissa
      September 29, 2011 | 12:59 am

      It is a hard thing, as a parent, to “do nothing”. It’s the hardest thing sometimes. Thanks for sharing April.

  2. Nick
    May 22, 2012 | 2:39 am

    Hi there, my girlfriend has this we believe , she’s 21 and it began about 9months ago, she has very sensitive skin , occasional eczema flair ups , so alot of topical steroid creams are too painful, we’ve decided to moisturise with a gentle cream just to keep her skin hydrated (5 times a day double base cream ) is this too often ? Could her skin get worse if moisturied top much .
    By bacteria growing. Personally I think the body can overcome these thing by itself, so I would say don’t use moisturiser and see how it works but obviously. She’s so used to moisture. As I said she’s 21 and from going to perfect skin to this has really mega upset her ! Can anyone help ? Dermatologist gave her creams that were just too harsh on the skin leaving her red raw.

  3. Anna
    July 27, 2012 | 10:15 pm

    Just this summer I started noticing my 7 year old daughter with some white patchy areas on her face. I was meant to ask her pediatrician what this is all about in her upcoming physical check up. Thanks for sharing this info which has enlightened me on the condition.

  4. Erin
    October 28, 2012 | 10:01 pm

    I am so frustrated by this with my son. I am Caucasian and my husband is half Caucasian and half African American and our son has always had the most PERFECT skin. He is going to be 5 in a few weeks and he has had Pityriasis now for over two months. It was getting better now it seems to be getting worse. I understand it can be cause from a respiratory virus, but all my son ever has is a hoarse/scratchy voice. I just hate not being able to do anything about it. It was going away, but now he’s getting new spots and more severe scaly spots than he had before. I just wish there was something I could do. We keep him well moisturized and use sunscreen daily. I am at a loss.

  5. Michelle
    November 30, 2012 | 9:33 pm

    We noticed it in the middle of this past summer on our 8 year old boy on his right cheek. His skin is olive colored, so when he got tan this summer, it was really noticeable. He was at our gym’s outdoor pool several times a week!
    Now his skin color is fading, so you can’t see it as much, but it’s still definitely there. After sports practices and his face is red, you can see it then too.
    So far he has had it for probably 5 months. I haven’t been able to find out what it is, and now I know!
    I will definitely start putting moisturizer on it. Thank you!