White spots on skin can be caused by a number of reasons, and the size of them can range from small white dots to large white patches. This skin discoloration can appear anywhere on the body including the neck, shoulders, upper back, the shins, and the forearms.
This skin discoloration is usually a result of a loss of skin pigmentation and it can affect anyone regardless of gender and skin color. However white spots are more noticeable if you have darker skin due to the obvious contrast between the darker skin and the white spots or patches.
There are a number of causes for white patches on skin such as vitiligo, infections, autoimmune disorders, allergies, or damaged skin. There are also a number of remedies that can help you to reduce the appearance of these white spots, patches or dots.
The medical name for white spots on skin is hypopigmentation. Dermatologist Dr. Stephanie S. Gardner says that white patches appear when there is a reduction in the production of melanin in the skin.1 Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin, hair, and eyes color.
Let’s have a look at the most common causes for white spots on skin and possible remedies that may help you to reduce their appearance.
White Spots on Skin – Causes and Treatments
Skin damage is one of the most common causes for white spots on the skin. This can be caused by burns, sun damage, acne, or any other reason that caused skin damage. This is sometimes called post-inflammatory hypopigmentation.
If you have suffered any kind of skin damage, it is important to treat the skin as quickly as possible. This can help to prevent damage to the melanocytes which make melanin and help you to prevent hypopigmentation.
How to Treat
One excellent way to treat damaged skin is to apply aloe vera gel directly to the affected area. Aloe vera contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties.2 It provides the skin with moisture which acts as a barrier against further skin damage and it has many other health benefits for your skin. An article published by Pharmacognosy Review, mentioned that aloe vera can be used to treat pigmentation disorders.3
To use aloe vera to treat damaged skin and help to prevent the appearance of white patches all you have to do is apply aloe vera gel to the affected area 3 times a day. You can also create your own healing cream as I’ve mentioned in a previous article.
Another effective natural remedy for damaged and inflamed skin is witch hazel. Witch hazel is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and is a natural astringent which won’t dry out your skin.4 You can add a few drops of tea tree oil and lavender oil to 1 oz. witch hazel. Then using a cotton ball, apply to the affected area. If you suffer from acne then you could also use the ideas I’ve mentioned in my ultimate guide for using witch hazel for acne and in my article on how to get rid of pimples naturally.
Eczema or psoriasis
Eczema or psoriasis can also be the reasons why white spots appear on the skin. Research carried out by The Rockefeller University discovered that during a flare-up of eczema or psoriasis, proteins in the cells inhibit the production of melanin causing white spots. Then when the inflammation settles down, the spots can become darker – called hyperpigmentation.5
How to Treat
You can use aloe vera and witch hazel to treat eczema and psoriasis to prevent skin discoloration and white spots. You can use aloe vera and witch hazel in the same way as for damaged skin.
You can also use coconut oil for treating eczema and if you suffer from psoriasis you can use these natural treatments.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is also one of the best natural treatments for eczema and it also has many other benefits for your skin. You can mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and water and apply to the affected area with a cotton ball. After applying ACV you will need to moisturize the skin to avoid it drying out. To do this you can use coconut oil for eczema. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and the fatty acids in it will nourish your skin. Studies have shown that it is a good natural ingredient to treat eczema.6
Tinea versicolor – fungal (yeast) infection
Skin discoloration can also be caused by tinea versicolor. This is a fungal infection which can discolor the skin and cause white patches. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) says that the fungus causes an acidic bleach to form which changes the skin color. These patches don’t tan and therefore appear white.7
How to Treat
One of the best ways to treat fungal infections to prevent white spots on the skin is tea tree oil.8 The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) recommends using an antifungal body wash and applying to the affected area and leaving it for a few minutes before rinsing. However, you can make your own antifungal liquid body wash by adding 8-10 drops of tea tree oil for every 1 oz. (30 ml) of your regular body wash.9 You can then apply it as directed by the AOCD. Or you can add a few drops of tea tree oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil and apply to the affected area.
More natural ingredients that you can use to treat fungal infections are:
Coconut oil (read my article about coconut oil for yeast infection)
Apple cider vinegar
Vitiligo is a condition which commonly causes white spots on the skin.
Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler from WebMD says that vitiligo causes white patches to appear on the body. It is thought that vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder and it destroys the pigment-forming cells in the skin.10
If you have vitiligo, it is very important to always protect your skin from UV radiation. The Mayo Clinic recommends either covering affected areas or using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.11 Sunscreen can protect your skin but it also minimizes tanning. This makes the contrast between normal and discolored skin less noticeable which helps to minimize the appearance of white spots, patches or dots.
In can be very difficult to treat white patches that are caused by vitiligo. However, an interesting study in 1999 was carried out using phenol as a chemical peeling. Phenol is sometimes called carbolic acid. The study reported that the wounding action of phenol can help re-pigment vitiligo patches.12
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH)
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is a condition where white spots appear mainly on the shins and forearms. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD) says that no one is really sure why IGH occurs. They suggest that it could be connected with exposure to UV radiation.13
As with vitiligo, they recommend using a sunscreen with a high SPF and to avoid tanning beds.
A study using phenol to re-pigment the skin found that, over 3 months, the condition improved in up to 75% of the treated areas. The study concluded by saying that this can be a cost-effective outpatient procedure of IGH.14
Pityriasis alba starts off as red, scaly patches on the skin. When these patches clear up, they usually leave behind white or pale spots on the skin. The cause of Pityriasis alba is unknown, but Dr. Kevin Berman says that it could be linked to eczema and allergies.15
Most doctors recommend using a topical cream to reduce dryness, scaling and keep the skin hydrated. Therefore, you can treat pityriasis alba with natural ingredients in a similar way to treating eczema. You can try using rosehip oil or vitamin E oil to treat your skin and reduce dryness.
You can also use aloe vera for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, in clinical trials, aloe vera gel was shown to be superior to 1% hydrocortisone gel.16 Hydrocortisone cream is often prescribed by doctors for pityriasis alba.
Halo nevus is sometimes called a halo mole. This is because of the white area that surrounds the mole. It is thought that the white patch around the mole is the body’s autoimmune response to the mole.
Usually, it is not necessary to treat halo nevus, although, you should have the mole checked out by your dermatologist.
Always remember to put on extra sunscreen on the white patch because it will burn easier in the sun.
Lichen sclerosus is another condition which can cause skin discoloration and white patches.
Lichen sclerosus is a fairly uncommon condition which tends to mainly affect postmenopausal women, but it can also affect men.
The symptoms of lichen sclerosus are patches of white skin that are thinner than normal. It can affect any area of the body, but it mostly affects the genitals and anus. The affected areas can also be painful and itchy. Because the skin becomes thinner with lichen sclerosus, it can tear and bleed easier.
The Mayo Clinic says that the cause of lichen sclerosus is not known, however, it could be linked to an auto-immune disorder or an imbalance of hormones.17 Lichen sclerosus is a pervasive condition and if symptoms start getting worse, then it is best to see your doctor.
Morphea is a rare skin condition which causes skin discoloration, some of which can be white. Usually, there is no pain associated with these white patches and morphea usually goes away on its own.
The Mayo Clinic recommends using a good moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated and to avoid long hot showers.18 I have a recipe for a moisturizer using aloe vera gel and coconut oil. Both of these ingredients will help to keep your skin looking and feeling great.
Some other oils which are great for moisturizing your skin are:
-Sweet almond oil
-Peach kernel oil
-Apricot kernel oil
-Grape seed oil