What Is Pityriasis Alba?

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on January 17, 2022
2 min read

Say pih-tih-RY-uh-sus AL-buh. It’s a skin condition that causes red, scaly patches at first. The patches get better, but leave behind areas that are lighter than the rest of your skin. It most often affects children. The patches are usually round, oval, or have a wavy-shaped border. Some are smaller than a coffee bean or larger than a golf ball.

The most common sign of pityriasis alba is the skin patches that show up on your face, neck, arms, shoulders, or belly. You can have them for a few months to a few years. Usually, the patches don’t cause any symptoms. But sometimes they may be itchy, red, or scaly.

Doctors don’t know what causes pityriasis alba. It may be related to another skin condition called atopic dermatitis or eczema that causes a skin rash. People whose skin is very sensitive or who get a lot of sun may be more likely to get the condition.

Pityriasis alba is most common in school-age kids. Boys and girls get it about equally as often. It usually goes away as they become adults.

People with all skin types can get it, but it’s more noticeable if you have darker skin. If your skin is lighter, the patches may stand out more in the summer if you tan. In the winter, the patches may be harder to see and look whitish.

Your doctor may only need to look at your skin to know if you have pityriasis alba. Sometimes, they may do a biopsy. They’ll take a sample of your skin and a specialist called a pathologist will look at it under a microscope. It’s rare that the biopsy turns up any problems.

Pityriasis alba often gets better on its own. A moisturizer or cream can help with dryness. If your skin is inflamed, itchy, or red, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid or a nonsteroidal cream. Targeted phototherapy may help reverse or stop pityriasis alba. But more study is needed.