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Skin Rash: Light Colored Patches


What is a rash with light colored patches?

This is a common skin condition in children, called pityriasis alba.

Your child's skin has:

  • patchy areas of lighter skin color on the face.
  • similar areas sometimes on the neck, upper part of the chest, or arms.
  • patches with borders that have a gradual change in the amount of skin color with the lightest area of color in the center.

Your doctor will rule out other skin diseases as the cause of the light-colored skin.

What is the cause?

The cause of pityriasis alba is unknown. It may have to do with dry skin or chemicals that come in contact with the skin.

How long will it last?

The lighter patches of skin are more common in the summer, but they can occur at any time of year. They usually last for several weeks. The skin color then gradually returns to normal. Pityriasis alba does not harm a child.

What is the treatment?

Although no treatment is necessary for the full skin color to return, lotions and moisturizers may help the skin return to normal faster.

One percent hydrocortisone cream may also help to make the patches go away a little more quickly.

How can I help prevent the patches from returning?

Once the patches have returned to normal, use skin lotions and moisturizers to help to decrease the chance that patches will return. Do not use 1% hydrocortisone cream on the face for long periods of time (months) without first talking with your child's healthcare provider.

Call your healthcare provider during office hours if:

  • You are not sure if your child has pityriasis alba.
  • The patches of lighter skin are not following the expected course.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Written by Robert Brayden, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-12-15
Last reviewed: 2010-09-16

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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