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Is Your Skin Rash Tinea Versicolor? How to Get it Back to Normal

Published | 5 min read

Tinea versicolor is a fungal skin disease. People who live in a hot and humid environment are more vulnerable to infection.

Close-up of a tinea versicolor patch on the side of a person’s thigh

Tinea versicolor or tinea corporis (a ringworm infection) is extremely common in Malaysia, which experiences a tropical climate all year round. Hot and humid weather predisposes some people to the condition. It can also worsen a person’s symptoms.

Read on to understand how and why it transpires and treatment options that can restore skin health and appearance. 

What are the Risk Factors of Tinea Versicolor? 

The primary risk factors of tinea versicolor are warm, moist, or oily environments. It can cause an overgrowth of Malassezia spp yeast on the skin’s surface. A hormonal imbalance and weakened immune system can also make a person vulnerable to the condition’s onset.

It’ll lead to a crusted rash on body parts that frequently produce sweat. The rash shows up as well-defined, brown, white, or pink patches on the skin.

Psoriasis patches on a woman’s left elbow
Psoriasis patches can be easily mistaken for tinea versicolor. 

To the untrained eye, however, tinea versicolor can be mistaken for other skin conditions, including: 

  • Psoriasis 
  • Urticaria 
  • Vitiligo 
  • Nummular eczema 


Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection while psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. The latter condition is incurable, but the former typically resolves a few days after treatment. A clear patch of skin is visible in the middle of a ringworm rash spot, but psoriatic skin lacks the feature.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that psoriasis stems from excess Heat, which can manifest as blood, Dryness, or Stasis. It’s characterised by skin lesions of varying sizes, erythema — a type of skin rash caused by inflamed blood capillaries — and silvery white scales with distinct borders.


Like psoriasis, vitiligo is an autoimmune skin disease. It destroys the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin, the pigment that gives a person’s skin colour.

The skin disorder and its subtypes will first appear as a white spot. It progresses to a loss of colour and can whiten or grey hair in the affected area.

TCM classifies the reasons behind vitiligo as negative emotional stress, prolonged exposure to Wind (an exogenous pathogenic factor), and Kidney and Liver Yin (passive energy) Deficiencies. “A high-paced lifestyle and stressful work environment provoke Liver Blood and Qi Stagnation, impairing the circulation of both substances in the body,” explains Real Health Medical’s Chief Physician Chu I Ta. 

He adds, “It’ll also happen if Wind penetrates the skin, blocking and stagnating the meridians. A Deficiency of Kidney and Liver Yin will result in malnourished blood in the skin, triggering an onset of vitiligo.” 


Skin redness and wheals (swollen flesh marks) are the two notable signs of urticaria. These will usually subside within a 24-hour period. Tinea versicolor often leaves dry, scaly patches while urticaria skin usually appears normal until there’s a reaction and the skin forms small hives.

Close-up of wheals on the back of a boy’s neck
Wheals are a common symptom of urticaria.

According to TCM, urticaria can happen if there are Deficiencies in the vital viscera. These include Blood Stasis, poor blood circulation, or a lack of blood, qi and yin. Pathogenic factors like Cold, Heat, Wind, Dryness and Dampness may also contribute to an onset of urticaria.

Nummular eczema 

Tinea versicolor is a contagious condition, but nummular eczema isn’t. Nummular eczema can also be seen as multiple skin patches. These can happen within weeks after experiencing a traumatic injury, burns or bites. 

The treatment regimen for the condition may take up to a year, though it can recur if it doesn’t heal completely. In extreme situations, it can scar or darken the affected skin area.

TCM differentiates the occurrence of eczema into three types: 

  • Internal accumulation of Damp-Heat 
  • Blood Deficiency and excessive Wind 
  • Spleen Deficiency and excessive Dampness 

How Do Healthcare Providers Identify Tinea Versicolor? 

A clinical specialist will perform skin tests to diagnose tinea versicolor. One of these involves scraping off loose skin cells and examining them under a microscope. The presence of yeast is an indicator of the condition.

Alternatively, the skin can also be examined with a Wood’s lamp. The device uses ultraviolet rays to illuminate different areas of the skin. If the skin shows up a yellowish-green shade, it’s another clear sign of tinea versicolor.

Treatment of Tinea Versicolor

Antifungal medications 

You can purchase antifungal creams, lotions or shampoos from a pharmacy without a prescription. Yes, you read that right; antifungal shampoos. Examples of these are: 

  • Clotrimazole 
  • Miconazole 
  • Terbinafine 
  • Zinc pyrithione shampoo 
  • Selenium-based dandruff shampoo 

The primary mode of action of these remedies is to kill or stop fungus growth. Doing so will ensure complete recovery and lower the risk of re-infection. A healthcare provider may also prescribe topical options like ketoconazole or ciclopirox, or oral medications like fluconazole and itraconazole for severe symptoms.

Close-up of chrysanthemum flowers
Chrysanthemum flowers can be made into a paste and used to clean skin.

Herbal solutions 

The alternative approach to treating tinea versicolor focuses on expelling toxins and clearing Heat and Dampness. To achieve these objectives, a licensed TCM practitioner will propose herbal formulas like Long Dan Xie Gan (龙胆泻肝) decoction, Jing Fang Bai Du (荆防败毒) powder, and Qu Feng Huan Fu (祛风唤肤) pills.

Cleansing the skin’s surface with herbal pastes helps with soothing and treating the condition. Individual herbal ingredients to be considered include: 

  • Chrysanthemum (ju hua, 菊花) 
  • Honeysuckle flower (jin yin hua, 金银花)
  • Purslane (ma chi xian, 马齿苋)  

Topical and oral solutions are key to providing holistic treatment of tinea versicolor. Preventive measures will help avoid repeat infections. Keep away from hot and humid environments and maintain the hygiene of your hair, skin, and fingernails. Wear loose-fitting or cotton clothing to reduce sweating. If you’re considering alternative remedies, do seek consultation with a licensed practitioner. It’ll help ensure the safety of the formulas or ingredients used for your body constitution.


  1. MyHEALTH. RINGWORM (TINEA VERSICOLOR). [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  2. MyHEALTH. TINEA CORPORIS. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  3. Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Is It Psoriasis or Ringworm? [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  4. All Things Health. 2021. Psoriasis Treatment: Remedies to Alleviate This Autoimmune Condition. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  5. eMedicineHealth. What Is the Difference Between Tinea Versicolor and Vitiligo? [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  6. Relias Media. Not All Round Rashes Are Ringworm: A Differential Diagnosis of Annular and Nummular Lesions. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  7. Asiaone. 2014. Find out how TCM can help ease hives. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  8. MedicineNet. 2022. Nummular Eczema vs. Ringworm: Differences. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  9. ScienceDirect. 2021. Use of specific acupuncture techniques in lingering nummular eczema: A case report. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  10. Cleveland Clinic. Tinea Versicolor. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]
  11. HealthNetCafe. Common Skin Diseases. [online] [Accessed 4 August 2022]

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