We have had many phone calls and e-mails lately regarding the topic of tinea versicolor, sometimes referred to as sun spots. This topic also is brought up during in-person National Tanning Training Institute meetings because many participants are not familiar with the name, but most are familiar with the condition.

Tinea versicolor is a superficial overgrowth of skin-surface yeast, or fungus called Pityrosporum Orbiculare. This overgrowth results in uneven skin color with occasional scaling. This naturally-occuring yeast normally lives in the pores of everyone's skin and likes fat (lipophilic); therefore, it is most often present on areas that have more oil glands like the shoulders, back and chest. However, it also can appear on the arms, legs and groin and, in rare cases, on the face.

If the skin is oily enough, moist enough and warm enough, the fungus will grow on the surface of the skin and cause a noticeable rash. The spots are light or reddish brown in color or appear lighter than the surrounding skin. The spots will not tan.

The condition is more apparent in the summer months due to increased sun exposure; the affected areas may seem to disappear or become slightly darker in the winter as the surrounding skin becomes pale. The same is true from exposure to UV in a tanning unit. The areas with tinea versicolor won't tan and become noticeable as lighter spots of untanned skin.

The darker a person's skin type or tan is, the more noticeable the condition will be. Factors such as heat, humidity, sweat, tight-fitting clothes and chronic illness can predispose an individual to tinea versicolor, but these factors do not need to be present for someone to get the infection. Additionally, tinea versicolor is most common in adolescents and young adults, but it can happen at any age. Although this condition may be unsightly and can cause itching, it is not a serious threat to one's health - but it is chronic and easily can recur. Salon operators should inform clients that the condition is not contagious.

The infection is treated with topical or oral medications. Non-prescription anti-fungal creams work well in less-severe cases, while prescription anti-fungal lotions and sprays may be more appropriate for tougher cases. A more economical and effective treatment may be a selenium shampoo, such as Selsun Blue. Typically, individuals suffering from the infection are advised to wash their bodies with the shampoo as if it were soap, leave it on a few minutes before rinsing, and repeat this process for a specified number of days. Oral medication may be prescribed for severe or recurrent cases.

Regardless of the treatment method, the infection may return. To reduce this likelihood, individuals are often instructed to re-treat once a week for three to four weeks and then once a month for three or four months. After treatment, all clothing and bedding should be laundered to help prevent recurrence.

Even after completion of successful treatment, the patches will remain visible until the untanned skin has a chance to catch up with the surrounding area through subsequent tanning sessions. This will take a while and it may be a good idea to recommend that the client use a self-tanner or bronzer to even out those areas in the meantime.

If the condition is caught early and treated correctly, it won't take as long to even out the skin's coloring. It is important to note that the tanning salon operator should not diagnose a condition or prescribe a treatment method. It is best to recommend that clients see their physicians or pharmacists for advice.

For more information, visit the National Tanning Training Institute online at or call (800) 529-1101.



Beamers Tanning & More
300 S Lafayette St
Greenville MI 48838
(616) 754-1786