One of the most common causes of dry white spots on skin is a condition called pityriasis Alba which is Latin for white scaly patches. These may look alarming and the fact they show up after sun exposure can make us question if they are dangerous. The good news is that in almost all cases they are not harmful and are nothing to worry about.
Why do these dry white spots show up?
This extremely common condition presents as small patches of white dry skin and is very common on the upper body and face and in children in particular. They are very similar to a type of eczema and are caused when the skin under these patches fails to darken in sunlight the way that the rest of the skin does. There is no clear understanding of why this happens, but it seems to be related to the skin cells and how they take up the UV light. They can happen from sun exposure or from sunbeds. Find out more.
Is it harmful?
The majority of dry white spots on the skin are entirely harmless and this type is the same. It can be treated if itchy with steroid creams to avoid the itch or just moisturise in the same way you might an eczema condition. They are likely to remain on the skin for a long period of time – becoming scaly in the winter and showing as very light, white patches in the summer. The skin may permanently lose its pigment making these patches vulnerable to sunlight – so keep them covered in sunscreen at all times.
Avoiding white spots
The best approach with these types of white spots is to avoid them arriving in the first place. This means preventing the skin from tanning in the summer as this is how they are caused. The application of sunscreen is the first step and avoiding the hotter parts of the day when you might become sunburned. You should also consider covering up and not exposing your skin to the sun for more than a few minutes per day.
Just in case
As with all strange skin spots, you should keep track of them and have them checked out if you are at all concerned. By taking photos of these white spots you can ensure that they are not getting larger. If they start to crust over or become ulcerated, it is time to see your doctor. Ensure that these white spots are kept out of the sun to prevent them being further affected.