How To Get Rid Of White Spots From Tanning

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While many of us love how our skin looks and feels with a glowing tan, even when you take all the right precautions, like using a good sunscreen and being thoughtful about sun exposure, there are a couple of skin conditions that can cause white spots to appear after tanning.

Luckily both of these conditions aren’t serious enough to cause harm or future health issues.

But they both result in what dermatologists call ‘reverse freckles’, which may cause some people to become upset about their aesthetic effect. So, let’s go over how to get rid of white spots from tanning.

There are two major issues that cause these reverse freckles. One is pretty easy to fix, the other is more difficult. We explain it all below.


Know Your Condition

There are two skin conditions that cause white spots to develop on the skin after tanning. One has a very long name called Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (or IGH), which literally means “white spots that happen for reasons unknown”.

IGH mainly develops on the lower legs and forearms, areas where the skin is most exposed.

The other condition is called Tinea Versicolor, which again isn’t as scary as it sounds. Tinea Versicolor prevents the body from producing a tan in certain spots because of an excess in heat and sun exposure.

A Closer Look At IGH

Although when first discovered on your skin, these reverse freckles can be unsettling. It can seem like they appear overnight, and sometimes in large numbers!

However, IGH isn’t dangerous.

It is simply your body reacting to having had too much sun or UV exposure.

The white spots are harmless and once present, don’t change in size or shape. They usually appear on the lower legs and forearms, rarely on the back, chest and face.

IGH mainly affects people over the age of 40, and the likelihood of getting it increases with age.

In fact, one study found that 87% of people — mainly women — over 40 had some appearance of white spots. And although it shows up mainly in those with lighter skins, it can affect anyone.

Your genetic predisposition may also play a part in whether you are at risk of developing IGH. But, again, although their appearance may be unsettling, there’s no danger involved.

Nothing to get worried about.

Color Me Versi

Tinea Versicolor is a different type of condition altogether. It is caused by a yeast-type skin fungus and mainly affects teenagers and young adults with oilier skin.

But it is so common that it’s found on the skin of 90% of the population — who don’t even realise they have it.

The fungus thrives in hot, humid climates where it leaks into the skin, causing an acidic reaction that bleaches the skin.

These white spots then don’t tan, even when exposed to the sun or the UV light of a tanning bed. Tinea Versicolor can occur on the neck, upper arms, chest, and back.

As mentioned, most people have this fungus and don’t even realize it, since it produces few symptoms.

Some people experience itchy skin, especially when they sweat, which is why the warmer the temperature, the worse the fungus can get.

Get Rid Of Tanning White Spots

Luminous Tan

Whichever treatment you use to get rid of your white spots, their manifestations can take some time to disappear while they build up pigmentation. This could take a few months to resolve.

Of course, preventing more white spots from appearing will be the first thing you want to do before treating the ones you’ve already got.

Excess sun exposure is believed by many dermatologists to inhibit melanin production, which can cause more white spots to occur.

This means it’s best to limit the time you spend in the sun, making sure you’re using adequate sun protection whenever your skin is exposed. 

You should also avoid using tanning beds while you’re treating your white spots to give them time to rebuild pigmentation.

Treating Tinea Versicolor (TV)

Because it’s a fungal infection, Tinea Versicolor can be treated topically. For mild cases, antifungal creams will work. Something you may not have considered, which would also be an economical solution, is antifungal or anti-dandruff shampoo.

Selsun Blue  and Head and Shoulders  are the brands most likely mentioned on the Reddit boards, and even the British Association of Dermatologists suggests this option could work.

Some use the shampoo like body washes, while others apply shampoo to the affected areas and allow it to soak in for up to 30 minutes before showering it off.

Neem oil, also known as Indian lilac, has been used traditionally in tropical climates like India and the Caribbean islands as an antifungal treatment for Tinea Versicolor.

But its strong smell is something you’ll need to get used to.

The Lowdown On Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH)

Although there are many treatments that can help you reduce the appearance of white spots caused by IGH, getting rid of them completely is unlikely. Even if you opt for professional treatment.

Your best option for minimizing the effect of IGH is to use sunscreen and limit your UV exposure, including tanning beds.

This is the only way to prevent even more white spots from developing.

But if for aesthetic reasons you choose to try and reduce the appearance of your white spots, you can try these professional treatment options:

  • Lasers – Excimer lasers use UV light to activate pigment-producing cells, while fractional lasers stimulate melanin production to fade spots.
  • Freezing – Also known as cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen is applied to white spots to freeze the skin, which has the potential to increase repigmentation.
  • Dermabrasion – An exfoliating process that removes the top layers of skin, which causes white spots to crust, and triggers melanin production. However, this procedure is known to cause significant irritation and redness, and isn’t suitable for anyone with a history of acne or keloid scarring.

And it could take a few months in order for the pigmentation to even out. So, be patient with whatever treatment you use to fade your white spots.

And if after reading this, you’re still unsure how to get rid of white spots from tanning, then seek help from a board-certified dermatologist.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).