Psoriasis vs. tinea versicolor: Causes, symptoms, and treatments

Both guttate psoriasis and tinea versicolor cause a rash of small, red spots, which is why some people may confuse the two conditions.

This article looks at psoriasis and tinea versicolor, exploring the risk factors, treatments, prevention, and other similar conditions.


Tinea versicolor


Tinea versicolor


Tinea versicolor

What are psoriasis and tinea versicolor?

Psoriasis is a chronic health condition, while tinea versicolor is a temporary fungal infection. Both have similar symptoms.


Psoriasis is a long-term autoimmune condition that causes a person’s immune system to overreact. Psoriasis causes the skin cells to multiply too rapidly, resulting in patches of red, inflamed, scaly skin.

Psoriasis can affect any area of the body and symptoms come and go over time, called flares.

There are several types of psoriasis, including guttate psoriasis. This is the type of psoriasis that people are most likely to confuse with tinea versicolor because it causes small red dots to develop on a person’s skin.

Tinea versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a condition caused by a fungal infection. It occurs when the yeast that lives on a person’s skin grows out of control. It can develop anywhere on the body.

Tinea versicolor may appear as a rash of small red and sometimes scaly spots that are very itchy. As a consequence, people can often confuse it with guttate psoriasis.

Tinea versicolor can also cause patches of light or dark skin, which some people might confuse with vitiligo.

Doctors are also unsure about why some people get tinea versicolor, and others do not. However, some general risk factors make it more likely. These include:

  • living in a hot, humid climate
  • sweating a lot
  • having oily skin
  • having a weakened immune system

A dermatologist can usually diagnose tinea versicolor by looking at a person’s skin. If they are unclear on the diagnosis, they may scrape off a bit of skin to examine under a microscope. Alternatively, they might examine the skin using a Wood lamp, which is a diagnostic tool that emits a specific type of light. A doctor can make a diagnosis if the affected skin appears yellowish-green when looked at it under the lamp.

Treatments and home remedies

Although psoriasis and tinea versicolor have similar symptoms, the underlying causes and treatment options are very different.

Treating psoriasis

Doctors can recommend a range of treatments for psoriasis, and people can also buy various over-the-counter treatments.

Common psoriasis treatments:

  • moisturizers and lotions can ease symptoms of skin dryness, inflammation, and scaling
  • corticosteroid or vitamin creams can help manage psoriasis flares
  • phototherapy, or light therapy, can provide long-term relief from psoriasis symptoms
  • oral medication can target the underlying causes of psoriasis

The type of treatment a doctor prescribes depends upon the type of psoriasis a person has, its location, and any other complicating factors.

People can also try using natural home remedies to relieve the symptoms of psoriasis. This may include using antibacterial or anti-inflammatory products on the skin, such as:

  • using coconut oil as a moisturizer
  • applying apple cider vinegar to psoriasis
  • using aloe vera as a moisturizer
  • using diluted tea tree essential oil on the skin
  • trying other diluted essential oils on the skin

Treating tinea versicolor

Doctors usually prescribe a topical antifungal medication to treat tinea versicolor. These can come in the form of soaps, creams, and shampoos. If the yeast infection returns, a person may need to use a medicated cleanser occasionally.

A doctor may prescribe antifungal tablets for severe tinea versicolor.

Some people use home remedies to treat tinea versicolor, but there is limited evidence for their effectiveness. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the following home remedies could help:

  • olive oil
  • honey
  • beeswax


There is no guaranteed way to prevent psoriasis. People can manage psoriasis flares by identifying and avoiding the triggers, such as skin injuries, stress, or smoking. This should reduce the number of flare-ups a person experiences.

Inflammation causes many of the symptoms of psoriasis, so trying to avoid scratching the skin can also prevent symptoms from getting worse.

To reduce the chances of an outbreak of tinea versicolor a person could try:

  • wearing loose-fitting clothes to reduce sweating
  • avoiding oily skincare products
  • avoiding tanning
  • using a non-greasy sunscreen lotion

What else could the rash be?

Other conditions with similar symptoms that some people may confuse with guttate psoriasis include:

  • pityriasis rosea
  • dandruff
  • ringworm
  • eczema
  • lichen planus
  • seborrheic dermatitis

According to an article in the West Virginia Medical Journal, sometimes a person may confuse guttate psoriasis with a reaction to antibiotics prescribed to treat a streptococcal bacterial infection.

Speaking to a medical professional is the best way of working out what is causing a rash or infection.

When to see a doctor

Although there is no cure for psoriasis, most people can manage their symptoms and flares by taking regular medications. If a person’s medication is not reducing symptoms or preventing flare-ups, or if they experience side effects, they should speak to a healthcare professional.

Antifungal medications can usually treat most cases of tinea versicolor. However, if a prescribed medication is not working, or if a person experiences any side effects, they should also speak to a doctor.


Although guttate psoriasis and tinea versicolor look similar and share some symptoms, they have very different causes. People can manage both conditions by using prescription or over-the-counter medication.

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