Why Do You Get White Spots from Tanning?

Our skin can have lighter and darker areas and sometimes the lighter areas or white spots become more visible after tanning. It is also fairly common to notice some white spots after using a tanning bed. There are many reasons for the appearance of these spots and tanning is one of them. If you have developed these white spots after tanning, don't worry. They are, in most cases, harmless and can be remedied easily.

white spots from tanning

Why You Get White Spots from Tanning

The main reasons for developing white spots on skin are:

1.      Low Levels of Melanin in the Skin

Melanin is a pigment present in skin calls and it is responsible to give color to the skin. It also protects the skin from damaging effects of ultraviolet rays from sun or the tanning beds. Fair skinned people have less amount of melanin in their skin and when there is not adequate amount of melanin present in skin cells, white spots can develop after prolonged exposure to UV rays.

2.      Tinea Versicolor

This is a fungal infection and the fungus affects the pigment levels in skin cells resulting in hypo-pigmented or light colored areas on skin. Sometimes these areas are very light in color and look like white spots. These scaly spots can be itchy and can be pink, brown, tan or white in color. They are most prominent on upper part of the body like neck, chest, back, face and shoulders and young adults are commonly affected. The fungus causing tinea versicolor is normally present on the healthy skin but it does not grow. It grows when the circumstances are favorable. Increased humidity, low immunity, excessive sweating all promote its growth.

Over the counter topical anti-fungal creams and shampoos are adequate to eradicate and treat this condition but sometimes the infection is severe and requires prescription anti-fungal medication. The spots disappear gradually after the fungus is eradicated.

3.      Scars

The most common reason of developing white spots from tanning is the presence of old scars. The scar tissue does not have any melanin pigment and these areas do not get tan. Very small scars from injury, surgery or insect bites will not get tan and will be noticed as white spots.

4.      Skin Sensitivity

There are many medicines which make the skin sensitive to certain UV rays and light. For example, oral contraceptive pills can make your skin more sensitive. If you are taking any regular medication it is better to discuss with your doctor about its effects on the skin and whether or not it will interfere with the tanning process.

5.      Pressure Points

People who use tanning beds very frequently are likely to have lighter areas on elbows, knees, hips and other pressure points. When you lie down on a tanning bed for longer time, circulation in these areas is slowed down and they take up a lighter color. This is another common reason of getting white spots from tanning.

6.      Poikiloderma of Civatte

This is a non-cancerous skin condition which develops in fair skinned people after prolonged and unprotected sun exposure. There is a lacy pattern of light color on the neck and chest with some areas of redness and dark skin. It is not harmful and is only treated for cosmetic reasons. Laser can make these lesions better and to prevent them from getting worst, protective clothing must be worn with application of sun screen.

7.      Vitiligo

In vitiligo the pigment producing cells or melanocytes are destroyed. It leads to appearance of white spots which are in sharp contrast with the surrounding area. These pigment depleted areas can appear anywhere on the body and can be of any shape or size. It most commonly involves the face, hands, elbows, knees, shins and feet and very rarely the whole skin is involved.

These white spots stand out very prominently after tanning because the surrounding area becomes darker. There is no definitive treatment available for vitiligo. Avoiding tanning is recommended. Light therapy and some topical medicines are effective and provide some results. Tattooing and makeup can be used to camouflage these white spots.

Ways to Get Rid of White Spots from Tanning

  • Keep your skin clean and dry and avoid any excessive sun exposure.
  • Avoid hot and humid environment.
  • Take good care of your skin before and after tanning and always use good quality products.
  • Drink plenty of water and take a balanced diet. When your skin gets all the essential vitamins and minerals it will get a healthy glow and the lighter spots will disappear.
  • Lotions and massage oils contain alpha hydroxyls and vitamins E are very good for the skin and you can apply them to keep your skin well moisturized. This will help to even the skin tone.
  • Using a good bronzer or application of self-tanning creams or lotions can provide an alternative to tanning beds and can prevent the damage from UV rays.
  • Air brush tanning is also a great way to get flawless tan without the risk of tanning beds. The white spots can be covered with this technique.
  • Some herbs are very good and can make the white spots from tanning go away. Sandalwood powder, honey and turmeric can be mixed and applied on these with noticeable results.

If Fungal Infection Is the Case

  • If these spots are scaly and you think it might be fungal infection or tenia versicolor, wash your skin with anti-dandruff shampoo.
  • To treat this fungus you can apply selenium sulfide cream which is available over the counter. Apply it thinly over the affected area and continue for a week.
  • There are anti-fungal powders available which are also very effective to treat this condition.
  • Eat yogurt and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for an even complexion and to build immunity against fungal infections.

If you are developing these spots regularly and they are not getting better, it is better to avoid tanning for some time and to consult a dermatologist.

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