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Tinea Versicolor and Zinc

author image Ruth Coleman
Based in North Carolina, Ruth Coleman has written articles and manuals for more than 25 years. Her writing has appeared in community newspapers and places of employment. Coleman holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Salem College, a Doctor of Medicine from Ross University and is the recipient of numerous academic awards.
Tinea Versicolor and Zinc
Rubbing cream on skin. Photo Credit: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images

There are two kinds of fungi -- molds and yeasts. Many fungi that can cause infections or disease can be molds at one temperature, but yeasts when they are inside of your tissue at body temperature. Tinea versicolor is a fungus that causes a fairly common skin disorder. There are several treatments available for treating this condition.

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Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor, also called pityriasis versicolor, is a skin disorder that is caused by a fungus named Malassezia furfur. The fungal infection can lead to white, pink or light brown spots on the skin that will not tan. The spots are usually found on the neck, upper arm, underarm area, chest, stomach, groin area and thighs. It can spread to the scalp and face if you use creams or glucocorticoid ointments, according to “Fitzpatrick's Color Atlas and Synopsis of Clinical Dermatology.”


There are several treatments available for a tinea versicolor infection, as reported in “Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment.” You can use a selenium sulfide lotion every day for seven days, or you can try a shampoo that contains 1 or 2 percent ketoconazole, which can even be applied to the chest and back. Taking 200 mg of ketoconazole every day for one week or a one-time dose of 400 mg is another option. A treatment of two doses of 300 mg of fluconazole taken 14 days apart is yet another available option. You can also try imidazole lotions and creams.


Zinc is an essential element, as described in the “Principles of Critical Care.” It is vital for the structure of cell membranes, for protein metabolism, and for more than 200 metalloenzymes, which are proteins that contain metal and are used by cells to accelerate biochemical reactions. “Principles of Critical Care” cites a study in which patients with a severe head injury who were given a high dose of zinc had a better survival rate. Zinc may also be used as an alternative treatment for tinea versicolor.

Tinea Versicolor and Zinc

According to “Evidence-Based Dermatology,” the results of various studies suggest that one to four weeks of medication is needed to treat tinea versicolor. Based on those studies, a ketoconazole or selenium sulfide shampoo is recommended, as well as imidazole cream, although the cream can be expensive. A 1 percent zinc pyrithione shampoo can also be used. You should apply it to the infected area, leave it on for five to 10 minutes, then wash it off. The zinc shampoo should be used every day for one to four weeks. None of the participants in the study involving this shampoo reported any side effects.

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