The malassezia fungus is usually a harmless and peaceful resident on our skin. But sometimes, things can go out of whack and they grow excessively. The result is fungal skin infections like tinea versicolor (aka pityriasis versicolor) that causes patches of discolored skin.
Tinea versicolor usually develops in hot climates and may disappear during winter, only to come back when the weather turns warm and humid. It is, in fact, one of the most common diseases of the skin in tropical and subtropical places across the world. From heat and humidity to low immunity because of medicines like corticosteroids, nutritional imbalances, and even diabetes or pregnancy, several triggers can cause tinea versicolor.1 2
If a tinea versicolor fungal infection is meddling with your skin (and peace of mind!) and you want to steer clear of antifungal medication, many milder natural remedies can step in just as effectively.
1. Onion Paste
This kitchen staple can help you tackle skin infections. Onion contains various sulfur compounds like ajoene that give it antifungal properties. And yes, it works against malassezia too.3 4 Crush onions into a paste and apply to affected areas a couple of times a day to treat tinea versicolor.
2. Crushed Garlic
Pungent garlic belongs to the same family as onion and contains potent sulfur compounds. These not only give garlic its characteristic flavor and odor but may also fight the malassezia fungus.5 6 Like onions, crushed garlic can also be applied topically to your skin to clear up this fungal infection.
3. Ginger And Turmeric Oils
Before using an essential oil for treating tinea versicolor, remember to do a patch test. It’s also a good idea to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil before use, especially if you have sensitive skin.7
The essential oils of both ginger and turmeric can inhibit malassezia – and combining these oils increases their effectiveness.8 So apply a diluted mixture of turmeric and ginger oil twice a day to tackle your skin infection. Traditionally, too, turmeric paste has been topically used in Southeast Asian communities to treat skin infections. So, you could just as easily grind up equal quantities of turmeric and ginger with a little water into a fine paste and apply that on the patches.
4. Eucalyptus Oil
Terpenoids and phenylpropanoids found in essential oils have a strong action against fungal attacks on the skin.9
The evergreen eucalyptus has been valued it for its medicinal properties for centuries. A compound known as 1-8, Cineol which is present in eucalyptus oil shows antifungal activity and can inhibit malassezia.10 Apply diluted eucalyptus oil to infected skin to treat your fungal infection.
5. Neem Leaf Paste
According to research, neem leaf extracts have strong antifungal activity and can be used to deal with the fungus that causes tinea versicolor.11 Grind up some neem leaves into a paste and add it to your bath water to take advantage of its antifungal properties. You can also add a neem leaf decoction to your bathwater and enjoy a leisurely soak to tackle your skin infection.
6. Tea Tree Oil
The essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia or tea tree oil is widely used as a topical antifungal agent. It contains many components like α-terpineol, terpinen-4-ol, α-pinene, linalool, 1,8-cineole, and β-pinene which have antifungal properties. And studies have shown that this oil is a potent agent against the fungus which causes tinea versicolor.12 13 This beneficial oil can be directly applied to affected skin twice a day. However, do a patch test first and if your skin is sensitive to it, dilute it with a carrier oil before application.
7. Honey, Olive Oil, And Beeswax
One study looked at the effect of treating people with tinea versicolor with a combination of equal quantities of honey, olive oil, and beeswax. When this mixture was applied thrice a day for a maximum period of 4 weeks, it was found that 86% showed clinical improvement, while 75% were cleared of the fungal infection.14 Antibacterial and antifungal honey has been found to be effective against malassezia and appears to be the active component here. You can also try applying plain honey to check tinea versicolor.
8. Candle Bush Leaf Juice
Candle bush or Cassia alata is so well-known for its antifungal properties that it’s also called ringworm shrub. The leaf extracts of this plant can also help treat tinea versicolor effectively.15 Mash up some candle bush leaves and apply to infected skin either by on its own or mixed with a little vegetable oil.
9. Acalypha Leaf Paste
Acalypha leaves are commonly used as a home remedy to treat tinea versicolor. And studies confirm this plant works against the fungus malassezia.16 Grind up acalypha leaves into a fine paste and apply that to affected skin.17
10. Desert Wormwood Essential Oil
The essential oil of desert wormwood or Artemisia sieberi has also traditionally been used to treat fungal skin infections. Compounds such as β-thujone and α-thujone present in it are thought to be responsible for its antifungal properties.18
One study compared the efficacy of this essential oil to the antifungal medication clotromazole in people with tinea versicolor. It was found that 96.1% of those who were treated with a lotion containing 5% wormwood essential oil were cleared of the fungal infection in 4 weeks, as compared to 65.3% of those who applied the antifungal medication.19
Remember that the tinea versicolor infection is an opportunistic infection, so it could rear its head when your immunity is low. Strengthen your immunity by tanking up on nutritious food and getting enough sleep and exercise.
Natural remedies, like fungal medication, may curb the activity of the fungus effectively. But the difference in skin pigmentation because of the condition will take time to clear up and may even stretch out to several months. But don’t assume the uneven pigmentation means the treatment isn’t working. Watch instead to see if the infection isn’t spreading or you are discovering new spots.
Also remember, tinea versicolor skin infections are notorious for staging a comeback from time to time. To keep this to a minimum, maintain meticulous hygiene and keep yourself cool and dry as much as possible, especially when it is hot. As a preventive remedy, use one of the topical fungal remedies we’ve listed here every month even if you don’t have an episode.20 Do this regularly and there’s a good chance that these fungal residents will be on their best behavior!
|↑1||Tinea Versicolor. Merck Manuals.|
|↑2||Tinea versicolor: Signs and symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑3, ↑5||Shams-Ghahfarokhi, Masoomeh, Mohammad-Reza Shokoohamiri, Nasrin Amirrajab, Behnaz Moghadasi, Ali Ghajari, Farideh Zeini, Golnar Sadeghi, and Mehdi Razzaghi-Abyaneh. “In vitro antifungal activities of Allium cepa, Allium sativum and ketoconazole against some pathogenic yeasts and dermatophytes.” Fitoterapia 77, no. 4 (2006): 321-323.|
|↑4, ↑6||Nicastro, Holly L., Sharon A. Ross, and John A. Milner. “Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties.” Cancer prevention research 8, no. 3 (2015): 181-189.|
|↑7||Stewart, Robin Elaine. Tread Lightly: A Guide to Travelling Green in Australia. Black Inc., 2005.|
|↑8||Sharma, Richa, and Meenakshi Sharma. “Additive and inhibitory effect of antifungal activity of Curcuma longa (Turmeric) and Zingiber officinale (Ginger) essential oils against Pityriasis versicolor infections.” Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5, no. 32 (2011): 6987-6990.|
|↑9||Bagetta, Giacinto, Marco Cosentino, and Tsukasa Sakurada, eds. Aromatherapy: Basic Mechanisms and Evidence Based Clinical Use. Vol. 2. CRC Press, 2015.|
|↑10||Selvakumar, P. “Studies on the antidandruff activity of the essential oil of Coleus amboinicus and Eucalyptus globulus.” Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease 2 (2012): S715-S719.|
|↑11||Niharika, Anand, Johnson M. Aquicio, and Arulsamy Anand. “Antifungal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica) leaves extract to treat hair dandruff.” E-International Scientific Research Journal 2, no. 3 (2010): 244-252.|
|↑12||Prabhamanju, M., S. Gokul Shankar, K. Babu, and M. S. Ranjith. “Herbal vs. chemical substances as antidandruff ingredients: which are more effective in the management of Dandruff?-An overview.” Egyptian Dermatology Online Journal 5, no. 2 (2009): 8.|
|↑13||Hammer, KA 1., C. F. Carson, and T. V. Riley. “Antifungal activity of the components of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil.” Journal of Applied Microbiology 95, no. 4 (2003): 853-860.|
|↑14||Al-Waili, N. S. “An alternative treatment for pityriasis versicolor, tinea cruris, tinea corporis and tinea faciei with topical application of honey, olive oil and beeswax mixture: an open pilot study.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 12, no. 1 (2004): 45-47.|
|↑15||Damodaran, S., and S. Venkataraman. “A study on the therapeutic efficacy of Cassia alata, Linn. leaf extract against Pityriasis versicolor.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 42, no. 1 (1994): 19-23.|
|↑16||Kasim, L. S., Ayodele Olatunde, H. I. Effedua, O. E. Adejumo, M. Ekor, and T. O. Fajemirokun. “Antimicrobial activity of six selected plants against some strains of pathogenic organisms.” Journal of Microbiology and Antimicrobials 4, no. 3 (2011): 54-59.|
|↑17||Sairam, T.V. Home Remedies, Volume 2. Penguin, UK, 2010.|
|↑18||Farzaneh, M., H. Ghorbani-Ghouzhdi, M. Ghorbani, and J. Hadian. “Composition and antifungal activity of essential oil of Artemisia sieberi Bess. on soil-borne phytopathogens.” Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences 9, no. 10 (2006): 1979-1982.|
|↑19||Rad, Farrokh, Farzad Aala, Naser Reshadmanesh, and Rokshana Yaghmaie. “Randomized comparative clinical trial of Artemisia sieberi 5% lotion and clotrimazole 1% lotion for the treatment of pityriasis versicolor.” Indian journal of dermatology 53, no. 3 (2008): 115.|
|↑20||Tinea Versicolor. Merck Manuals.|