Ringworm (also called tinea or dermatophytosis) is a common fungal skin infection that can cause a circular rash shaped like a ring.
A ringworm rash can cause itchy, red, scaly, and cracked skin. In some cases, it can also cause hair loss (depending on which part of the body is affected).
These symptoms can appear anywhere between 4-14 days after coming into contact with the fungus.
The most common parts of the body that get ringworm infections are the feet, scalp, groin, and beard.
The fungus can spread through contact with a person with the infection, contact with an animal who has the infection, or contact with surfaces on which the fungus can live, especially in public spaces like locker rooms and public showers.
Depending on the location of your ringworm infection, at-home remedies can help to treat the infection.
Additional at-home strategies will also help to prevent future ringworm infections.
Practice Good Hygiene
It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water throughout the day and especially after playing with pets.
You’ll also want to keep your skin clean and dry whenever possible and wear shoes that allow air to circulate freely around your feet.
If cold temperatures or other factors make it difficult to wear these types of shoes, be sure to change your socks at least once a day (it’s also a good idea to change your underwear at least once a day too).
If you visit a public shower room or spa, don’t walk barefoot.
Using shower shoes or flip-flops in these spaces can help to prevent ringworm of the feet (also called athlete’s foot).
Also, be mindful not to share clothing, towels, sheets, or other personal items with someone who has ringworm.
OTC Antifungal Cream or Ointment
Ringworm on the feet (athlete’s foot) and groin (jock itch) can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, lotions, or ointments.
These are usually applied to the skin for 2-4 weeks.
Examples of OTC antifungal creams used to treat these types of ringworm include:
- Clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
- Terbinafine (Lamisil)
- Ketoconazole (Xolegel)
Whenever using OTC products, it’s important to follow the directions listed on the product’s label.
Be sure to apply the cream directly to the rash and on the skin 1-2 inches around the rash.
You’ll also want to be careful not to scratch or pick at the rash during treatment, as this can increase the risk of infection and scarring.
After applying the OTC ointment to your rash, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
If your infection doesn’t improve while using these products, reach out to your medical provider as soon as possible.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, also known as fermented apple juice, has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties.
One in vitro study suggests that apple cider vinegar may have antifungal properties in people with denture stomatitis, a type of fungal infection that occurs in people who wear dentures.
But there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that applying apple cider vinegar to your skin will help to treat or cure a ringworm infection.
In fact, applying vinegar directly to the skin may cause open sores, scarring, and further discomfort.
Coconut oil is 100% fat, and fat is made up of smaller molecules called fatty acids.
There are several types of saturated fatty acids in coconut oil, but the predominant one is called lauric acid.
Evidence suggests that lauric acid has antibacterial properties that may work in the treatment of some bacterial skin conditions, including inflammatory acne.
Additional research shows that virgin coconut oil may help relieve itchy skin in people with mild eczema.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to demonstrate that coconut oil can effectively treat or prevent fungal infections like ringworm.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil (TTO) is an essential oil derived from the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia.
TTO contains a chemical compound called terpinen-4-ol which exhibits strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Terpinen-4-ol has been shown to exhibit antimicrobial properties against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Though there’s limited evidence to demonstrate that tea tree oil may help treat ringworm, some studies show that TTO shows promise in the treatment of this fungal infection.
In fact, one randomized controlled trial of 158 patients found that 25% and 50% concentrations of TTO helped to improve symptoms of athlete’s foot in 70% of patients after one month of twice-daily applications.
More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of TTO in treating ringworm.
Though some studies show promise, their results suggest that even if TTO helps to treat the infection, it may take longer than using an OTC antifungal cream or ointment.
Honey, a product derived from bees, is composed mostly of fructose and glucose.
However, evidence suggests that honey may also have antimicrobial properties that can help to treat several skin conditions.
Results of in vivo studies showed that honey, in combination with corticosteroids, helped to resolve symptoms in 71% of patients with jock itch and 62% of patients with ringworm of the body.
Another in vivo study found that acacia honey was as effective at resolving redness and scaly skin caused by ringworm of the scalp as Miconazole.
More research is needed to determine whether honey can work to treat the underlying fungal infection, but evidence currently suggests that it may help to provide relief from its symptoms.
Garlic extracts have been shown to exhibit antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Unfortunately, quality studies evaluating the effect of garlic extracts on skin conditions in humans are limited.
However, one small trial found that a twice-daily application of 1% ajoene cream (derived from garlic extract) was as effective in treating athlete’s foot as the OTC antifungal cream terbinafine after 30 days of treatment.
The gel from the aloe vera succulent plant contains antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Aloe vera gel has been used to soothe many skin conditions, including burns, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
Unfortunately, there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that it can treat a ringworm rash.
The plant turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which may be an effective agent in the treatment of several skin conditions.
In one study, creams containing 6-10% turmeric oil were found to promote more effective antidermatophytic activity in the treatment of ringworm compared with ketoconazole.
More research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this approach.
When To See a Medical Professional
Ringworm on the feet (athlete’s foot) or groin (also called jock itch or tinea curis) can usually be treated with OTC antifungal creams applied to the skin for 2-4 weeks.
For ringworm of the scalp, you should speak to your medical provider about oral prescription antifungal medication.
You should also reach out to a medical professional if you experience an infection anywhere but the scalp that gets worse or doesn’t go away after using non-prescription medications.
How K Health Can Help
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K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Ajoene in the topical short-term treatment of tinea cruris and tinea corporis in humans. Randomized comparative study with terbinafine. (1999.)
Antidermatophytic Properties of Ar-Turmerone, Turmeric Oil, and Curcuma longa preparations. (2013.)
Antifungal Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar on Candida Species Involved in Denture Stomatitis. (2014.)
Antifungal efficacy of Brazilian green propolis extracts and honey on Tinea capitis and Tinea versicolor. (2011.)
A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. (2012.)
Coconut Oil. (N.D)
Herbal medicines for treatment of fungal infections: a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. (2004.)
Honey: A Therapeutic Agent for Disorders of the Skin. (2016.)
Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review. (2013.)
Plants used to treat skin diseases. (2014.)
Potential of Curcumin in Skin Disorders. (2019.)
The antimicrobial activity of liposomal lauric acids against Propionibacterium acnes. (2009.)
The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. (2013.)
Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study. (2002.)