Fungal Acne: Symptoms and Treatment

Fungal Acne: Symptoms and Treatment

If you thought you had enough to deal with when it comes to bacterial acne, wait until you hear about fungal acne! That’s right—yeast and other fungi assemble on the skin and cause irritating, acne-like bumps to pop up on your face (as well as other parts of the body). 


Here’s the catch: while bacterial and fungal acne look confusingly similar, they respond best to different treatments. In fact, some bacterial acne treatments even make fungal acne worse!


If you’re aware of the specific symptoms and causes of fungal acne, you won’t confuse it with something else and treat it incorrectly. Learn the difference between fungal and bacterial acne and proper treatment methods for fungal acne, so you can keep your skin looking as healthy and glowing as possible.


Fungal Acne vs. Bacterial Acne: What’s the Difference?


Okay, so, first things first. We...kinda lied to you. See, fungal acne isn’t actually acne at all. Its proper name is malassezia folliculitis, or pityrosporum folliculitis, which refers to the yeast involved in triggering this condition. Those names just aren’t as easy to say as fungal acne, so we’ve decided to stick with the latter.


It may be worrying to hear the terms fungus and bacteria since we often associate them with illness. And sure, both cause acne-like symptoms, as well as other unsavory conditions. However, it is completely normal to have certain amounts of fungus and bacteria on and in the body at all times.


The skin is one of the most important parts of the immune system, acting as the first line of defense against unwanted invaders. We need good bacteria and fungi to help protect our bodies and perform other essential tasks, hence why they are there in the first place. Problems only arise when some outside force disrupts the balance in our levels of bacteria and fungi. 


A disruption in the balance of bacteria on the skin can cause bacterial acne, the acne that you’re most familiar with. Breakouts of whiteheads, blackheads, and other pimples are typical of an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria, and most people will experience some form of bacterial acne at least once in their life.


A buildup of yeast on the skin also irritates the skin, blocks up the hair follicles, and creates the appearance of acne. Here’s the thing, though: as we established earlier, fungal acne is not actually acne and can’t be treated as such. As a result, the difference between bacterial acne and fungal acne is crucial. 


To summarize, here are the biggest differences between fungal and bacterial acne:


  1. This may seem obvious, but bacterial acne is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, while fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast or fungi. 

  2. Bacterial acne is acne, while fungal acne is not. This means fungal acne has nothing to do with excess oil production, dead skin cells, or hormonal changes, which is the case with bacterial acne. 

  3. As a result of difference #2, bacterial acne responds to acne treatment, while fungal acne does not. 


Before we look at how the symptoms of these conditions differ, let’s look at a few potential causes of fungal acne so you know what kind of behavior to avoid. 

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Causes of Fungal Acne


Fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin, which will inflame the hair follicles and lead to small bumps. But what exactly causes that overgrowth in the first place? 


Just to reiterate, the presence of fungi is not itself a problem but rather something natural and necessary for your body’s health. An overgrowth of fungi signals that there has been some disruption in the body’s natural balance of fungi, though, and a few different factors can trigger this:


  • • Have you taken antibiotics recently? Antibiotics are like a double-edged sword--while we need them to kill off bad bacteria in the body, they also destroy good bacteria in the process. With less good bacteria on the skin, certain fungi have room to spread and grow, potentially leading to an outbreak of fungal acne. 

  • • Do you have a compromised immune system? If you have a condition like HIV or an autoimmune disorder, this suppresses your immune system’s ability to protect your body. As such, you will also be more prone to imbalances in your body’s natural supply of bacteria and fungi. 

  • • Are you prone to yeast infections? As much as it sucks, some people are just more likely to experience recurrent yeast infections. This relies on genetics and has little to do with your environment or lifestyle, so there’s not much you can do about this. 

  • • Do you eat lots of sugary foods and carbs? Turns out, fungi find sugar just as delicious as we do, and the more sugar you put in your body, the better the conditions will be for yeast overgrowth. 

  • • Do you live in a hot climate? If you do, chances are you sweat a lot, and sweat is like fuel for fungi growth. This is even more true if you wear tight, form-fitting clothing, which will cause sweat to stick to your body. 

  • • Do you workout often? Similar to the last bullet point, working out is often accompanied by sweat. And if you’ve ever experienced athlete’s foot, you know that non-breathable apparel plus sweat equals lots and lots of fungi. 

  • • Have you been in close contact with anyone that has or had fungal acne? Yeast infections like fungal acne can be contagious, so if you’ve come into close contact with someone with fungal acne, you’re more likely to experience fungal acne yourself. 


Once you better understand the causes of fungal acne, you can adjust your behavior and your environment to minimize the risk of developing fungal acne. 


Symptoms of Fungal Acne


It’s about time we talk about what to look for when it comes to fungal acne. After all, this information doesn’t mean very much if you can’t identify whether you have fungal acne. 


That said, it’s difficult to tell the difference between bacterial and fungal acne, which is why people mix them up so often. Even if you feel positive that you have fungal acne, your safest bet is to talk to your dermatologist. 


The following chart should help illustrate the main differences between fungal acne and bacterial acne:


Fungal Acne

Bacterial Acne

Bumps are uniform in size and are generally very small.

Bumps vary in size.

No visible heads.

Blackheads and whiteheads are common.

Fungal acne is almost always very itchy.

Bacterial acne can be itchy, but not as severely as fungal acne.

Bumps appear in clusters.

Bumps appear randomly across the body. 


Knowing the difference between fungal acne and bacterial acne isn’t just about calling your condition by the right name—your treatment method will vary greatly depending on which one you have. 


Treatment for Fungal Acne


Okay, so you’ve determined that you have fungal acne, and you even confirmed this diagnosis with your dermatologist. What’s next? These treatment methods will all be effective in keeping your fungal acne at bay and restoring the balance of fungi in your body: 


  • • Change your lifestyle: As you may have noticed, quite a few of the causes associated with the overgrowth of fungi have to do with behavior and environment. This means it’s totally within your control to eliminate the conditions that helped the fungi grow. This includes: wearing less tight clothing, showering soon after a workout, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and washing your clothes after one use. 

  • • Vitamin C Clay Mask: Our clay mask will help you cleanse your skin and remove any excess debris that may have contributed to yeast growth. The powerful antioxidants in the mask work with vitamin C to support your immune health, detoxify the skin, and overall revitalize your appearance. 

  • • Dandruff shampoo: Since dandruff is also caused by an overgrowth of yeast, you may experience it along with fungal acne. You should (of course) use dandruff shampoo on your scalp when needed, but you can also use dandruff shampoo as a body wash. Wet the affected area and then apply the shampoo, letting it sit for about five minutes before rinsing it off. 

  • • Medication: Over-the-counter creams, like those used to treat athlete’s foot, are readily available. However, if your fungal acne is more severe and other treatment options haven’t been working, your dermatologist may give you oral prescription medication, such as fluconazole. 

The Takeaway


To treat fungal acne, you have to be able to identify fungal acne. Once you do, there are plenty of treatment options available to get rid of that signature fungal acne itch as soon as possible. 


If your condition persists, speak to a dermatologist about prescription medication. That way, you can quickly go back to having bright and healthy skin and feeling like your most confident self! 




What Is Fungal Acne? Symptoms, Treatment, Vs. Acne (


How to Know if You Have 'Fungal Acne'—and How to Treat it | SELF


What Is Fungal Acne? Causes, Treatments, and Symptoms — Expert Advice | Allure

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