fungal acne

What is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne causes small pimples, whiteheads, and skin irritation. At first glance, it looks like common acne. Yet when you try certain acne medications symptoms may worsen.

It may share some similarities, but is not the same as common acne. Medically known as acne vulgaris, common acne is the result of excess sebum, clogged pores, inflammation, and overgrowth of a bacterium.

The same causes do not result in fungal acne. Instead, inflammation of hair follicles and overgrowth of Pityrosporum (or Malassezia) folliculitis is. The treatment for fungal acne also differs from common treatments.

fungal acne - woman seeing a dermatologist

Signs and Symptoms of Fungal Acne

The fungus responsible for fungal acne feeds on oils, either on sebum or creams applied on the face. In some cases, this fungal infection turns into a skin condition called Tinea versicolor. Sometimes the fungus causes inflammation of the hair follicles and resembles acne.

Common acne causes white and blackheads, pimples, papules, and cysts. Fungal acne has a uniform appearance of small bumps or pimples, which tend to be itchy. Whiteheads are also a symptom.

The distribution of the skin lesions can also offer a clue. Fungal acne is usually seen on oily skin on the face. This is especially common on the forehead, T zone, sides of the nose, and chin. It can also develop on other parts of the body with oily skin like the upper back, chest, and shoulders.

Common acne also occurs on the face, nose, chin, and forehead. However, it’s also seen along the hairline, scalp, temples, eyebrows, cheeks, jaw, and around the mouth. Males experience common acne on the chest, neck, torsion groin, and legs too.

sweat triggers fungal acne

Fungal Acne Triggers

The skin is very similar to our gut flora composed of trillions of friendly bacteria and microorganisms. Our skin microbiota consists of bacteria and yeast. When these microbes are in balance, the skin is healthy. When unbalanced, fungus-like Malassezia folliculitis can overgrow. This causes fungal acne or Tinea versicolor.

There are multiple triggers that can cause it. Try your best to avoid them to eliminate or reduce symptoms.


Fungi flourish in warm, humid places. So, if you live in a hot humid place, the risk of developing fungal acne increases. To avoid this, make sure you have a good quality air conditioner in your home.


Long-term use of antibiotics disturbs the skin’s regular microbiota. By killing bacteria, these antibiotics allow the fungi to overgrow.

Even medication used to treat acne may correlate with fungal folliculitis. These include:

  • Clindamycin
  • Minocycline
  • Erythomycin

Dermatologists suggest using medications like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinol to treat both fungal and common acne.

Steroid medication in forms like drugs, inhalers, hormones, and creams can trigger this condition. Skin lesions occur about two weeks after beginning steroid treatment. Talk to your doctor about the best way to use steroid drugs associated with it.

Personal Care Products

Sometimes the products you use in your skincare routine can cause fungal acne. Regular facial cleaners and other products can irritate the skin.

Applying too much oil to the skin can also promote the development of it. Make sure to choose hypoallergenic formulas and avoid using oil-based products.

Remember to wash the skin after working out or spending time in the sun to remove excess sweat and oil.

Some dermatologists recommend wearing a face mask with copper and silver ions. These have antibacterial qualities that can prevent fungal acne from normal masks.


Your diet can also affect its development. Diets containing excess sugar and processed foods contribute to the condition.

Add whole foods to your diet such as:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Healthy oils
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Lean meat
  • Fish

Some people found eliminating gluten, cow’s dairy and omega 6 rich foods also helped.

fungal acne - treatment

Treatment Options

There are some treatments you can try to get rid of fungal acne. However, we recommend getting professional medical advice for the right diagnosis and treatment. Dermatologists are well-trained to recognize this type of acne, which can be mistaken as other conditions.

Topical medication like ketoconazole, butenafine, and clotrimazole creams are available over the counter. You can use medicated shampoos and body washes with antifungal substances once a week to keep skin clear.

Other treatments are available by prescriptions only.

Avoid tight clothing and synthetic fabrics, too. Replace them with loose clothing made from cotton or bamboo silk.

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