Is my acne 'Fungal Acne'?

Is my acne 'Fungal Acne'?

Have you heard of the term fungal acne? Did you know that fungal acne is not actually acne but rather a skin condition? Let’s deep dive to understand what this skin condition is and what we can do to prevent and treat it.

What is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne, also known as pityrosporum folliculitis or malassezia folliculitis, is a condition in which a type of yeast called malassezia overgrows on the skin, causing irritation and inflammation in the hair follicles. This condition can cause symptoms similar to those of traditional acne, such as red bumps, itching, and flaking. It is more common in people with oily skin and is often mistaken for traditional acne, but can be treated differently with antifungal medications.

How to Identify Fungal Acne? What does Fungal Acne look like?

Fungal acne typically presents as small, red, and itchy bumps on the skin. The bumps can be raised or flat and may have a whitish or yellowish centre. They are often uniform in size and shape and may be accompanied by flaking or scaling of the skin. They can often be found on the upper body, including the chest, back, and shoulders, although they can appear on other areas of the body as well. The affected area may look inflamed and swollen. Fungal acne may be mistaken for traditional acne, but the bumps caused by fungal acne tend to be less numerous and are not accompanied by whiteheads or blackheads.

Fungal acne can be difficult to distinguish from traditional acne, but there are a few key characteristics that may indicate that it is caused by a fungal overgrowth:

Location: Fungal acne typically appears on the upper body, including the chest, back, and shoulders, whereas traditional acne is more likely to appear on the face.

Appearance: The bumps caused by fungal acne are often red and itchy, and may be accompanied by flaking or scaling. They may also be more uniform in shape and size than traditional acne.

Response to treatment: If your acne does not respond to traditional acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, it may be fungal acne.

Flare-ups with certain products: Fungal acne may be triggered by the use of certain products, such as oils, heavy creams, or products that contain ingredients such as coconut oil, which can be a triggering factor

It's important to note that fungal acne can be similar in appearance to other skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or a yeast infection. A dermatologist can confirm the diagnosis and recommend the right treatment.

What Causes Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of a type of yeast called malassezia. This yeast is a normal inhabitant of the skin, and it usually does not cause any problems. Also, some people may be more susceptible to fungal acne due to genetic or inherited factors. However, in certain conditions, such as in people with oily skin, the yeast can overgrow, leading to fungal acne.

Certain factors can contribute to the overgrowth of malassezia, including:

  • high humidity or sweating
  • use of oily or heavy skincare products
  • use of certain medications, such as steroids or antibiotics
  • a weakened immune system

How long does Fungal Acne last?

The duration of fungal acne can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of the treatment. In some cases, fungal acne may clear up on its own within a few weeks. However, in more severe cases, or if left untreated, fungal acne can last for months or even longer. Treatment for fungal acne typically involves the use of antifungal medications, such as topical azoles or oral terbinafine. These medications work by slowing down or killing the overgrowth of yeast on the skin.

It's important to follow the treatment plan recommended by a dermatologist, which will be tailored to the individual's condition, using the appropriate medication and duration for a sufficient time. With appropriate treatment and by avoiding triggering factors, the fungal acne should improve over time. This can range from a few days to a few weeks, or in more severe cases, several months.

How to prevent Fungal Acne?

There are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing fungal acne:

Keep your skin clean: Use a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to wash your skin twice a day. Avoid using harsh soaps or scrubs, which can irritate the skin and increase the risk of fungal overgrowth.

Avoid oily or heavy skincare products: Use lightweight, oil-free moisturisers and sunscreens. Oily or heavy products can clog pores and create an ideal environment for malassezia to grow.

Avoid occlusive or heavy makeup: Avoid using heavy makeup or face creams that contain coconut oil or other oils, which can trigger fungal acne.

Minimise sweating: Wear breathable clothing and avoid tight clothing that can trap sweat and humidity. Also, try to avoid overheating yourself and sweating excessively, to help keep the skin dry.

Be mindful of your diet: Try to avoid foods high in sugar and yeast, which can promote the growth of malassezia.

Be aware of your triggers: Be mindful of any products or situations that seem to cause flare-ups of fungal acne and try to avoid them.

How to treat Fungal Acne?

Treatment for fungal acne typically involves the use of antifungal medications. The type and duration of treatment will depend on the severity of the condition, as well as the individual's response to treatment. Here are some common treatment options for fungal acne:

Topical antifungals: These are medications that are applied to the skin and are available over the counter or by prescription. They work by slowing down or killing the overgrowth of yeast on the skin. Examples of topical antifungals include azoles (e.g. Clotrimazole, miconazole) and polyenes (e.g. Nystatin).

Oral antifungals: In more severe cases, an oral antifungal medication may be prescribed. These medications are taken orally and work by killing the yeast from within. Examples of oral antifungals include terbinafine, itraconazole, and fluconazole.

Combination therapy: A combination of topical and oral antifungals may be used for more severe cases or for those who do not respond well to one type of treatment alone.

Avoiding potential triggers: In addition to medication, it's important to avoid known triggers that may worsen the condition, such as the use of oily or heavy skincare products, sweating, and the use of certain medications.


While there are common symptoms of fungal acne, they may also be caused by other conditions. However, it is not contagious nor is it related to poor hygiene. Fungal acne is a skin condition that requires you to work closely with a dermatologist or a medical professional to find the treatment that works best for you and use it as directed. It may take some trial and error to find the right treatment, and it's essential to be patient and consistent with the treatment, as fungal acne may take longer to clear up than traditional acne.

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