If you have facial acne and don’t respond well to acne treatments it could be fungal acne which is however different from bacterial acne. Medically fungal acne is known as Pityrosporum folliculitis.
Fungal acne is the infection in your skin’s hair follicle. Generally appears as small pimples, not too big, and often comes with itching. In this condition, the skin feels irritation and whiteheads. However, it is often confused with acne vulgaris, which is a condition that occurs with blackheads and whiteheads.
So, acne vulgaris and fungal acne are two different conditions and need different treatments, or else you will make them worse.
Let’s consider the points in which they are different.
Fungal acne V/S bacterial acne
Fungal acne is not a breakdown of acne at all. It is caused due to the yeast present in our skin that gets confined in your skin’s hair follicles which then causes small pimple bumps. Medically it is called Pityrosporum folliculitis or Malassezia folliculitis depending on the type of the particular type of yeast fungus.
Often they affect the chest, upper arm, and back and never on the face, and are very itchy.
While bacterial acne is caused due to the excessive blockage of the hair follicles by sebum. When bacterias start to grow in the blocked follicles, they create blackheads and whiteheads on the surface of the skin. It usually affects the face, neck, and chest.
However, hormones, weather, diet, and oral contraceptives may be the reason for flaring up bacterial acne.
Unlike bacterial acne, it is not caused due to the growth of oil and bacteria in the skin’s hair follicle. Although excessive sebum production plays a big role in feeding the bacteria, which then help in growing fungal acne.
The irritated skin and pimple bumps in fungal acne are the overproduction of yeast fungus. That’s why it is called fungal acne.
The type of yeast fungus responsible for acne is already present over our skin, typically our body can balance the existing bacteria, yeast, and other fungi.
But when the balance disturbs it creates an overproduction of the yeast and here starts the infection of skin’s hair follicles and acne-like symptoms start to appear.
So what causes this balance to disturb?
Locked moisture:- wearing sweaty clothes for too long can encourage yeast growth. Also, rewearing sweaty clothes without washing them is another big reason for the same, as it exposes your skin to fungi already grown in clothes.
Antibiotics:- if you are on certain medications like antibiotics, your skin may lose bacteria and allow overproduction of the yeast fungus.
Weak immunity:- people with a suppressed immune system are at high risk of developing fungal acne.
Weather:- warm and moist weather is the favorable condition for their growth. Usually, people who live in hot climates tend to have fungal acne more frequently.
Tight clothes:- wearing tight clothes regularly can invite yeast growth due to extra sweating and moisture.
Diet:- Eating a more carb-rich diet or sweets may encourage fungal growth. So, balancing your diet by reducing excess carbohydrates will help in reducing the symptoms.
The big obstacle in its treatment is its similarity with bacterial acne. People who don’t know the difference may treat it with normal acne skincare products making the infection worse.
Here are some symptoms to spot fungal acne:-
Size:- these are pus-filled acne of the same size and rarely increase in size. While bacterial acne causes pimples of varying sizes.
Location:- usually it flares up over the chest, back and arms. It can also appear over the face, though bacterial acne is most common over the face.
Itching:- fungal acne tends to be very itchy, while bacterial acne doesn’t.
Clusters:- fungal acne usually appears in whitehead clusters.
Fungal acne often comes up with other yeast-related conditions like psoriasis and dandruff. So, this may help in determining whether these are caused due to yeast or some other cause.
You have to see a dermatologist if you are feeling symptoms of fungal breakdown. Dermatologists will analyze the specific condition and will help in further treatment.
Your dermatologist will ask simple questions to know your symptoms well. So you have to tell all the symptoms you are feeling or experiencing. The questions include:-
- How long have you had this breakdown?
- Have you used something over it?
- What are the symptoms you are feeling now?
When there is no confirmation or needs further checking your dermatologist may scrape your skin, which is a painful and safe procedure, to look for any growth of yeast that is causing fungal acne under the microscope. Hene, your skin scrape will be sent to the laboratory and the results will be seen.
As we have discussed that fungal acne treatment is often done improperly due to the similarity with regular acne. People use acne-controlling products which won’t work.
To treat it properly, you need to restore the balance between the bacteria and yeast on the skin.
Here are some treatment options for fungal acne:-
If you are working and go out regularly for a job or work out, which makes you sweat, you should shower twice a day. Also, change your clothes after the shower to avoid wearing the same clothes again.
This will help in washing out all sweat, dirt, and excess yeast caused due to the warm and moist environment.
Wear loose clothes
Try to wear little loose clothes and avoid tight clothes during humid and warm moist weather, it will leave you to sweat more. Avoid wearing breathless clothes regularly. More friction and low airflow will encourage yeast growth over the skin.
So, prefer more loose, comfortable, and breathable clothes to wear regularly to keep your skin balanced with the yeast growth.
Try anti-dandruff shampoo
You can use anti-dandruff shampoos containing Pyrithione zinc or selenium sulfide as a body wash. However, it is an off-label use of such shampoos, but can be effective.
Wash your skin several times a week with this dandruff shampoo while you feel a sudden breakdown. You can also use it regularly, once a week to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria and yeast on your skin. Let the shampoo stay on your skin for a few minutes and then rinse off for better results.
There are several medicines available both over the counter as well as prescribed. For example, certain antifungal creams and ointments are there to help you with such breakdowns.
When home treatments and over the counter don’t work, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist.
Your dermatologist will prescribe oral antifungal medications like itraconazole or fluconazole for fungal acne to eliminate the infection.
How can you prevent fungal acne?
Fungal acne can’t be prevented completely but there are certain things you can do to not have fungal acne. For example by taking care of a fungal acne diet and fungal acne routine you can prevent them up to an extent.
Shower after sweating:- you need to take care of your body cleaning if you have had fungal acne or currently have them. Try to shower at least twice a day to clean out the oil and fungal growth.
Fungal acne diet:- avoid eating more carbs and sweets. Replace your diet with a balanced diet with adequate nutrients.
Wear loose and breathable clothes:- wear soft and comfortable fabric like cotton often to continue airflow and which cut down the effects of the moist and warm environment that may encourage yeast growth. Try to adopt this habit in your fungal acne routine.
Use anti-dandruff shampoo:– well you can use them regularly when you have a flare-up of acne. When they start to settle, use it twice or once a week.
When to seek a dermatologist?
When you have applied for home treatment but it stays persistent for more than 3 weeks, it’s time to look for a good dermatologist.
A prescribed treatment or oral medications will be more effective in getting rid of the infection rather than topical ointments and creams.
If the symptoms return shortly after using some antifungal product and when you think they are resolved but aren’t, consult a dermatologist soon.
You can ask your dermatologist about fungal acne prevention, diet, and other doubts you have.
Fungal acne is caused due to the blockage of the skin’s hair follicle as a result of overproduction of sebum, which then promotes the overgrowth of fungal yeast. It’s different from normal acne that is caused due to bacteria. Try to avoid sweating and shower more often while sweating. Wear loose and comfortable clothes that will promote good airflow. Consult a good dermatologist for the right and effective treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions:-
How do you treat fungal acne?
To treat fungal acne you need to purchase over-the-counter antifungal ointments or body washes to reduce the growth. Shower twice a day, use anti-dandruff shampoo every day. If home treatments don’t work consult a good dermatologist. They will help you get rid of fungal acne by prescribing oral medications.
How do I know if I have fungal acne?
Fungal acne often occurs in clusters of red bumps on your forehead, sides of your face, and chin. The skin may feel very itchy. They may also erupt on the back, chest, and upper arms. They are different from bacterial acne who is usually bigger and not itchy.
What causes fungal acne?
Fungal acne is caused due to the infection of the skin’s hair follicle by the yeast present on your skin Malassezia which overproduces during the time of infection. Our body can have a balance of some bacterias, yeast, and fungus.
How do dermatologists treat fungal acne?
Well, dermatologists will prescribe you oral antifungal medications like itraconazole or fluconazole for fungal acne for a few days in severe cases. They may also prescribe ointments with oral medicines.
What products get rid of fungal acne?
The best products to get rid of fungal acne are:-
- Clotrimazole cream 1% daily.
- Ketoconazole lotion 2% daily.
- Econazole nitrate cream 1% daily.
- Selenium sulfide 1% dandruff shampoo and also as a body wash
Is fungal acne curable?
Yes, they are curable, but chances or flare-ups always. This can flare up again when the weather gets warm and moist again. So, it will be curable with a good skincare routine and avoiding products that contribute to the production of excess sebum.
Is Tea Tree Oil Good for fungal acne?
Yes, tea tree oil has been proven good for various skin conditions like athletes foot, toenail fungus and has been used as a potent topical antiseptic and antifungal agent. According to researchers, the dilution of tea tree oil worked the same as a 5% benzoyl peroxide in controlling acne.
How do you treat fungal acne naturally?
You can use an amazing ingredient tea tree oil to treat fungal infections. All you have to do is to mix tea tree oil into a carrier oil like either coconut oil or olive oil. Dab this mixture to the affected area three to four times a day. You will see the results within a few days.
Is fungal acne always itchy?
Regular acne is usually associated with blackheads and whiteheads. While fungal acne is associated with whiteheads and often comes very itchy. As the fungus grows in warm and damp areas, they feel itchy due to the disbalance of the skin’s natural yeast production.
What color is fungal acne?
Fungal acne occurs as small red bumps filled with pus. They often occur in clusters and feel itchy and sometimes burn. Mostly affect the back, chest, and sides of the face.