Understanding Fungal Acne: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options 2023


Acne, a prevalent skin condition, impacts countless individuals across the globe, causing distress and affecting their overall well-being. While most people are familiar with traditional acne, there’s another form of acne that often goes unnoticed and misdiagnosed: fungal acne.

The emergence of fungal acne, scientifically referred to as pityrosporum folliculitis or malassezia folliculitis, can be attributed to the excessive proliferation of yeast on the skin’s surface, leading to an array of bothersome symptoms and skin inflammation. In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for fungal acne, helping you gain a better understanding of this often perplexing skin condition.

Causes of Fungal Acne:

Fungal acne occurs when there is an overgrowth of yeast known as Malassezia on the skin. This yeast is naturally present on the skin’s surface and usually does not cause any harm. However, certain factors can disrupt the skin’s natural balance, leading to the overgrowth of Malassezia. These factors include:

Humid and Hot Environments: Fungi thrive in warm and moist conditions, making humid climates an ideal breeding ground for fungal acne.

Occlusive Clothing: Wearing tight-fitting clothing or fabrics that don’t allow the skin to breathe can trap moisture and heat, promoting fungal growth.

Prolonged Antibiotic Use: Antibiotics can disrupt the skin’s microbiome, allowing fungal overgrowth to occur.

Excessive Sweating: Sweating excessively can create a damp environment on the skin, encouraging fungal growth.

Symptoms of Fungal Acne:

Fungal acne often resembles traditional acne, but there are some key differences in appearance and behavior. Here are some common symptoms of fungal acne:

Uniform Size and Shape: Unlike traditional acne, fungal acne lesions are typically small and uniform in size, often resembling tiny bumps or whiteheads.

Itching and Irritation: Fungal acne can be intensely itchy and may cause significant discomfort.

Limited to Specific Areas: Fungal acne typically occurs on the chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms, rather than the face.

Treatment Options for Fungal Acne:

Treating fungal acne requires a different approach than traditional acne. Here are some effective treatment options:

Antifungal Medications: Topical antifungal creams or ointments containing ingredients like ketoconazole or ciclopirox can effectively treat this acne. These medications help reduce the overgrowth of Malassezia and alleviate symptoms.

Antifungal Shampoos: For fungal acne on the chest, back, or shoulders, using an antifungal shampoo with active ingredients such as selenium sulfide or ketoconazole can be beneficial. Leave the shampoo on the affected areas for a few minutes before rinsing it off.

Adjust Skincare Routine: Avoid using oil-based or comedogenic products that can further clog the pores and worsen this acne. Opt for non-comedogenic, oil-free skincare products instead.

Maintain Good Hygiene: Practicing meticulous hygiene by ensuring regular cleansing and keeping the affected areas adequately dry is essential in effectively managing fungal acne and preventing further aggravation of the condition. Change clothes immediately after sweating, and avoid excessive heat and humidity whenever possible.

Consult a Dermatologist: If self-care measures and over-the-counter treatments do not provide relief, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist. They can accurately diagnose fungal acne and recommend appropriate prescription medications if necessary.

Additional Information on Fungal Acne:

Differentiating Fungal Acne from Traditional Acne: It can be challenging to distinguish fungal acne from traditional acne because they share some similarities. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge and take note of a handful of significant distinctions that set fungal acne apart from traditional acne:

a. Pustules vs. Whiteheads: Fungal acne lesions usually appear as small, uniform, itchy bumps with a pus-filled center, resembling pustules. Traditional acne, on the other hand, often presents as a mix of whiteheads, blackheads, papules, and cysts.

b. Distribution: Fungal acne tends to be more localized and concentrated on certain areas such as the chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms. Traditional acne commonly affects the face, but it can also appear on other parts of the body.

c. Lack of Response to Traditional Acne Treatments: If you’ve been treating your acne with conventional acne products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, and you’re not seeing any improvement, it might be an indication that you’re dealing with fungal acne.

Risk Factors for Fungal Acne: While fungal acne can affect anyone, certain factors can increase the risk of developing this condition:

a. Sweating and Friction: Activities that cause excessive sweating, such as working out or wearing tight-fitting clothing, can create an environment conducive to fungal growth.

b. Weakened Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, are more susceptible to fungal infections, including fungal acne.

c. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during puberty, pregnancy, or while taking oral contraceptives, can disrupt the skin’s balance and contribute to fungal acne development.

Prevention Strategies:

a. Maintain Good Hygiene: Regularly showering and using a gentle cleanser can help keep the skin clean and minimize the risk of fungal acne. Avoid aggressive scrubbing, as it can irritate the skin and worsen the condition.

b. Choose Breathable Fabrics: Opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton or moisture-wicking materials to reduce sweating and friction on the skin.

c. Avoid Heavy Oils and Moisturizers: Heavy oils and emollients can clog the pores and provide an ideal environment for fungal growth. Instead, opt for non-comedogenic, oil-free moisturizers and skincare products.

d. Be Mindful of Shared Items: Fungal infections can spread through direct contact, so avoid sharing towels, clothing, or personal care items with others.

e. Maintain a Balanced Diet: A healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals can support overall skin health. Including probiotic-rich foods like yogurt or fermented foods may help promote a healthy skin microbiome.

Foods that helps in fungal acne

Certainly! Here are some food items that may help in managing fungal acne:

Probiotic-rich Foods: Probiotics help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the body, including the skin. Incorporating foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and other fermented foods into your diet may help support a healthy skin microbiome and potentially reduce the risk of fungal acne.

Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables: Antioxidants help combat inflammation and promote overall skin health. Include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet, such as berries, leafy greens, citrus fruits, bell peppers, and tomatoes, to provide essential nutrients and support skin resilience.

Garlic: Garlic is known for its antifungal properties and may help inhibit the growth of fungi. Adding fresh garlic to your meals or taking garlic supplements, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, may offer some benefits for managing fungal acne.

Turmeric: Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Adding turmeric to your cooking or consuming turmeric supplements, after consulting a healthcare professional, may help reduce inflammation associated with fungal acne.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties that can support healthy skin. Including these foods in your diet may help manage inflammation associated with this type of acne.

Green Tea: Renowned for its exceptional antioxidant content and potent anti-inflammatory properties, green tea has earned its reputation as a beneficial beverage for promoting overall well-being, including skin health. Consuming green tea or applying green tea topically as a skin toner may help soothe irritated skin and potentially reduce the risk of this type of acne.

Zinc-Rich Foods: Zinc is essential for immune function and skin health. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, lean meats, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and chickpeas. Including these foods in your diet may support the healing process and promote a healthy skin barrier.

Avoid Sugary and Processed Foods: High intake of sugary and processed foods can potentially disrupt the balance of bacteria in the body and promote fungal overgrowth. Minimizing the consumption of sugary beverages, refined grains, processed snacks, and sweets may help reduce the risk of fungal acne.

It’s important to note that while these foods may have potential benefits, individual responses can vary. If you have specific dietary concerns or underlying health conditions, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet. By offering personalized guidance tailored to your individual requirements, they can assist you in making informed decisions and implementing strategies that best address your specific needs.


Fungal acne, caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin, can be a frustrating condition to deal with. Recognizing the symptoms and understanding the underlying causes are crucial steps towards effective treatment. By following proper hygiene practices, making adjustments to your skincare routine, and seeking professional advice when needed, you can effectively manage fungal acne and achieve clearer, healthier skin. Remember, early intervention is key to prevent further discomfort and minimize the risk of recurrence.

In conclusion, this acne, caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin, requires specific treatment approaches distinct from traditional acne. By understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing preventive measures, you can effectively manage this type of acne and achieve clearer, healthier skin. If you’re uncertain about the nature of your skin condition or if your symptoms persist despite self-care, consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

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