What Is Fungal Acne? Causes & Simple Solutions

We all strive for a perfect complexion -- free of blemishes and pimples. But the inevitable acne seems to always get in the way.

While acne can normally be alleviated through proper cleansing and moisturizing, there are times when it just doesn’t seem to go away. Believe it or not, you might not actually be dealing with acne in the traditional sense.

Despite its nearly identical appearance, fungal acne is not the same thing as regular acne or acne vulgaris. In fact, if you use normal acne treatments on the fungal version, you might make things worse.

If facial blemishes are getting the best of you, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this skin condition, including simple ways to alleviate it.

What Is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne is a skin condition known as pityrosporum folliculitis. Essentially, it is the overgrowth of yeast, a fungus, within your hair follicles. This causes the follicles to become inflamed and infected, leading to whiteheads and skin irritation. 

You can get fungal acne anywhere where hair grows, most commonly in your arms, chest, and back. However, it can occur on your face as well.

Fungal Acne vs. Acne Vulgaris

At first glance, fungal acne looks just like normal acne. This makes it tricky to treat, as normal acne treatments can have adverse effects.

The first thing to note is that acne vulgaris is not caused by a fungus. Rather, it is caused by an excess of sebum in your pores. Sebum is an oily substance that reduces water loss and protects the skin from infection. 

However, in excess, it can lead to breakouts.

One of the telltale signs to denote the difference between fungal acne and regular acne is the appearance of the breakouts. 

Regular acne can be any combination of whiteheads, blackheads, irritation, cysts, or patches. Fungal acne is usually marked by whiteheads surrounded by redness.

Also, the location of each is a bit different. While regular acne can occur pretty much anywhere on your face, it is most common to find fungal acne in your T-zone, including your nose and forehead. 

Lastly, regular acne can be uncomfortable, though it normally doesn’t feel like anything at all. Fungal acne is typically itchy, but you may also feel a bit of a burning sensation. 

Being able to distinguish between the two is essential for choosing the correct approach to treatment. Additionally, fungal acne typically appears as clusters, whereas regular acne is more sparse and spread out.

What Causes Fungal Acne?

Your body naturally creates the type of fungi that contributes to fungal acne. The main reason your body produces fungi is to balance out the bacteria on your skin. 

However, if you have an overgrowth, it can infect your hair follicles and develop acne-like symptoms. Many things can contribute to this abnormal imbalance. 

For one, trapped moisture can foster fungal growth. When you find mushrooms or other forms of fungi, notice how they’re always inside dark, moist areas like caves. If you wear sweaty workout clothes for too long or aren’t showering and washing your clothes enough, you may increase the risk of developing fungal acne.

If you take antibiotic medications, the amount of bacteria in and on your body may be reduced. This can cause an imbalance which may lead to excessive fungal production. This is also why traditional acne treatments can worsen fungal acne, as most facial cleansers are antibacterial.

Also, if you have a compromised immune system that cannot properly balance out fungi on your skin, it may predispose you to fungal acne growth.

Living in a hot climate can also foster the growth of fungi more prominently when compared to those who live in cooler locations. If you’re more likely to sweat in your typical weather, you may be more likely to develop this form of skin irritation.

Lastly, diet changes, such as an increase in carb or sugar-rich foods, may speed up fungal growth. Fungi tend to feed on carbs, so decreasing your intake may reduce your risk.

Managing Fungal Acne

Many people mistreat fungal acne because they confuse it with regular acne. Managing fungal acne mainly involves trying to restore the balance between yeast and bacteria on your skin.

Detox Mask

Using harsh cleansers on fungal acne may irritate it more and lead to more severe symptoms. However, using a gentle detoxifying mask can help to cleanse the fungal build-up from your hair follicles.

Our Blue Algae Exfoliating + Detoxifying Mask gently removes surface skin cells and helps skin to retain moisture for a glowing, revitalized complexion. Natural ingredients like coconut shell, blue spirulina, and marine silt help draw out impurities and control oily skin.

Exfoliating can also help to improve the appearance of your skin by removing dead skin cells. It’s recommended that you exfoliate once a week to enhance your skin’s complexion.

Dandruff Shampoos

As strange as it sounds, dandruff shampoos contain an active ingredient called zinc pyrithione, which is antifungal. For that reason, you may find relief in using one of these shampoos on your body while you take a shower.

Just make sure you lather it up and wait about thirty seconds before washing it off. This gives the product enough time to get the job done.

Regularly Showering

After a big session at the gym, the last thing you might feel like doing is hopping in the shower. However, it’s essential to wash away the fungus and moisture under your clothing so that yeast has no time to grow.

Loose Clothing

Having no airflow under your clothing can make it easy for fungi to multiply. Loose-fitting clothes allow more air to circulate under your clothes to keep your skin cool and encourage a healthy balance between fungi and bacteria.

Over-the-Counter Antifungal Treatments

Common fungal infections such as athlete’s foot or jock itch can be remedied with over-the-counter creams and ointments. 

While it’s an off-label use, you can try using these to suppress your fungal flare-ups, especially if you notice them in parts of your body outside of your face.

Prescription Medication

Suppose any of these at-home remedies aren’t enough to make your fungal acne subside. In that case, you’ll want to visit your dermatologist so they can prescribe you a stronger medication to help restore the bacteria to fungus ratio.

Preventing Fungal Acne

Preventing fungal acne incorporates a lot of the same steps for treating it. Showering regularly and wearing breathable fabrics are quick and straightforward ways to help avoid these unsightly blemishes from occurring in the first place.

Fungal acne is also contagious since yeast is known for spreading. Additionally, you may want to ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables to discourage the overgrowth of yeast on the skin’s surface.

In Conclusion

Fungal acne occurs when an overgrowth of yeast causes an infection in your hair follicles. It looks very similar to regular acne, though it is typically more clustered, contains only whiteheads or redness, and it’s often itchy.

Fungal acne occurs due to an imbalance of bacteria and fungus on the skin. When bacteria levels are low or fungal levels are high, it can lead to overgrowth.

Since traditional acne treatments tend to be antibacterial, treating fungal acne can make it worse. Instead, you’ll want to detox your skin often to cleanse impurities. 

Additionally, showering regularly after sweating or wearing loose clothing can make it more difficult for fungus to breed. Dandruff shampoos even have antifungal elements, making them valuable avenues for treating this common form of skin irritation.

You can prevent fungal acne by ensuring that your skin is clean and taken care of at all times. One Ocean Beauty uses the power of marine life to bring you unique skincare properties that may be just the thing you need to flush away the fungi.



Sebum | DermNet

What is fungal acne or pityrosporum folliculitis? | Ohio State Medical Center

The Effects of a Shampoo Containing Zinc Pyrithione on the Control of Dandruff | National Library of Medicine