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What Is Fungal Acne?

Breakouts come in many shapes and sizes, and they’re not always going to be treated the same. The method of treatment for addressing cystic breakouts is different from clearing blackheads or body acne. Hormonal acne? That’s another story entirely.

Fungal acne is in another category all together—and in fact isn’t even acne at all. It was given the moniker of “fungal acne” because its presents very similar to acneic breakouts, but they are very different things.

Here’s what you need to know about fungal acne and how to treat it.

What is Fungal Acne

As we mentioned, fungal acne isn’t actually acne and rather it is a type of folliculitis, that is inflammation of the hair follicle that results when yeast becomes trapped inside hair follicles, leading to acneiform pustules and nodules.

Pityrosporum folliculitis manifest as small red bumps centered around hair follicles and unlike typical acne, fungal folliculitis can itch. The area affected can also help you decipher if it’s acne or folliculitis as fungal acne is most commonly seen on the chest, back, posterior arms and face.

Fungal Acne vs. Acne: A Quick Overview

Want help identifying which type is yours? Here’s a very quick overview:

Fungal acne will have the following qualities:

•  Presents itself as many small red bumps
•  Centered around hair follicles
•  May itch
•  Localized on the chest, back, arms and forehead
•  Caused by yeast

Acne will have the following qualities:

•  Can be blackheads, white heads, pustules, and cysts
•  Caused by bacteria
•  Will feel inflamed, tender, and maybe even painful
•  Can appear anywhere there are pores

Causes of Fungal Acne:

Fungal acne is triggered by very common things.

1. Warm or Humid Air.

We all have the organism (Malassezia furfur) on our skin. However, there are certain conditions in which the organism thrives leading to an overgrowth and an imbalance in your skin’s microbiome. If you live in a warmer area and tend to be sweaty and have damp skin, you are more likely to experience acne caused by an overgrowth of yeast.

2. Tight Clothing.

Tight clothing can lead to a fungal acne breakout, especially if the clothing is damp, be it from rain, sweat, or something else. The combination of the moisture combined with body heat encourages fungal growth.

3. Skipping a Shower.

Another culprit: Skipping a shower. This can cause other forms of folliculitis and acne as well—yet another reason to prioritize your daily cleanse. If you find yourself struggling with fungal acne, showering after each workout will help reduce the risk of it getting worse.

4. Friction.

Remember, fungal acne is actually folliculitis—so it makes sense that friction can cause it to flare. Especially if you’re already struggling with a breakout, it’s best to wear loose-fitting clothes and try not to limit friction and excess rubbing of the affected area on any harsh surfaces.

5. Immune system.

If you just finished antibiotics and see unusual acne-like bumps, it could be fungal acne. Flares of this condition may be associated with a weakened immune system or the prolonged use of antibiotics which can kill beneficial bacteria, in addition to the bad bugs which again can lead to an imbalance in your skin’s microbiome.

Treating Fungal Acne:

Don’t worry, tending to your breakouts totally doable.

1. Topical Products.

Dandruff shampoo applied to the area affected by fungal acne is a common treatment method—this is because these products generally contain zinc pyrithrone and sodium sulfacetamide, two heroes for this kind of breakout.

​​In addition, using products to control oil or sebum production may also help, Osmosis Purify Enzyme Cleanser is a gentle cleanser that helps fights fungus and also bacteria that cause breakouts.

2. Oral Treatments.

Oral treatments with anti-fungal medications are most effective, especially if the flare is uncomfortable or painful as this method of treatment may work quicker than some topical products. You’ll need to visit a dermatologist to obtain a prescription.

3. Natural Remedies.

If fungal acne is a recurring problem, you can manage it with natural solutions and we recommend you start here as not only can this address the issue and prevent it from returning, these methods are best for your overall health and wellness. Raw or manuka honey applied to the affected area is a common home remedy, as it has antifungal properties. It’s also hydrating, anti-inflammatory, and aids in wound healing. A honey mask can be used weekly as maintenance.

However, if these methods prove unsuccessful, you should really get oral medications, and/or topicals that contain zinc pyrithrone and sodium sulfacetamide.

4. Balancing your microbiome

Fungi, yeast, bacteria, and viruses are all a natural and needed part of your skin microbiome. Problems arise when imbalances occur and certain strains overpower the rest. For example, acne is triggered by an imbalance of specific strains of C. Acnes. And fungal acne is an imbalance of Malassezia furfur.

One way that you can keep your complexion clear is to prioritize keeping your microbiome balanced with barrier-supporting skin care routine. While this isn’t a treatment, it can help keep your skin healthy long-term.

Products to Avoid.

As with many forms of breakouts and folliculitis, finding products that work for you, includes weeding out those that won’t. Overly harsh or irritating products should be avoided if you’re actively struggling with a fungal acne breakout.

Avoid granular scrubs, which may further irritate and inflame follicles, worsening folliculitis. If you use chemical exfoliants or retinol, it’s best to minimize your use if you find them irritating during a breakout.

Further, avoid products with fatty acids or oils. The yeast that causes fungal acne survives on oils and fatty acids, causing the fungal acne to grow and spread. Some examples include lauric acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic acid and Linoleic acid.

The Takeaway.

While fungal acne may look like a normal breakout, it’s actually not acne at all. Fungal acne is a type of folliculitis caused by trapped yeast in the hair follicles. This can be triggered by warm, humid air, wearing tight wet clothing, skipping a shower, or a weakened immune system. You can use topical products to ease these breakouts, but it’s best to visit your dermatologist to find the underlying cause and find the best treatment for your skin. If it’s not fungal acne, it may be one of the many other forms of acne—7 common types of breakouts here.

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