Fungal Acne Explained: Causes, Treatment and Diagnosis

May 18, 2024 | 3 min read

Question on this topic? Get an instant answer from AI Doctor.Instant answer from AI Doctor.

Fungal acne, caused by yeast overgrowth on the skin, differs from bacterial acne in both appearance and treatment. According to the AAD, acne is the most prevalent skin condition in the U.S., affecting up to 50 million people each year. Within this vast number, correctly identifying cases of fungal acne is essential because it requires distinct treatments for effective management.

What is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne, often misunderstood, is not acne at all in the traditional sense. It's referred to medically as Pityrosporum folliculitis or Malassezia folliculitis. Unlike regular acne, which is caused by bacteria, fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast (a type of fungus) that resides on everyone's skin.

This yeast thrives in moist, warm environments and can proliferate, leading to the development of small, uniform, itchy pustules on the skin.

Fungal acne is commonly mistaken for bacterial acne because of its appearance, but it requires different treatment methods. It typically presents as small red bumps that are uniform in size and can be found across the body where sweat and oil accumulate, such as the chest, back, and shoulders, in addition to the face.

This condition can cause discomfort and itchiness, distinguishing it from bacterial acne, which is more likely to cause pain than itch.

The yeast responsible for fungal acne feeds on the oils found in your skin. Factors like a humid climate, excessive sweating, wearing tight clothing, and a compromised immune system can create an ideal environment for this yeast to overgrow.

Understanding the nature of fungal acne is crucial for effective treatment, as traditional acne treatments may not be effective and could potentially exacerbate the condition. Proper diagnosis and treatment are key to managing this condition and achieving clear, healthy skin.

What Causes Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast, a fungus naturally present on the skin's surface. While this yeast is usually harmless, certain conditions can trigger its proliferation, leading to fungal acne. These triggers include:

  • Excessive Sweating: Sweat can create a moist environment on the skin, ideal for yeast growth.
  • Hot, Humid Climate: High humidity levels can increase moisture on the skin, encouraging yeast overgrowth.
  • Wearing Tight, Non-Breathable Clothing: Such clothing can trap sweat and heat against the skin, creating a perfect breeding ground for yeast.
  • Compromised Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems may be more susceptible to fungal infections, including fungal acne.
  • Use of Antibiotics or Corticosteroids: These can disrupt the natural balance of microbes on the skin, allowing yeast to dominate.
  • Oily Skin: Malassezia feeds on the oils produced by the skin, so individuals with oily skin may be more prone to fungal acne.

Fungal Acne on Face

Fungal acne can appear on the face due to an overgrowth of yeast in the hair follicles.

Symptoms include itchy, small, uniform bumps that may be pus-filled.

Factors like excessive sweating, oily skin, and humid environments can contribute to facial fungal acne.

It is important to distinguish fungal acne from bacterial acne, as treatments differ. Managing facial fungal acne involves proper skin care and avoiding products that disrupt the skin's natural balance.

How to Know if You Have Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne typically presents as small, itchy, uniform bumps on the skin. Unlike regular acne, these bumps are often filled with pus and are the same size.

Fungal acne commonly affects areas like the chest, back, shoulders, and sometimes the face.

To accurately diagnose fungal acne, it is important to consult a dermatologist. Dermatologists may use skin scrapings and microscopy to identify the yeast causing the infection.

How to Get Rid of Fungal Acne?

Getting rid of fungal acne involves a combination of lifestyle changes, skincare adjustments, and targeted treatments. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Use antifungal treatments: Look for over-the-counter antifungal creams, shampoos, or body washes containing ingredients like ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, or zinc pyrithione.
  • Gentle cleansing: Use a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to avoid irritating the skin and to keep the pores clean.
  • Exfoliation: Gently exfoliate the skin 1-2 times a week to remove dead skin cells that can trap fungi.
  • Moisturizer: Choose a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated without clogging pores.
  • Shower after sweating: Take a shower immediately after sweating from exercise or heat to remove sweat and prevent fungal growth.
  • Wear breathable fabrics: Opt for loose, breathable clothing made of natural fibers to reduce moisture buildup on the skin.
  • Avoid sharing personal items: Do not share towels, clothing, or other personal items to prevent spreading fungi.
  • Reduce sugar intake: High-sugar diets can contribute to fungal growth, so reducing sugar intake may help.
  • Probiotics: Consider taking probiotic supplements to help balance the gut microbiome, which can affect skin health.
  • Healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins to support overall skin health.

If over-the-counter treatments do not work, consult a dermatologist for prescription-strength antifungal medications. In severe cases, oral antifungal medications may be necessary.

AI Assistant

Have Questions?

Have a question on this topic? Submit it here and get an instant answer from our AI Doctor.

Please Note!This tool is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a professional before taking any actions.

Consult Top Doctors

Consult Top doctors from the US & Europe to validate your diagnosis and treatment strategy before making crucial health decisions.


Top doctors





You’re only one click away from a life-changing journey

Virtual health assistant powered by AI
350+ world-renowned Doctors