What is Fungal Acne

I can’t help but wonder what freaks people out more. The idea that a fungus might be growing pimples on their face OR knowing that we all have tiny mites living and breeding on our skin. Based on how Fungal Acne’s diagnosis has exploded on the internet, I would say it is that. So what is fungal Acne? And how do you treat it if you think you have it?

Do I have fungal acne?

First, let’s address the common question of “do I have fungal acne” that everyone is researching. The easy answer is: No, you do not. Fungal Acne is not a real thing. Acne breaks out when oil or dead skin cells clogging pores, allowing bacteria to grow. Pimples from Acne will appear as blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, or cysts. People who suffer from Acne will usually have a mixture of acne lesions. What people are calling “fungal acne” is actually folliculitis.

So what is fungal acne?

As I just mentioned, “fungal acne” is actually folliculitis, an inflammation of the hair follicle. The accurate diagnosis for fungal Acne is Malassezia Folliculitis. I mentioned that dandruff could be an overreaction to a normal yeast that lives on our skin called Malassezia in my dandruff post. For some people, this Malassezia yeast invades and infects the hair follicles.

Malassezia Folliculitis looks like closed comedones which can cause people to believe it is Acne. The difference is that these inflamed follicles are itchy and are very uniformed in their appearance. Meaning the bumps all look the same clustered together, and there aren’t blackheads or whiteheads mixed throughout, usually. The typical place for this folliculitis is on the chest, back and arms. It can develop on the face, but I believe it is rarer than what the internet would have you believe. This is why consulting a dermatologist would be beneficial for an accurate diagnosis.

What causes Malassezia Folliculitis?

The Malassezia yeast is an ordinary yeast that lives on our skin. However, in some people, it causes folliculitis when it is triggered to invade the follicles. Recent use of an antibiotic can cause Malassezia to overgrow. The organisms that live on our skin are usually balanced, keeping each other in check. When the balance is disrupted by an antibiotic, the yeast is given a chance to overgrow.

Stress can be another trigger. According to WebMD’s “Effects of Stress on Your Skin” article, our bodies release cortisol when we are stressed. Cortisol makes your skin more sensitive and also tells your skin to produce more oil. Since Malassezia loves oil as a food source, the extra oil on your skin will cause the yeast to overgrow.

A few other causes of Malassezia Folliculitis include wearing tight clothing or not showering after excessive sweating. Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments. Having a compromised immune system can throw your skin microbiome out of whack, as well as the use of steroids.

How to treat “Fungal Acne.”

Because fungal acne is not true acne, it will not respond to acne treatments, which kill bacteria. We need to treat the yeast. A doctor can prescribe an oral antifungal medication for this condition. However, taking something orally is not favorable for some people.

There are over-the-counter products that can help treat this folliculitis. You can actually use anti-dandruff shampoo, salicylic acid, and sulfur masks in your skincare regimen. It is important to moisturize your skin, especially after using a shampoo, because it can dry out your skin. Remember yeast thrives on oil, so make sure your cleansers, moisturizers, and makeup are oil-free. Let’s take a look at some product recommendations.

Dandruff Shampoo

Dandruff shampoo can be used on the areas on your face or body to treat fungal acne. You do need to allow the shampoo to sit on the affected areas for five minutes. Nizoral Shampoo is highly recommended as well as Vanicream. I lean towards Vanicream for the face because it is a fragrance-free and less irritating product. I would only recommend using one of these shampoos on your face 3 times a week, however, some people can tolerate it up to five times a week. Know your skin and watch out for irritation.

Salicylic Acid

On the days you do not wash with a shampoo, use a salicylic acid product. The salicylic acid is able to penetrate clogged follicles. Neutrogena’s Acne Facial Wash is a great product. Paula’s Choice leave-on BHA exfoliant is another amazing salicylic product, especially if your skin is tolerating the shampoo wash well. If your skin is easily irritated I would recommend sticking with the Acne wash. If you are a person of color and plan to use Paula’s Choice, I suggest only using it at night because it can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure.


Adding a sulfur mask product to your routine is another great way to treat fungal Acne. Sulfur kills fungus and also absorbs excess oil from the skin. It helps to unclog pores and can reduce inflammation. Add a Sulfur mask once a week to your evening routine.

With proper hygiene and skincare regimen, you can treat fungal Acne. Always be cautious when adding new products to your skincare. When in doubt, consult a dermatologist. Have you found a particular product not mentioned in this post to be helpful to your fungal acne?

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