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What Is Fungal Acne? Here's What You Need to Know

Skin Care Concerns

What Is Fungal Acne? Here's What You Need to Know What Is Fungal Acne? Here's What You Need to Know What Is Fungal Acne? Here's What You Need to Know

Do you find yourself struggling with attempts to get rid of your acne? No matter how consistent you are with your skin care routine, pesky whiteheads and other blemishes along your T-zone remain front and center. If that’s the case, you may be dealing with fungal acne. If you’re freaking out while reading this, take a breather. Like traditional acne, fungal acne can be managed; it’s just that your standard skin care products may not cut it. Below, we’re giving you the 4-1-1 on all things fungal acne, including its causes, how it differs from other types of acne, and how you can keep it under control. 


According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), fungal acne, also known as malassezia (pityrosporum) folliculitis, is a common skin condition frequently misdiagnosed as regular acne. Fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast that is present in the hair follicles. The NCBI shares that when it arises, small, scattered, itchy, follicular papules develop on the back, chest, posterior arms, and sometimes the neck, which slowly enlarge and become pustular. 

The NCBI also notes that fungal acne thrives on the consumption of sweat. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic shares that unlike traditional acne, fungal acne causes your skin to itch. Along with the itchiness, your skin can become severely irritated, and redness can develop. 


According to the NCBI, the yeast responsible for fungal acne is naturally present in everyone’s skin. However, fungal acne occurs when there is a disturbance or imbalance of the yeast in the skin. In addition, the lipid composition of sebum (sweat) can make fungal acne much worse. Other causes of fungal acne, as noted by the NCBI, include immunosuppression and oral corticosteroid and antibiotic use. 

Per the NCBI, fungal acne is common in adolescents, likely due to increased sebaceous gland activity. They reveal that the frequency and density of colonization of the yeast are related to age and sebaceous gland activity. It is also commonly found in people living in hot, humid climates, particularly those affected by excessive sweating or occlusions of the skin. It is reported to be more common in males.


If you’re unsure if you are experiencing fungal acne, a few changes in your skin may clue you in to what’s actually going on. As we mentioned earlier, if you notice that your skin is not responding to the skin care products you regularly use to treat acne, you may have fungal acne. According to the Mayo Clinic, traditional acne can typically feel tender with redness or painful with pus-filled bumps and lumps. The NCBI shared that in a recent study, a woman tackling fungal acne characterized her symptoms as itchy skin that burns to the touch. 

Editor’s note: With any skin care concern the only way to know for sure what’s going on with your complexion is to visit a board-certified dermatologist. And yes, this holds true with fungal acne. If you think you may be experiencing a case of this skin condition, book a derm appointment to get to the bottom of what’s going on and receive a treatment plan. 


How you manage your fungal acne will depend a great deal on the severity of your breakouts. Since fungal acne is caused by the imbalance of the yeast in your skin, simple lifestyle changes may improve your skin’s appearance. The NCBI shares that treatment with topical azole antifungal agents may be effective, but oral therapy with itraconazole is often necessary and typically results in rapid improvement. Further, the NCBI also reveals that oral antifungals are the most effective treatment for rapid improvement. Since fungal acne is commonly associated with acne vulgaris, it may require combinations of both antifungal and acne medications for treatment.

No matter what, you’ll want to visit your dermatologist to find out the right way to manage your particular case of fungal acne, discuss treatment options, and answer any questions you may have.

Next: Essential Oils for Acne: Do They Work?