You've tried every acne treatment under the sun - from washes to spot treatments, but the red, itchy pimples on your skin just won't go away. This could be because your breakouts are caused by fungal acne.
This weird-sounding skin condition is, in fact, not acne. More so, it thrives on yeast. Confusing, right? Read on, because we're discussing everything you need to know about fungal acne and how it manifests.
What Is Fungal Acne Anyway?
"Fungal acne" is a term used for pityrosporum folliculitis, or malassezia folliculitis. This skin issue is caused by excess yeast known as Malassezia, a genus of fungi. Malassezia is a natural part of the human skin flora, most likely to be found in oily areas of the skin. They are found in the highest density on the face, scalp, and upper trunk.
What Causes Fungal Acne?
As previously mentioned, it is caused by an overgrowth of yeast. This yeast wrecks havoc on your skin by inflaming the hair follicles on your skin, causing pimple-like bumps. This is why the condition's scientific name is pityrosporum folliculitis/malassezia folliculitis.
There are several factors that contribute to excess yeast, including:
- Taking antibiotics, because the (good) bacteria on your skin can be reduced.
- A weakened immune system.
- Wearing damp clothes.
- Wearing tight clothes.
- Eating lots of sugary products.
- Moist environments, where sweating is more likely.
Researchers have also found that fungal acne can be contagious. Because yeast has the tendency to spread, in case of close encounters, this kind of acne can be passed along to others.
What Does It Look Like?
It's often hard to properly diagnose this type of acne because it looks just like acne vulgaris or bacterial acne. Here's how to tell if you have fungal acne:
- The bumps are usually papular, meaning red bumps without a head.
- The bumps are approximately the same size. With other types of acne, the pimples are often of varying sizes.
- The bumps show up on the face, arms, chest, and back.
- You get itchy, something that rarely happens with bacterial acne.
- The bumps appear in clusters that take the form of small whiteheads. Bacterial acne is more sparse.
- Also worth mentioning is that unlike the real acne, fungal acne is more itchy or irritating in sensation.
There's also another important sign that your acne is in fact pityrosporum folliculitis. Doctors have noticed that some patients also experience other yeast-related conditions, such as dandruff or psoriasis. This information can help you determine whether your flareup is caused by yeast or something else.
How Is Fungal Acne Diagnosed?
For proper treatment, you need to see a dermatologist. They will most likely ask you how long you've had the bumps, what symptoms you're experiencing, and whether or not you tried to treat this condition on your own.
In some cases, your dermatologist may do a skin scraping and examine it under a microscope to look for any yeast responsible for fungal acne. They may also do a biopsy and send the skin sample to the lab where it can be tested for yeast to confirm the diagnosis.
How Do You Treat Fungal Acne?
Many people use everyday anti-acne treatments to treat it, but you should know it does not help. To effectively treat fungal acne, you need to restore the balance between yeast and bacteria on your skin.
Several treatment options and lifestyle changes can help you achieve this:
- Eating a balanced diet. Try to eliminate sugary carbohydrates from your diet. Eat fruits, vegetables, and proteins instead. This can help discourage yeast overgrowth.
- Wearing breathable fabrics because they allow airflow.
- Wearing looser clothes. Friction and low airflow can encourage yeast overgrowth, so opt for looser clothes instead.
- Showering more regularly. If you work out, try showering immediately after the gym to prevent yeast from overgrowing.
- Dandruff shampoo as a body wash. Use it daily and if it helps, once the breakout is gone, you can reduce use to as little as once a week.
- Antifungal supplements, such as grape seed extract, garlic extract, and Berberine. These supplements can complement your topical skincare routine wonderfully. But do consult with your doctor first.
- Over-the-counter antifungal treatments. Antifungal creams and ointments used for athlete's foot and jock itch have proven effective in treating fungal acne too.
- Prescription oral antifungal medicine, such as itraconazole or fluconazole. These are the last resorts in patients where home treatments didn't work.
Does Fungal Acne Go Away?
Depending on the severity of your fungal acne, clearing it up may be as simple as making some lifestyle changes. Using over-the-counter topical treatment or prescription medicine can also help you get rid of your breakout entirely. Most patients respond well to topical treatments.
Unfortunately, there's always a risk of recurrence, especially right after it clears up. It's not fully understood why this happens, but researchers believe changing seasons, changing habits, as well as resistance to antifungal medicine can play a role in the recurrence of fungal acne.
How Can You Prevent Fungal Acne?
Sadly, there's no bulletproof way to prevent it. Keeping your skin dry and taking off sweaty clothes immediately following a physical activity does help, though.
If you have a predisposition to fungal acne, you should also avoid using an oil-based moisturizer. Especially if you're treating it with topical creams that can cause dryness and irritation. It's important to keep your skin moisturized, but make sure you're using an oil-free option.
As a preventive measure, it's also recommended to continue using an antifungal wash or a salicylic acid cleanser in place of a normal body wash even after you've cleared up your skin. Stopping it altogether puts you at risk for a recurrence.
Fungal acne is one of the most misdiagnosed skin conditions. If you have bumps on your neck, shoulders, arms, chest, or even the face, see a dermatologist. Unfortunately, although you can't really prevent it from happening, making sure your skin is dry and clean will help. And eating a balanced diet is equally as important.