What is Fungal Acne And Its Treatment and Symptoms

by Mousumi Mukherjee
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Have you ever faced the skin condition of acne or pimples on your face and body? Are you wondering why even after going through all the typical acne treatments, your acnes are not improving? Then, know that you suffer from fungal acne, which is totally different from normal skin acne. Startled? What is that, and how can it be cured? Well! Keep on scrolling the page & you will know everything about it.

What Is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne may be described as a kind of infection in the hair follicles of one’s skin. If looked closely, you will see that it looks like small pimples whose sizes are constant or of the same type, and their shapes or sizes don’t vary much. Being caused by fungi, these types of acne need a different kind of treatment from bacterial acne. 

The fungal pimples often look similar to acne vulgaris & so, people get confused while identifying them. Acne vulgaris is generally linked with blackheads or whiteheads, whereas the pimples caused by fungi are blamed for skin irritation & whiteheads. 

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What Does Fungal Acne Look Like?

The breakouts of fungal pimples look like small & uniform red bumps. These pimples rise from your skin’s hair follicles. Also, they occur on your forehead & that too in symmetric rows. You may also find them scattered on your cheeks. However, they may sometimes ensue in your upper back or upper chest. 

Fungal acne never causes blackheads, cysts & deeper unbearable nodules, or pustules. So, it is different from bacterial acne. The fungal pimple skin condition is also known as pityrosporum folliculitis. It is because this folliculitis type gives rise to an infection within your skin’s hair follicle. Folliculitis makes your hair follicle inflamed & infected. As a result, pustules are formed on your skin. 

Any portion of your body that has hair gets the chance of developing folliculitis. The pityrosporum folliculitis is affected by none other than the Malassezia species. It generally affects teenagers as their skin produces extra oil. The fungi remain typically hidden on your neck, back & shoulders & sweating causes it. Fungal acne is also known as a yeast infection. 

Other than pityrosporum folliculitis, caused by yeast, the other kinds of folliculitis are Superficial bacterial folliculitis, Viral folliculitis, Gram-negative bacterial folliculitis, Demodex folliculitis, Eosinophilic folliculitis & Pseudofolliculitis barbae. 

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Closed Comedones Vs Fungal Acne

Closed Comedones & Fungal Pimples are the same in appearance, and both of them look like little red bumps that develop over your cheeks, forehead, or upper back. However, in reality, they are distinct from each other. The major rationale behind this is their causes are varied. 

Yeast overgrowth leads to fungal infection, whereas sebum overgrowth underneath your skin’s layer leads to closed comedones. The treatment options for the two are also different. If one thinks fungal pimples to be closed comedones & treats accordingly, the treatment will be ineffective.

In fact, your fungal pimples may worsen by undergoing closed comedones or other acne treatment. Hence, you must identify the right type of acne before proceeding with its treatment. 

Closed comedonal acne gets treated with topical retinoids or other drying agents. These agents stop the overproduction of the natural oils within your skin & hence are able to target the comedones effectively.

Systematic antibiotics help in the case of closed comedones along with inflammatory acne. Furthermore, severe cases of bacterial acne are treated with the help of hormonal medication (for eg, contraceptives). 

In contrast to closed comedones, fungal pimples is not generally treated with antibiotics, and this is because antibiotics don’t help much in fungal infections. For the treatment of fungal pimples, you would require antifungal medication. If your fungal pimple are at their primary stages, go for an antifungal cream of topical origin. 

However, if you are suffering from more severe symptoms of fungal infection, you may need something more. Also, in case your skin fails to the topical treatment, try oral antifungal medicines as prescribed by a board-certified dermatologist. 

What Causes Fungal Acne?

What Causes Fungal Acne
What Causes Fungal Acne

Fungal acne is mainly caused by yeast. Warm & moist environments are the appropriate environment for yeast multiplication. During summer, the heat, humidity & perspiration makes an ideal environment for the yeasts to grow. So, people mainly catch fungal acne on the face or other parts of their body in the summer. 

Besides, the pimples may also occur after being treated with any antibiotics or steroid/prednisone type of medications. Also, it happens in conjunction with diabetes or other systemic diseases. Many antibacterial treatments of fungal pimples eliminate the normal bacteria of your skin, thus creating an ideal environment for the proliferation of the yeast, hence flaring the fungal acne.  

You might be surprised to see hear that the fungal pimples causing yeasts are always present on our skin. Our body balances the yeast, bacteria & other fungi that are a part of all human beings’ skin. However, if this very balance between them becomes upset, it leads to an overgrowth. Exactly then, you will see the infection inside the hair follicles developing with some acne-like symptoms. 

The conditions/events that upset this balance between bacteria & fungi are:

  • Trapped moisture
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Wearing tight clothes
  • Certain medications like antibiotics
  • Diet changes
  • Warm & moist environments  

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Fungal Acne Symptoms

Fungal Acne Symptoms
Fungal Acne Symptoms

We find that fungal pimples usually takes time to get cured. But, what’s the reason? Well! The primary reason for it is that we fail to identify the fungal acne at our first attempt & mistakes it for bacterial acne.

So, the treatment for bacterial acne or medications aggravates the fungal pimples, worsening the infection. Thus, naturally, it takes time for these types of pimples to get cured.

But, if you can identify the fungal pimples at the first attempt & go for the treatments accordingly, your fungal infection will heal within no time. So, it’s very important to identify the acnes caused by fungi. But, how? Ok! Here are the symptoms of the pimples caused by fungi:

  1. The pus-filled bumps of fungal pimples are nearly the same size. The pimples or whiteheads caused by bacterial infections are of varying sizes
  2. You will see fungal infections mainly on your arms, chest, or back. In contrast, bacterial acne arises mainly over one’s face. But, it doesn’t mean that your face can’t have fungal acne.
  3. You will have an itchy feeling with fungal pimples, which rarely happens in the case of bacterial acne
  4. Fungal acne mainly comes in clusters of tiny whiteheads, whereas bacterial acne are more sparse than clustered
  5. Since fungal blotches are the outcome of yeast growth, other yeast-related conditions such as psoriasis or dandruff help you to point out the main reason for the breakouts. From these conditions, you can guess if your breakouts result from yeast infection or bacterial infection. 

Diagnosis Of Fungal Pimples

The dermatologist diagnoses the fungal acne after hearing about the skin condition symptoms from the patient. Also, if necessary, he may ask you to do a painless skin scraping to examine it under the microscope or undergo a biopsy test. The tests will help to detect fungal acnes of the patient. 

Fungal Acne Treatment

Fungal acne can be treated at home, but in cases of severe symptoms of fungal pimples, it is better to take the help of a dermatologist. So, how to get rid of fungal pimples?

The fungal acne treatment at home comprises of:

  • Changing the sweaty clothes after exercise right away
  • Showering every day after a workout or any other strenuous work 
  • Wearing loose clothes
  • Trying body wash
  • Using dandruff shampoo regularly 

If the symptoms show that the fungal infection has become severe, your dermatologist will give you some OTC antifungal creams or ointments like ketoconazole/butenafine/clotrimazole cream. Also, in more severe cases, he/she will specify you an oral antifungal medicine like itraconazole/fluconazole, which targets your skin’s hair follicles to eliminate the infection.  

In What Way Can You Prevent Fungal Pimples?

Fungal pimples can be prevented by:

  • Using dandruff shampoo regularly
  • Wearing breathable fabrics
  • Showering & rinsing yourself of sweats after sweating
  • Eating a balanced diet by balancing carbohydrate-rich foods with fruits, vegetables & protein-rich foods.

The Final Words

Fungal acne is a common skin problem that can happen in any part of your body. But, with right treatment, it can be cured very easily. And, for that, you should know the difference between fungal acne & bacterial acne. Besides, the right knowledge about this ailment, along with the adaptation of proper precautions, will protect you from this disease. 


Q.1. What triggers fungal acne?

Answer: Using creams or other treatments for bacterial acne when you have fungal acne only worsens your acne & triggers it.

Q.2. How can I treat fungal acne at home?

Answer: Fungal acne can be treated at home by:
1) Changing the sweaty clothes after exercise right away
2) Showering every day after a workout or any other strenuous work 
3) Wearing loose clothes
4) Trying body wash
5) Using dandruff shampoo regularly

Q.3. How do dermatologists treat fungal acne?

Answer:  Dermatologists usually treat fungal acne by giving you some OTC antifungal creams or ointments like ketoconazole/butenafine/clotrimazole cream. Also, in more severe cases, he/she will specify you an oral antifungal medicine like itraconazole/fluconazole, which targets your skin’s hair follicles to eliminate the infection. 

Q.4. Is tree tea oil good for fungal acne?

Answer: Yes, tree tea oil is thought to be good for fungal pimples. It was used to be applied traditionally for antifungal treatment as an antiseptic. It is primarily effective for treating toenail fungus & athlete’s foot, though more exploration on the matter is needed.

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