Unfortunately what you think is acne, may not be.  If you suffer from red bumps that don’t seem to be bothered by your acne regime, there’s a chance you’re dealing with fungal acne. 

Fungal Acne is an interesting name choice since it’s not acne at all.  Rather it’s an overgrowth of pityrosporum yeast which lives in the hair follicles on our skin. The overgrowth of yeast causes little infections that result in red bumps that look a lot like acne, but unlike acne, they don’t respond to your typical acne treatments including prescription acne pills, face washes, or spot treatments.  The clinical name for this is fungal folliculitis, or pityrosporum folliculitis. 

What causes fungal acne, exactly?

Yeast, a normal part of skin flora and fauna, but in excess, it can lead to pityrosporum folliculitis (fungal acne) as well as other skin conditions. 

Yeast overgrowth can unfortunately be genetic, but it can also be due to health conditions such as HIV and diabetes.  Most commonly, it’s actually due to a variety of lifestyle conditions like taking antibiotics, wearing tight clothing, not changing out of workout clothes in a timely manner or even re-wearing fitness clothes without washing them. Any environment where there’s excessive moisture is a yeast happy environment. Wearing cotton, and taking off and washing wet clothes as soon as possible is a good way to prevent fungal acne. 

Fungal Acne Symptoms

What does Fungal Acne Look Like?

Fungal acne usually appears as small, uniform, red or inflamed bumps that don’t come to a head and itching is common. 

Fungal acne is also rare on the face, and more common on the forehead, chest, back, and upper arms. 

Here are more symptoms you can check for: 

  • Small Uniform Bumps
  • Swelling Of Surrounding Skin
  • Tenderness Of Surrounding Skin
  • Redness
  • Itching 

How To Treat Fungal Acne?

Lifestyle changes are the easiest way to prevent (and also treat) fungal acne. LIfestyle factors are things like switching out your clothes for cotton and building up your immune system after a course of antibiotics. If lifestyle changes don’t help (or if you want to see some faster results), try an anti-dandruff shampoo.  Selsun Blue is one of the more popular ones for fungal acne, but any of them with pyrithione zinc or selenium sulfide will work. Just rub it on the affected area and let sit for 5 minutes before rinsing. If you don’t see improvement in a month, stop and see a dermatologist.  For stubborn cases of fungal acne you may need an oral antifungal medication that needs to be prescribed, and this will require a trip to the doctor.  

How To Stop Fungal Acne Forever?

Unfortunately, many people who get fungal acne will get a recurrence at some point.  Lifestyle changes are thought to help prevent new yeast overgrowth, and using an anti-dandruff shampoo once a week as a body wash can also be a great over the counter preventative. 

As always, it’s a great idea to seek professional care and advice from a licensed dermatologist if it’s possible for you to do so. The worst thing you can do is to misidentify fungal acne and not get it treated, so if you have questions, definitely try to seek some professional advice.

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