Fungal Acne: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Malassezia, a yeast usually found on the skin, is responsible for causing fungal acne. Fungus-caused acne is often itchy and composed of small bumps, which appear more often on the chest and back.

Causes | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Consult a Doctor | Prevention

Acne caused by a fungus is not acne. A skin condition known as Pityrosporum folliculitis is responsible for the disease. There are many different types of folliculitis, which is an infection in the hair follicle. As a result, it’s often misdiagnosed as acne.

Disclosure: This post, is intended for informational purposes only. It does not provide medical advice. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, We may earn a small commission when you buy through links on our site.

What is fungal acne?

An overgrowth of yeast in the hair follicles causes fungal infection. Skin glands produce a substance called “sebum.” Overproduction of oil by these glands can lead to blocked pores and hair follicles, as well as a build-up of bacteria and yeast on the skin.

Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles caused by this yeast. It is not infectious, contagious, or indicative of poor skin hygiene.

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Fungal Acne Is Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an infection that causes your hair follicle to become inflamed and infected, resulting in blemishes on the skin. Folliculitis can occur anywhere there is hair.

It is also identified as fungal acne. Pityrosporum folliculitis and Malassezia folliculitis are two other names for it.

Malassezia folliculitis is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the normal cutaneous flora.[1]

It typically affects adolescents due to increased oil production in the skin.

It is most commonly found on your shoulders, back, and neck and is caused by sweating. It’s also known as a yeast infection.

Whiteheads and skin irritation can be caused by fungal acne. Acne vulgaris is frequently confused with it. This is the most common type of acne, and it is characterized by blackheads and whiteheads.

What Causes Fungal Acne?

Malassezia, a skin yeast, is the primary cause of fungal acne. 

Malassezia grows on the skin and is usually harmless—it is part of your regular skin flora, just like skin bacteria. [2]

Malassezia is dependent on your skin’s oils (sebum), which is why it thrives on oily skin.

When yeast proliferates uncontrollably, it can enter the hair follicle, causing inflammation and breakouts.

Malassezia can also cause seborrheic dermatitis, which is a skin condition that affects 40% of people with Malassezia folliculitis.

10 Natural Remedies for Fungal Skin Infections

How do you get Fungal Acne?

Trapped moisture on skin: Sweating is our body’s natural mechanism for cooling down. 

However, if the sweat remains on the skin, it can promote yeast growth.

Remaining in your sweaty workout attire, or wearing workout clothes without cleaning, or wearing restrictive clothing can trap moisture on the skin and expose it to fungi grown in the dress.

Dress in loose, breathable clothing and take a shower if you sweat excessively.

Climate: Due to the warm, tropical climates’ high temperatures and humidity, Malassezia thrives. Additionally, some individuals notice that their symptoms vary throughout the year, becoming worse in the hot summer and improving in the cold winter. [3]

Antibiotic use: The balance of bacteria and yeast on your skin is essential to maintaining healthy skin. When skin bacteria are killed with antibiotics, skin yeast, such as Malassezia, can take over and trigger skin issues.

Bacterial acne is occasionally treated with oral antibiotics or antibacterial creams/lotions, aggravating fungal acne.

Diet: While diet is not usually the initial cause of a fungal acne outbreak, your diet can play a significant role once an imbalance exists, especially if it is high in sugar. In this environment, yeast will thrive.

Immuno Compromised: According to research, patients with diabetes, HIV, or nutritional disorders are more likely to develop fungal acne, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop fungal acne.

Wearing tight clothes. Wearing non-breathable clothing can cause excessive sweating and moisture. This habit can create a skin environment conducive to yeast growth.

Skincare Products: Yeast expands in oil! It could be a trigger if you use skincare or makeup that contains specific types of fatty acids, oils, esters, and some polysorbates (even in small amounts).

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What are the symptoms of fungal acne?

The first reason why fungal acne can last so long is that it resembles acne vulgaris or bacterial acne. People who don’t know the difference between fungal and bacterial acne may treat it with regular acne skincare options.

These remedies are ineffective and may aggravate the infection. Here’s how to distinguish between bacterial and fungal acne:

  • Itching. Itching is a common symptom of fungal acne. Bacterial acne almost never does.
  • Clusters. Fungal acne frequently manifests as clusters of small whiteheads. Bacterial acne is scanter and less clustered. [4]
  • Location. Fungal acne frequently appears on the arms, chest, and back. It can also occur on the face, which is the most common site of bacterial acne.
  • Size. Fungal acne causes pus-filled bumps that are near all the same size.

Bacterial acne can cause a variety of pimples and whiteheads. [5]

Other yeast-related diseases, such as psoriasis and dandruff, may accompany fungal acne.

If your breakouts are caused by yeast or by another cause, this test can help you determine the cause.

Diagnosis of fungal acne

If you believe you have fungal acne, you should consult a dermatologist. Dermatologists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions.

In some cases, the provider may also want to do one of the following:

  • Typical clinical presentation: Papules and pustules of the same size and shape, as well as breakouts on your shoulder, chest, and back rather than your face, are very suggestive of fungal acne but not conclusive.
  • Skin scraping: Scrubbing the papules and pustules, staining the cells with a specific chemical, and examining them under a microscope may aid in the diagnosis because your dermatologist or healthcare provider can see the Malassezia yeast.
  • Skin biopsy: A small piece of skin, including the infected follicle, is removed and examined under a microscope to look for the Malassezia yeast. This procedure is more invasive than scraping.
  • Treatment response: Improvement after antifungal treatment indicates that your acne was caused by a fungal infection rather than acne vulgaris. [6]

Treatment of Fungal Acne

Most fungal acne responds well to ketoconazole 2%, a broad-spectrum antifungal agent that can be applied topically and is used as the first line of defense against fungal acne. In more severe cases, an oral antifungal such as itraconazole, fluconazole, ketoconazole, or terbinafine may be prescribed for a short period of time. [7]

It has the potential to be an effective antimicrobial ingredient in the fight against acne bacteria and yeast. To avoid dehydrating the skin, apply it and leave it on for 10-20 minutes before rinsing it off. [8]

Treat fungal acne naturally


It is a well-known antimicrobial derived from the Melaleuca alternifolia plant.

In vitro studies indicate that it may be effective in inhibiting several fungi species. [9]


Apply a generous layer of raw turmeric paste to the face to treat a fungal infection. Turmeric is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal [10]. You can add milk or honey to it for added benefits.

Honey is antimicrobial, and milk aids in removing debris from the skin that can clog pores. Both milk and honey aid in the healing of acne scars, resulting in a clear, blemish-free complexion. [11]

When should I see a doctor?

As Malassezia folliculitis causes this condition, so traditional antibacterial and anti-inflammatory acne treatments will not work. Antifungal and anti-yeast therapies are required.

You can begin by applying a topical antifungal cream or lotion to the affected areas daily for mild disease. If you do not see a significant improvement after three weeks or have a more severe or prolonged outbreak, you should consult a qualified dermatologist.

Prescription antifungal medication may be more effective than topical treatments at eradicating the infection.

How can I prevent fungal acne?

Despite the fact that fungal acne cannot be completely prevented, the following steps can help reduce the risk of a recurrence:

  • After sweating, take a shower. After a workout or a sweaty day at work, a quick rinse can help prevent yeast growth.
  • On a regular basis, use a dandruff shampoo. This regular rinse may aid in maintaining a healthy yeast balance on your skin. Once the breakout is gone, you can reduce your use of the shampoo as a body washes to once a week.
  • Wear breathable clothing. Breathable fabrics allow for airflow, which can help to reduce warm, moist environments that promote fungus growth. Consider wearing similar types of clothing if changing your clothing options helps treat fungal acne.
  • Consume a well-balanced diet. Fungi, like yeast, thrive on sugary carbohydrates, so eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins to help prevent overgrowth.

Disclaimer: This post does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your dermatologist or your primary care physician before applying any of the methods described here.

Eliza Miller

Hi! I am Eliza Miller, a nutritionist turned holistic health content writer who specializes in health and wellness, mental health, and nutrition. Other than content writing I am very passionate about reading fictional books.