The deal with fungal acne: What it is, if it differs from normal acne, and how you can treat it

The deal with fungal acne: What it is, if it differs from normal acne, and how you can treat it

Growing on me

Text: Jeway Tan

Editor: Emily Heng

Loathe as we are to admit it, maskne is (unfortunately!) a rather common occurence these days. Commonly remedied with spots treatments or targeted facials, it stands to reason that it poses more of a hindrance than it is an actual skin concern. After all, zits are bound to fade — unless, well, they don't. Enter: fungal acne. Unlike plain ol' pimples which are caused by the buildup of bacteria in your pores, fungal variants stems from an overgrowth of yeast in the hair follicles. This, thus, makes it infinitely more stubborn to eradicate than your typical breakout. Still, that's not to say it's an impossible feat. We've gathered some important intel on the sitch, below.

What is fungal acne?

Fungal acne — also known as Pityrosporum Folliculitis or Malassezia Folliculitis — appears as whiteheads, blackheads, small pimples, or red bumps on your skin. Unlike acne where its primarily triggered by the buildup of oil and bacteria, fungal acne is caused by the overgrowth of yeast in your hair follicles.

Although oil and sebum do not cause fungal acne, they play a big part in feeding the bacteria that causes it.Yeast is a fungus that is always present on our skin. It is usually balanced out by other fungi and bacteria also found on your skin. But when the natural balance of yeast, the other fungi, and bacteria is upset, an overgrowth may occur, causing the hair follicles to develop an infection and cause acne-like symptoms to appear.


What causes the imbalance of the body's fungi and bacteria?

Several conditions, events and things can cause the imbalance, such as

  • Excessive sweating can cause fungal acne. Many people living in hot and humid climates are more prone to getting the infection as yeast thrives on sweat. Heavy workout can also cause fungal acne as your body is producing more sweat then it usually does
  • Trapped moisture. Wearing restrictive or non-breathable clothing along with wearing sweat absorbent clothing like sportswear can trigger the infection. Sweaty clothes can promote yeast growth when worn for extended periods of time. Re-wearing sweaty clothes can also expose your skin to the fungi and bacteria that may have grown in your clothes.
  • Taking certain antibiotics may cause fungal acne as it reduces the bacteria in and on your body. This, hence, causes an imbalance which allows for an overgrowth of yeast.

What are the symptoms of fungal acne?

While fungal acne and acne looks similar, their symptoms places them worlds apart. Here's what to take note of:

  • The size of your spots. Fungal acne tends to be all of the same size, while regular acne ranges from all shapes and sizes.
  • Where your acne is situated. Fungal acne can be found anywhere on your body, but mainly on your face, arms, chest and back. Regular acne, on the other hand, is usually limited to your mien.
  • If there's any itchiness involved. Nope, normal zits don't itch, FYI.


How do you manage and treat fungal acne?

It all depends on how severe it is. Mild fungal acne can be treated with simple lifesyle changes. Since yeast feeds off sweat, try changing out of your sweaty clothes immediately after your workout or showering the second you get the chance. Another way to manage fungal acne is to use products containing zinc, selsun blue, or sulfur. For more severe fungal acne cases, consider making an appointment with a dermatologist to get their advice.