Understanding Fungal Acne: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Understanding Fungal Acne: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Skin conditions can be a cause of great concern, affecting not only our physical appearance but also our self-confidence. One such condition that often gets misdiagnosed is fungal acne. Often mistaken for regular acne, fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of fungi on the skin. In this blog post, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for fungal acne to help you better understand and manage this condition.

What is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne, also known as Pityrosporum folliculitis or Malassezia folliculitis, is a common skin condition characterized by the appearance of small, itchy, and acne-like bumps on the skin. Despite its name, fungal acne is not actually acne caused by bacteria but rather an overgrowth of a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia.

Causes of Fungal Acne

Malassezia, the fungus responsible for fungal acne, is naturally present on the skin and doesn't usually cause any harm. However, certain factors can trigger its overgrowth, leading to the development of fungal acne. These factors include:

  1. Humid and Warm Environment: Malassezia thrives in warm, humid environments, such as sweaty skin or regions with high humidity. This can be exacerbated by excessive sweating or wearing tight, non-breathable clothing.
  2. Weakened Immune System: A compromised immune system due to conditions like diabetes, HIV, or the use of immunosuppressant medications can make an individual more susceptible to fungal infections, including fungal acne.
  3. Excessive Moisturizers or Oils: Using heavy or occlusive moisturizers and oils can create a favorable environment for Malassezia to grow, leading to the development of fungal acne.

Symptoms of Fungal Acne

Fungal acne typically presents as small, uniform, itchy bumps that resemble acne. However, there are some distinguishing features that can help differentiate fungal acne from bacterial acne:

  1. Clusters of Bumps: Fungal acne tends to appear in clusters or groups rather than as individual pimples.
  2. Uniform Size: The bumps in fungal acne are usually of the same size, unlike bacterial acne, which may have varying sizes.
  3. Itching: Fungal acne is often accompanied by intense itching, which may worsen with sweating.
  4. Lack of Whiteheads or Blackheads: Unlike bacterial acne, fungal acne does not produce whiteheads or blackheads. The bumps may appear reddish or flesh-colored.

Treatment of Fungal Acne

If you suspect you have fungal acne, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis. Treatment options may include:

  1. Antifungal Topicals: Topical antifungal creams or lotions containing ingredients like ketoconazole, ciclopirox, tea tree oil or selenium sulfide are commonly prescribed to combat the overgrowth of Malassezia. Aqneeq is a great natural source. 
  2. Antifungal Shampoos: In some cases, if the affected area is the scalp, an antifungal shampoo containing ketoconazole or ciclopirox can be used to control the fungal overgrowth.
  3. Adjust Skincare Routine: Avoid using heavy, occlusive products that can trap moisture and promote fungal growth. Opt for oil-free, non-comedogenic products.
  4. Personal Hygiene: Keep the affected area clean and dry. Avoid excessive sweating and change out of sweaty clothes promptly.
  5. Oral Antifungal Medications: In severe or persistent cases, oral antifungal medications may be prescribed to control the fungal overgrowth from within.

Prevention Tips

To prevent the recurrence of fungal acne, consider the following preventive measures:

  1. Maintain Good Hygiene: Regularly shower and cleanse your skin using a gentle cleanser. Pay attention to areas prone to excessive sweating.
  2. Avoid Heavy Moisturizers and Oils: Opt for lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizers and oils that won't clog the pores.
  3. Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing: Choose breathable fabrics and loose-fitting clothing to minimize sweating and promote air circulation.
  4. Be Mindful of Shared Items: Avoid sharing towels, beddings, or personal care items that may spread the fungus.


Fungal acne, caused by the overgrowth of Malassezia on the skin, can be a bothersome condition. By understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, you can take proactive steps to manage and prevent fungal acne. If you suspect you have fungal acne, consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. With proper care and adherence to preventive measures, you can achieve clearer, healthier skin.

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