Causes and treatment for fungal acne

Causes and treatment for fungal acne | fungal acne home remedies | fungal acne | causes of fungal acne

What is fungal acne?

Fungal acne is not really acne. Fungal acne is actually a fungal infection of the hair follicle by Malassezia (called Pityrosporum) that looks very much like regular acne (acne vulgaris). While often mistaken for regular acne, the cause is completely different.

Sebaceous or “oil” glands naturally keep your skin protected against friction and make the skin more impermeable to moisture. Acne happens when your hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells, and sebum (oil) and then can become pustules and have inflammation.

In contrast, fungal acne (fungal folliculitis) is an overgrowth of yeast within your hair follicles. When there is yeast in the sebaceous glands, your hair follicles become inflamed, resulting in fungal acne on the face.

Sebaceous, or oil glands, naturally keep your skin moist and act as the first line of barrier against bacteria. 

What does fungal acne look like?

Fungal acne can be usually confused with a typical whitehead or acne papule. The lesions are typically grouped together with white bumps or pustules or red bumps of very similar size from 1-2mm.

Fungal Acne (Malassezia folliculitis) can occur anywhere on the body but is most commonly seen on the forehead, temples, hairline, upper chest, and mid-back.

Versus regular acne which comes in different forms and sizes from papules, pustules, blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, and cysts.

The bumps can get worse with:

  • Very greasy skin
  • Sweat
  • Over-moisturising, using too much sunblock, make-up which clogs your pores
  • Being in a humid climate can increase your chances of developing fungal acne, as yeast thrives in this kind of environment.
  • Tight-fitting clothes with sweat, block the pores, increasing the growth of fungus.
  • Using antibiotics kills bacteria but sometimes can result in the growth of fungus.

Fungal Acne Vs. Regular Acne 

Although regular acne and fungal acne do have some similarities, there are numerous ways you can try to tell them apart. 

Fungal acne vs regular acne Appearance

Fungal acne: white bumps with red skin surrounding them; bumps are usually uniform in size and happen in clusters.

Regular acne: varying sizes and appearances with any combination of whiteheads, blackheads, skin-coloured bumps or cysts depending on an individual; blemishes are more spaced out. 

Location of fungal acne vs regular acne

Fungal acne: It can happen anywhere on the body but most commonly appears on the forehead, temples, hairline, mid-back and upper chest.

Regular acne: It can happen anywhere on your face (forehead, nose, chin, cheeks, jawline, hairline, temples), neck, chest, or back.

Causes of fungal acne vs regular acne 

Fungal Acne: fungus (specifically Malassezia)

Regular Acne: bacteria

Treatment for fungal acne vs regular acne

Fungal acne: You can try bentonite clay masks, dandruff body wash, chemical exfoliants (lactic/salicylic acid), natural antifungals (oil of oregano, clove, walnut), more frequent showering, and loose clothes.

Regular acne: treatment of imbalance in hormones with birth control pill, patch, or vaginal ring, salicylic acid, topical antibodies, topical retinoids, oral antibiotics, and/or oral retinoids.

What causes fungal acne on your face?

Fungal acne can be seen on your face due to yeast overgrowth, which may be due to locked moisture, more moisture, a weakened immune system, tight clothes, or humid environments. While having some fungus and bacteria on your skin is just normal, an imbalance can cause an overgrowth of yeast. Yeast can then enter the sebaceous glands via the hair follicle and leads to the inflammation and itchiness that comes with fungal acne.

How is fungal acne diagnosed?

Before treating fungal acne, do consult a doctor to confirm that you do not have any other skin condition. Even if fungal acne is suspected, a doctor or dermatologist may need to conduct a fungal test to diagnose fungal acne or fungal folliculitis or any other causes before prescribing treatment.

Misdiagnosing your fungal acne could cause an ineffective treatment. 

An antifungal diet consists of reducing or completely eliminating foods that:

  1. a) promote yeast growth, like sugar and other white-flour products
  2. b) foods that contain yeast, vinegar, mushrooms, beer and wine

Some antifungal diets also recommend cutting out dairy products.

Antifungal diet

Some food items that can help control fungal infection in the body are:

  • Coconut oil
  • Garlic
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Oregano
  • Onion
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Mulethi

Fungal acne home remedies 

  • Raw Turmeric

  • To treat fungal infections on your face, apply a good layer of raw turmeric paste. You can add milk or honey to it for additional benefits. Honey is antimicrobial and milk helps clear your skin of debris that can clog your pores. 

  • Guava Leaves

  • There are several medicinal properties of guava leaves. Apply a paste of guava leaves that can help prevent fungal infections on the skin. 

  • Black Pepper

  • Piperine, terpenes and flavonoids present in black pepper make it an amazing fungicide. Black pepper extracts are usually used in medicines and foods to prevent fungus growth. Make a paste of black pepper powder and honey and apply it to the affected areas to treat the fungal acne.

  • Ginger

  • Its effectiveness in dealing with fungal growth has led to its widespread use in skincare, dental hygiene and new-age antifungal medicines. Apply a generous paste of ginger and honey to the fungal acne regularly to see improvement.


    Fungal acne is not actually acne and is actually a fungal infection or folliculitis that is caused by extra yeast growing in the hair follicle. While it may initially be mistaken for your typical blemish, acne should ideally be seen by a doctor, who can help determine the appropriate treatment for it.

    Fungal acne is treatable and will likely go away within some time with proper treatment.

    Sometimes they are simply caused by naturally living your life, and the best thing you can do to treat them is to consult a doctor.