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Fungal Acne: Types, Symptoms, & Treatment

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Jul 09, 2023

Fungal Acne: Types, Symptoms, & Treatment

Ever wonder about what causes inflamed, widespread acne that extends beyond the face? Those are called fungal acne and this type of skin condition is caused by Malassezia furfur, which is a fungus, specifically a yeast, naturally present on the skin. But it can also accumulate and lead to an overgrowth. This then seeps into hair follicles and multiplies. This causes a person to feel an itch on the infected area and the appearance of the skin would look like small inflamed red dots. 

Fungal acne, which also known as pityrosporum folliculitis, is also a reason why the skin condition of a person continues to suffer from acne even after taking antibiotics to treat it. 

Is Fungal Acne Contagious?

fungal acne

Fungal acne is not contagious nor is it an actual infection. This skin condition is simply the result of having too much yeast on the skin. Yeast is a normal part of our skin, however, some people are susceptible to having too much of it due to several factors such as:

  • the temperature of an environment (hot and humid environments attract yeast growth)
  • usage of oily products (sunscreen and coconut oil)
  • diabetes
  • fatigue
  • stress
  • skin that has too much sebum
  • oral contraceptive pills
  • being overweight
  • immunity to microorganisms 

This type of acne tends to recur. Luckily, there are several preventive measures that you can do to keep these from happening. The solution would be using topical treatments like selenium sulfide shampoo, topical ketoconazole, and econazole solution. Application should be done weekly to avoid recurrence. 

Oral medications may also be taken in place of topical treatments, some doctors even claim that this has a higher efficacy of preventing recurrence of this type of acne compared to topical products, depending on the severity. However, the clinical trials done have not supported the consistency of this particular treatment. With that being said, fluconazole would be the best oral medication in treating this recurrent type of acne. 

How is Fungal Acne Different from Other Types of Acne?

One of the most common misconceptions about this type of acne is that it is interchangeable with hormonal acne. But fungal acne is different because it is caused by an overgrowth in yeast in the hair follicles. Hormonal acne, on the other hand, is caused by excess sebum in the hair follicles. 

In terms of symptoms, fungal acne causes itching but is not painful, compared to other types of acne. Hormonal acne can cause pain due to inflammation. Other types of acne such as nodule acne and cystic acne also differ from fungal acne because these are painful, tender to the touch, and produce pus. 

Treating Different Types of Acne

In terms of treatments, fungal acne cannot be treated with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory products. Fungal acne would require anti-yeast products to work and actually do something about the excess yeast. Topical antifungal products can only work on mild fungal acne as well. 

On the other hand, hormonal acne treatment would include antibiotics and retinoids (moderate to severe acne), topical creams (blackhead and whiteheads), benzoyl peroxide, topical retinoid, and topical antibiotic (inflammatory acne). 

For cystic acne treatments would include antibiotic creams and other topical solutions that would eliminate bacteria on the skin. Salicylic acid is another product used for cystic acne. Its helpful in killing bacteria and removing dead skin cells. In short, the treatments for cystic acne are similar to hormonal acne. 

As for nodule acne, this type of skin condition cannot be treated with topical products. Usually, treatment would include oral medications such as isotretinoin (scar prevention). Other treatments would include oral antibiotics (secondary bacterial infection), adalimumab (resistance severe disease), and systemic corticosteroids (reducing inflammation). 

With that being said, hormonal acne, cystic acne, and nodule acne somewhat share the same type of treatments which addresses bacteria and inflammation. Fungal acne, on the other hand, is more focused on treatments that address fungi. 

If you want more clarification regarding the difference between fungal acne and other types of acne, we highly recommend you consult with a dermatologist. 

Key Takeaways

It is important to know the different types of acne because this would help you identify what treatments you should be using on your skin, as advised by your doctor. Remember that fungal acne is different from other types of acne and would therefore require different types of treatments. It would also be better to have your skin checked by a dermatologist if, despite interventions, your acne problem is not resolving.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Jen Mallari · Updated Jul 09, 2023

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