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By Shilpa Bhim
Have you ever had to deal with a smattering of pimples on your body or your face that just won’t go away? Seriously, no matter how many acne management products you use, they Refuse.To.Budge.
There’s a chance you might be dealing with fungal acne. She’s not regular acne … but we wouldn’t go so far as to say that she’s a cool version of acne (that’s not really a thing!)
So here’s the thing. To deal with your fungal acne effectively, you need to understand what it is, what causes it and exactly what products help with getting rid of it.
Get ready for a full fungal acne breakdown – aka, the best 101 course you’ll ever receive!
WHAT IS FUNGAL ACNE?
Fungal acne is an infection in your hair follicles. The scientific name for this is Malassezia folliculitis or pityrosporum folliculitis.
It’s caused by production of excess yeast known as Malassezia, which is found on the skin surface of all humans. Fun fact, Malassezia is in the same biological classification as fungi (hence the name, fungal acne)
Excess amounts of Malassezia lead to small, raised, solid bumps on the skin and can cause white heads and skin irritation. It often resembles acne vulgaris, aka ‘regular acne’ – which is caused by overactive oil glands at the tips of the hair follicles and clogged pores.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE FUNGAL ACNE OR REGULAR ACNE?
Knowing what type of acne you have is important to help treat it. Plain old acne treatment won’t work on your fungal acne as the treatment is targeting a different cause.
Because fungal acne looks so similar to ‘regular acne’, it’s a bit tricky to know what you’re dealing with straight off the bat. Fortunately there’s a few clues to look out for:
1. Look for small whiteheads that are about the size of a pinpoint (around millimetre wide – so tiny!)
2. Fungal acne usually develops in clusters, so that’s fun.
3. It tends to be itchy.
4. Fungal acne usually presents itself on the chest, shoulders and back. It’s not so common on the face (but it can happen).
Of course, when in doubt, consult your dermatologist or a doctor. They’ll know what you’re dealing with for sure!
WHAT CAUSES FUNGAL ACNE?
Moisture is the main culprit! The main moisture related causes of fungal acne include:
- Wearing sweaty clothes - like workout clothing - for too long encourages yeast growth. Re-wearing workout clothes without washing them can also expose your skin to fungi that have grown in the clothes. Lesson learned, wash your workout clothes regularly, Zovers.
- Restrictive, non-breathable clothing – can create extra sweat and moisture, leading to excess yeast growth.
- Warm, moist climates – if you live in a hot, humid climate, where sweating is more likely, you’re more likely to experience fungal acne.
Other causes of fungal acne include:
- Genetics - genetically predisposed to yeast overgrowth and experience fungal acne more frequently.
- A compromised immune system - chronic conditions that affect your immune system, like diabetes and HIV, can make you more susceptible to fungal acne.
SO HOW DO I GET RID OF (AND PREVENT) MY FUNGAL ACNE?
The secret is to restore the balance between yeast and bacteria on your skin.
- Use a dandruff shampoo as body wash – while it’s not the intended purpose of dandruff shampoo, it can be an effective way to get rid of, and prevent, fungal acne. Using a dandruff shampoo with pyrithione zinc or selenium sulfide will help maintain a healthy balance of yeast and bacteria on your skin. Use multiple times a week during a breakout, and about once a week as a preventative measure.
- Shower regularly – especially after you’ve had a sweaty gym session! This can help wash away or prevent the excess yeast that starts developing when your body is all sweaty and moisture gets trapped. Can’t make it to a shower for a while? Try the old wet wipe shower! The wet wipes will help wipe away sweat and oil, keeping moisture at bay until you can shower.
- Wear looser, breathable clothing – particularly if you’ll be working up a sweat. Loose, breathable clothing will help stop moisture from getting trapped and will support proper air circulation.
- Exfoliate! - dead skin cells, excess dirt and oil can contribute to an increase in yeast growth. Using a body exfoliator regularly (especially post-workout) will have you sorted!
- Use an athlete’s foot cream – hear us out on this one! Turns out athlete's foot is caused by a similar fungus that causes fungal acne. Using an over the counter antifungal cream (like athlete’s foot cream) can help get rid of your fungal acne. Key ingredients to look out for are ketoconazole, butenafine, or clotrimazole.
- Use prescription, anti-fungal medicine – your dermatologist or doctor can help you out with this one. If you’ve been battling fungal acne for a couple for a couple of weeks and aren’t seeing any results, they’ll be able to prescribe medication to target the hair follicles and eliminate the infection.
If you’re dealing with breakouts more broadly, check out our tips for preventing breakouts on your face here.
That’s everything you need to know when it comes to fungal acne. Class dismissed!