What exactly is fungal acne? Here's everything you need to know.

You start to break out. It gets bad. Spreads all over your chin. Around your mouth. You start to panic; is it just really bad acne? OH MY GOD IS IT FUNGAL ACNE?

No, wait - hang on. 

Shouldn't you be using something else on this if it's ~fungal~? Is that drying lotion making it worse? Do you need to see a dermatologist? We're not freaking out, you're freaking out!

Watch: Here's how to treat blackheads as an adult. Post continues below.

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So, you do what every other poor panic-ridden lamb does in 2021, and you scroll through Reddit's SkincareAddiction and hop on TikTok. Have a search for some answers.

And there's A LOT of stuff out there. Mercy. There's so many remedies.

But, guys, guys, guys. 'Fungal acne' isn't actually a real diagnosis. In fact, it's just a cute nickname for something else entirely different from acne. What's more, it usually appears on your body - not your face.

How awkward.

Confused? We asked a couple of experts to help us unpack the whole 'fungal acne' thing.

But first... Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where we find out exactly how to get rid of blackheads. Post continues below.

So, wait. What exactly is fungal acne?

"Fungal acne is a term that has been used recently, particularly on social media, to describe a number of pimple-like lesions and rashes which are not true acne, but caused by either yeast or fungal infections," explains dermatologist Dr Cara McDonald from Complete Skin Specialists.

This condition is actually known as pityrosporum folliculitis and it's an acne-like eruption that usually occurs on the body rather than the face. 


No matter what you want to call it, these flare-ups are caused by a yeast called malassezia - which is in the same fam as fungi, as Dr McDonald explains. Cute!

Just to be clear - malassezia actually lives on everyone's skin. So, don't think you're some gross fungus magnet.

"The skin naturally has microbes living on [it] however when these become out of balance we can see skin anomalies occur," adds skin and nutrition expert Fiona Tuck from Vita-sol.

When the weather is hot or humid, or when you're excessively sweaty, these yeast levels tend to rise - resulting in inflammation. This inflammation can manifest on the skin as little bumps that are pimply in appearance and can be itchy and red. 

"Pityrosporum folliculitis occurs in the hair follicle that houses the hair and sebaceous gland. When it becomes inflamed it can appear as tiny small white or red-coloured bumps on the face," said Tuck.

To make things a little more complicated for you, 'fungal acne' isn't always caused by malassezia - it can also be caused by tinea.

Yep, tinea... on your face. It's less common, but still very much a thing. Soz.

"Fungal infections such as tinea can also cause pimple-like lesions particularly where previously treated with corticosteroid creams," said Dr McDonald. 

"This fungal infection is known as tinea incognito or pustular tinea. It can occur anywhere on the body, including the face, but tends start in one location and spread from there."

How do you know if you have fungal acne?

"Fungal acne can be hard to diagnose and can look similar to a number of other skin conditions including other infections such as bacterial folliculitis," said Dr McDonald. 


So... how do I know for sure?

"If you suspect you have fungal acne, then a trial of treatment can be helpful in some people, but if it persists, you should see your local doctor or a dermatologist to ensure that the diagnosis is correct and treatment options have all been explored. 

"A definite diagnosis can be obtained via swabs or skin biopsy," said Dr McDonald.

Is it... contagious?

Yep. Unlike your run-of-the-mill acne, pityrosporum folliculitis or 'fungal acne' can be contagious. 


While it may look pretty similar to regular acne, fungal acne is made up of yeast which has a tendency to spread through close contact. 

So, no touchy. Or face-rubby.

What's the best way to treat fungal acne?

Well, according to our experts treatment of this condition all depends on the severity of your condition. Similarly to regular acne, there are two ways to tackle fungal acne: topical treatments and oral medications. 

"More mild presentations can be addressed with a simple anti-yeast shampoo, used as body wash or topical treatment prescribed by your doctor," said McDonald.

"More extensive or severe cases may need an oral antifungal medication and some people who are prone to recurrence may need maintenance treatment," she adds.

How can you prevent fungal acne?

The bad news? It can be difficult to prevent. Especially for those who are prone to this condition.

Overheating, excessive greasy moisturisers and moist environments can increase the risk of yeast overgrowth, McDonald explains. "Avoidance of these where possible and the use of an anti-yeast body wash may be beneficial."

Try keeping your skin dry and clean during workouts and make sure you take off your sweaty clothes straight after training (no coffees or brunching post-workout pls), as this will also help.

If you struggle with oily or acne-prone skin, you might also want to incorporate some AHAs and BHAs into your washing or cleansing routine.

"Gentle alpha hydroxy acids and salicylic acid washes and topically applied products may also be beneficial to help prevent congestion occurring in oily prone skin," adds Tuck. 

CeraVe's Renewing SA Cleanser, $16.99, is a good option.

"If someone is immune compromised, on antibiotics or has a poor diet high in sugar, refined carbs, alcohol and low in important gut fibre, this can also influence how well the skin functions," said Tuck. 

"For any skin concern it is always advisable to seek advice from a qualified skin specialist."

Have you ever struggled with fungal acne or regular acne? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Getty