Don’t worry – bacteria and yeast on your skin is a very normal thing. In fact it’s extremely normal. You need it… but the important bit – you need it in the right balance.
What Causes Fungal Acne?
You got it my friend – an overgrowth of yeast. An overgrowth of yeast is domino #2. So what about domino #1. What is the cause of the cause of your fungal acne. What’s the kick-starter? Who’s the door bell ringer?
At fungal acne’s heart – it’s all about imbalance of your skin’s microflora aka what naturally lives on your skin.
The key reasons why your skin might have got fungal acne;
- You went on antibiotics – these guys kill off a lot aka they upset your skin balance
- You’ve been through/are going through a lot of stress/mega stress – waves goodbye to your immune system and makes skin balance go walkies
- You went on holiday – somewhere hot and sweaty – damp skin breeds yeast – kinda like athletes foot
- You’ve started loving the gym – ditto to the above
- You have diabetes – causes your immune function to act differently
- You’ve been on immunosuppressants
- You’ve had an insect bite/cut/injury – aka opportunity for a skin infection to strike
Antibiotics and stress are major. And usually both are causes you don’t realise. You might take antibiotics for a bladder infection – then later you get an issue with your skin. Bladder to skin. Weird link to make ‘eh.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 21 January 2019
…and stress. That dear old friend. Stress is a creeper. You could be dealing fine with 80% stress. Then 80% stress becomes your new fine. You peddle along. Then boom – your body says please, please, pretty please take better care of yourself – like now.
Are any of these 7 ringing alarm bells for you? There’s more my friend… check a handful more of these boxes below and it’s super likely your don’t have acne and super likely you do have fungal acne.
Clues You Have Fungal Acne NOT Acne
The difference between fungal acne and acne is like the difference between a black skirt and a red skirt. Both technically look the same – but they also technically don’t (!) Both are skirts, but both make you look and feel different. Black’s for everyday. Red’s for date night. Try to treat your date night skirt like a work day skirt and your skirt’s going to turn heads my friend… and you’re probably going to be wondering what the heck’s going on, why is my red skirt not working like my black skirt?
These are all signs your date night skirts got mixed aka your acne isn’t really acne at all;
- You’ve tried antibiotics for acne – they haven’t worked (!) – they might even have made it worse
- Your acne’s itchy – huge warning sign
- Your acne sometimes feels burny
- You have dandruff – it’s caused by the same yeast
- Fine or smaller spots (1-2mm) – pinhead size – rather than larger ones
- Looks like keratosis pilaris aka chicken skin
- Papules or pustules
- Can be pus filled/small and pus filled
- It might be happening on your forehead especially
- A lot of skincare’s making it worse
- Oil cleansing makes it worse
- Face oils make it worse – psst! did you know malassezia yeasts grow crazy well in olive oil (found in lots of moisturisers) plus in medium to long chain fatty acids (C12, C13, C14) – the kind you find in coconut oil or palm oil
…and it likely looks like this (photo on left = before – keep reading to find out how to treat fungal acne aka how to get to photo on the right!);
Source: Fungal acne reddit.
Source: Ayers K, Sweeney SM, Wiss K. Pityrosporum Folliculitis: Diagnosis and Management in 6 Female Adolescents With Acne Vulgaris. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159(1):64–67. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.1.64.
Note: To know if you have fungal acne once and for all – go to your doctor. Tell them you think you might have fungal acne and want to know for sure. Here’s what they should do – carefully extract the contents of a spot aka the pus bit – send it to the lab for testing. Once at the lab, they’re going to smear your pus sample onto a glass slide with a 10% solution of potassium hydroxide. Then they’re going to look at your slide under a microscope. If you have fungal acne – they’ll see spores. It’s pretty quick.
Double note: It’s very possible to have acne plus fungal acne. About 4.6% of people with acne also have fungal acne.
How Do You Treat Fungal Acne Naturally?
Aka at home and without having to get oral anti-fungal meds from your doctor. By the way it’s a sure sign fungal acne is what you have if what we’re about to chat through works for you. It’s like playing poker – this is your tell.
What you’re going to want to do is try an anti-fungal treatment product.
Published papers tell us – the most common at-home treatment for fungal acne is a 2% ketoconazole shampoo used as a face wash for 4 to 5 minutes every other day. Note – this is an exceptionally strong formula – do not use if your skin’s sensitive.
Psst – anti-fungal treatments are going to tell you if you likely have fungal acne – they’re not (in my opinion and experience) a long term cure.
Because your skin needs some fungus – crazy eh.
Welcome to your skin’s microbiome.
Using an anti-fungal or antiseptic treatment on the regular – kills off your skin’s microbiome.
The result – your skin’s long term health is plummeting.
Which is why when you’re using an antifungal treatment product for fungal acne you’re also going to want to be getting your skincare and diet right.
You’ll want to be using the best skincare for fungal acne like;
- These blotting papers to keep oily areas of skin less oily
- Using a light-weight, fatty acid low/free hydrating moisturiser – remember fatty acids can help grow malassezia yeasts on your skin – this one’s super important – if you need help with this, I’m your gal.
- Using a fatty acid free facial oil – for IF your skin gets dry – like The Ordinary 100% Plant Derived Squalane (£5.50)
And making the best lifestyle changes for fungal acne;
- Like keeping your diet low GI – did you know high GI foods make skin more oily? Find a yummylicious low GI eating plan here.
- Making YOU time – because you’re 2000% worth it
- Changing your bedding regularly
The key: Once you reduce your malassezia yeast population you want to stop them from growing so crazy ever again – you’re going to do this only by using the best skincare for fungal acne and the best lifestyle changes for fungal acne. Prevention my friend… you’ve got it… better than cure (!)
Now tell me in the chat below. Are you thinking your ‘acne’ could be fungal acne? Does yours look like in the pictures above? Oh and if you have more fungal acne questions – leave them too – I’ll be back to you very soon.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.