The Independent Pharmacy

How To Identify And Treat Fungal Acne

Donald Grant
Dr Donald GrantMB ChB DRCOG MRCGP Dip.orth.medGP & Clinical Advisor

Reviewed on 22 Feb 2024

Fungal acne, a skin condition that arises from an overgrowth of yeast, can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating experience. This is different from regular acne, which is caused by bacteria. Also called pityrosporum folliculitis or Malassezia folliculitis, fungal acne leads to itchy red bumps and pimples on the upper body. Unlike typical acne, these small bumps usually show up on the chest, back, and arms instead of the face.

Daktarin Gold 2% Cream
Daktarin Gold 2% Cream
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But how to treat fungal acne? Antifungal creams, body washes, shampoos, and medicated creams from the pharmacy can help treat fungal acne at home. Look for over-the-counter products containing ketoconazole, selenium sulfide, or miconazole. Apply these antifungal skin treatments to affected areas for the amount of time listed on the label, typically a few minutes. Then rinse thoroughly. Using these products for several weeks can clear up fungal acne by stopping excess yeast growth on the skin.

Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
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If you've been diligently using over-the-counter treatments for over a month without seeing the results you hoped for, remember that it's completely okay and quite common to seek help from a dermatologist. A skin doctor can provide prescription medications, skin care advice, and other medical treatments tailored to each person for better results. With the right customised plan, fungal acne can be controlled for good.

In this guide, we'll help you understand how to identify and treat fungal acne so you can plan your next steps.

Key Takeaways

  • Fungal acne is a common skin condition where yeast and fungi overgrow, leading to itchy pimples and red bumps typically on the chest, back, and sometimes arms and shoulders.
  • Antifungal ingredients found in dandruff shampoos, body washes, creams and ointments available over the counter or via prescription can treat fungal acne.
  • Lifestyle changes like wearing loose, breathable fabrics, showering after sweating, and avoiding skincare irritation also help prevent fungal acne.
  • If over-the-counter treatment fails after a month, seeing a dermatologist for customised care offers the best chance to clear up stubborn fungal acne.

What Is Fungal Acne?

Unlike regular acne, which is caused by oil and bacteria buildup within pores, fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin. The yeast that causes fungal acne is called Malassezia. It's a type of yeast that usually lives harmlessly on our skin. But for some people, these yeast levels can grow too high in humid, sweaty conditions. When there's too much of this yeast, it can infect the hair follicles on your skin, causing a condition called fungal folliculitis. The result is clusters of itchy, small bumps on the skin – fungal acne. It’s a common skin condition, especially in teens and young adults.

The moist, warm skin from excessive sweating, sweaty clothes, a humid climate, or irritation from bad skincare products can all cause too much yeast. This disrupts the natural balance of yeast and fungi living on the skin, leading to fungal acne breakouts. Loose, breathable clothes and gentle skin care are important for preventing fungal growth.

How Do You Know if Your Acne Is Fungal?

Spotting fungal acne requires knowing the difference between regular acne and fungal acne symptoms. Unlike typical zits, the small red bumps of a fungal infection are very itchy. The bumps tend to show up on the upper body as well, like the chest, back, and sometimes arms and shoulders, rather than the face.

Doctors sometimes call the bumps from fungal acne 'monomorphic papules,' which means they all look similar in size and shape. This means they look very similar in size and shape instead of various pimples and cysts, as you see with common acne. Fungal acne also usually appears as groups of many tiny papules close together rather than just a couple of sporadic pimples.

It's worth noting that these fungal acne papules don’t contain pus, which can be a source of relief and helps differentiate them from other types of acne. But they can still resemble mild or moderate regular acne, just with more irritation and itchiness. Identifying exactly what type of acne you’re dealing with takes paying attention to these subtle differences.

Effective Treatments for Fungal Acne

Over-the-Counter Solutions

There are a few antifungal skin products available at pharmacies that can help treat fungal acne at home. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is a good option because it contains chemicals that stop fungal growth. Use a small amount on affected areas in the shower for a few minutes before rinsing off. Follow the instructions on the bottle for how long to leave it on. While it might take some patience, using this antifungal shampoo consistently over several weeks has helped many people gently clear up their fungal acne bumps.

Using antifungal creams with ingredients like miconazole can also be effective in treating fungal acne. Daktarin (Miconazole) 2% Cream and Canesten 1% Cream are two accessible antifungal skin treatments. Gently rub a thin layer completely over fungal acne breakouts one or two times per day as directed on the packaging. Use for at least one month to allow the antifungal medicines to work against fungal acne. Be gentle with your skin; if you notice any dryness or irritation from these creams, it's a sign to adjust your usage. Always follow the guidelines carefully and listen to your skin's needs.

Prescription Medications and Professional Advice

If using antifungal shampoos and skin creams from the drugstore does not clear up fungal acne after a month or longer, scheduling an appointment with your family doctor or dermatologist is recommended. A skin specialist can examine your fungal acne bumps and provide prescription oral or topical medications tailored to your situation.

Stronger creams applied to the skin, known as topical ointments, can be more effective against tough fungal acne than regular store-bought treatments. Oral pills also fight fungal acne from the inside out by controlling overall levels of yeast. A doctor can explain how these prescription options work in greater detail during a consultation. They can also offer customised skin care tips and additional advice.

Consulting a dermatologist helps create a treatment plan unique to your fungal acne. Prescription remedies combined with lifestyle changes provide your best chance at finally getting fungal acne under control. Remember, finding the right solution for your skin might take some trial and error, but don't lose hope. An expert dermatologist is there to support you on your journey towards clear skin.

Lifestyle and Skincare Tips to Prevent Fungal Acne

Skincare Routine Adjustments

Using dandruff shampoos and antifungal creams can rid the skin of fungal acne, but changing daily skincare habits helps keep it away. Always apply skincare products and makeup gently to avoid further irritating infected hair follicles. Look for cleansers, toners, and moisturisers labelled “non-comedogenic”, as those products are less likely to clog pores and spur excess yeast or fungal growth. Are you unsure of what products tick these boxes? If you look through our range, you could give a go to products like CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Lotion.

Avoid thick, greasy skin care products that could trap sweat and dead skin cells against pores. This helps eliminate environments where yeast and fungi can thrive. To keep fungal acne at bay for the long term, develop a gentle skincare routine with natural, anti-fungal ingredients.

Lifestyle Modifications for Better Skin Health

Certain daily habits can limit fungal growth and related skin issues like acne. Here are some key steps to help prevent fungal overgrowth:

  • Wear loose, breathable fabrics like cotton that allow airflow to the skin
  • Avoid tight clothes that can cause friction and trap sweat
  • Quickly change out of sweaty gym clothes or uniforms after activity
  • Shower immediately following heavy sweating from sports or exercise
  • Find the right balance of physical activity to support immune system health without constant damp skin

The goal of these lifestyle adjustments is to allow the skin to stay clean and dry. This prevents the warm, moist environment that fuels excess yeast and fungi growth. Making better daily choices keeps fungal acne breakouts at bay.

Take the Next Step Towards Healthier Skin

Now that you know the differences between regular and fungal acne, you can take control of your specific condition. If over-the-counter antifungal treatments do not resolve those stubborn red bumps after a month, it’s time to seek professional medical advice.

Connecting with a dermatologist can get you answers through skin tests and exams. A skin doctor also provides prescription antifungal medications stronger than shampoos and creams from the pharmacy. Combining the right treatment plan with lifestyle changes gives you the best shot at winning against fungal acne for good.

If you're feeling eager to take proactive steps towards healthier skin right away, we're here to support you every step of the way. The Independent Pharmacy has an online acne assessment you can easily complete. Our experts review your fungal acne symptoms and medical history. Then, our team sends back a customised list of treatment options matched to your unique needs.

Convenient online care makes taking the next step toward healthier skin super simple.

Contact The Independent Pharmacy today to finally take control of fungal acne.


Does fungal acne eventually go away?

Fungal acne often goes away on its own without treatment since the body typically keeps yeast levels in check. Without the right antifungal skin care, fungal acne can last a long time or keep coming back. Using dandruff shampoos, medicated creams, or prescription medications helps fully clear fungal acne bumps and prevent future outbreaks.

What makes fungal acne worse?

Excessive sweating, tight clothes, skincare irritation, and humid climates can all worsen fungal acne. These conditions feed yeast and fungal growth on the skin, which leads to more acne papules. Wearing loose, breathable fabrics, gently cleansing skin, and avoiding very sweaty environments help prevent fungal acne from getting more inflamed.

Should you moisturise fungal acne?

It's important to use a moisturiser that is oil-free, won't clog pores (non-comedogenic), and is gel-based, specially designed for acne-prone skin. This provides hydration without clogging pores and spurring more yeast and fungal overgrowth. Heavy, greasy moisturisers should be avoided as they could make fungal acne worse.

What foods trigger fungal acne?

While research on diet’s link to fungal acne is limited, sugars, refined carbohydrates, fermented foods, and dairy may feed yeast production. Keeping blood sugar balanced with a low glycemic diet may support skin health and limit inflammation. But more studies are still needed on foods that directly worsen fungal acne.


Pityrosporum Folliculitis - American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD)

TikTok Says You Can Use Dandruff Shampoo to Clear Acne—Here's What Derms Think (

Antifungal medicines - NHS (

10 skin care habits that can worsen acne (

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