In this article I’ll be talking about fungal acne treatment, more specifically about the top five ingredients for fungal acne.
Table of Contents
What is Fungal Acne?
Fungal acne is a condition that results from overgrowth of a little yeast that naturally lives on everyone’s skin called Malassezia. It’s also called Pityrosporum.
This is particularly a problem in people who have very oily skin.
What ends up happening is that their oily skin plugs up their pores and that little yeast is down there within the oily pore and it proliferates too much and brings in an inflammatory response against it and that results in fungal acne.
It’s very common in hot humid climates and it’s also common if you are somebody who works in a sweaty environment and you stay in your sweaty clothes that sweaty oily milieu gets trapped on the skin and can further contribute to this skin condition-
People who are prone to this tend to have very oily skin and very active oil glands that put out a lot of oil and can plug up the pores, creating a little happy environment for overgrowth of that yeast within the pore.
Fungal acne is most often located on the face. It can also be on the upper chest and back. Unlike regular acne, fungal acne are uniform in appearance, meaning they all basically look the same. Fungal acne unlike regular acne is itchy.
So that’s how to tell the difference.
Other risk factors for fungal acne include being on antibiotics for a prolonged period of time. That can change your skin microflora, favoring overgrowth of that little yeast.
Also if you have been on a systemic steroid for a while that can actually be associated with fungal acne, because what that does is put the brakes on your immune system and so that little yeast is like ‘hey nobody’s keeping me in check’.
Once the steroid has stopped and your immune system comes in, you get an inflammatory response and you get fungal acne.
The good news is that it is treatable with anti-fungal medications and it can go away.
Best Ingredients For Fungal Acne Treatment
It can be found in anti-dandruff shampoos as well as in Vanicream Z-Bar. This is a facial bar but you certainly can use it on the body as well.
Zinc Pyrithione as an ingredient has been used in dermatology for a long time to treat conditions related to that little yeast. It is bacteriostatic and fungi static and it’s going to help put the brakes on that little yeast. It’s also anti-inflammatory, which is going to be helpful for calming down those little itchy bumps.
Zinc Pyrithione can put the brakes on proliferation of that little yeast, stopping it from multiplying.
How do you use it?
Simple. You just use it as a wash, lather it to the affected area, whether it be the face or the chest. Let that lather sit on the skin for a few minutes and then rinse it off. That way you get the Zinc Pyrithione into the skin.
You can use either an anti-dandruff shampoo like Head and Shoulders that has Zinc Pyrithione.
But I am particularly fond of the Vanicream Z-Bar because it’s very gentle and doesn’t dry out the skin.
She shampoo is an option obviously, but it’s not really formulated for the body, so it can be a little drying. But the Z-Bar is great. It’s also great for regular acne because that Zinc Pyrithione is so anti-inflammatory.
What is Ketoconazole?
It’s an antifungal medication that can be applied to the skin to help reduce the burden of that little yeast and it’s also anti-inflammatory.
The only product that you can buy over the counter that has Ketoconazole in, at least here in the states is Nizoral shampoo.
That is an effective option.
Wash your face with it, let that Nizoral shampoo sit on the skin for a few minutes and then rinse it off.
Again it can also be used to other body sites where you might be coping with fungal acne.
If you see a board certified dermatologist or even your family physician would feel comfortable with this and they can prescribe a topical Ketoconazole at a higher percentage. It’s probably more effective.
If you stay consistent with the over-the-counter stuff that too can really help. Don’t discredit stuff that’s at a weaker percentage strength over the counter. It can be helpful.
Ingredient number three that is wonderful for both fungal acne and regular acne, even though they are two separate conditions, is salicylic acid.
It helps to unclog the pore. Remember a part of what’s going on here is that your pore gets plugged up with all of your oil and within that plugged up pore, the yeast is way too comfortable.
The salicylic acid concentrates in the pore, it loves that oil, it gets in there and it exfoliates the pore and clears it out.
Salicylic acid is also anti-inflammatory, so that’s going to help with that inflammatory response that leads to the itchy bumps. It is also antimicrobial, so it can help in reducing the burden of that little yeast a bit. It helps smooth out the skin surface as well and remove excess oiliness from the surface of the skin.
There are a variety of fantastic salicylic acid based products on the market.
You can start with a salicylic acid face wash, but personally in this setting, I recommend using some of these other washes and instead choosing a salicylic acid leave-on product. That way you’re able to piggyback multiple ingredients to address this issue.
So rather than just using a salicylic acid wash, although that is an option, instead select a salicylic acid leave-on product.
The way to use it is to just apply it to the affected area in the evening and again in the morning. If you tolerate, it can be used twice a day to the those affected areas, whether it be on your face or your chest or back.
Salicylic acid can be very drying and very irritating, so start very slowly, using it every other day, maybe at night time and then try introducing it nightly and then try introducing it in the morning, so that you do it using it twice a day.
It can be very effective for helping to control this issue and get it under good control.
It’s actually a cream for athlete’s foot, which is a fungal infection of the feet. Different organism entirely, not the same organism, but clotrimazole has a little bit of efficacy against reducing the burden of malassezia yeast in the skin as well.
It’s nice to have some option that you can buy over the counter that is in a cream form. We’ve talked about a lot of washes and so it’s nice to have a cream that you could put on the skin as another ingredient to incorporate.
It’s pretty affordable, and you only need to use it to the affected area.
Clotrimazole is also anti-inflammatory, so it can help in reducing redness and irritation.
Last but certainly not least is selenium sulfide. This is another anti-dandruff ingredient that helps reduce the burden of that little yeast and helps reduce inflammation.
This is something that comes in a shampoo form, so you can use it as a face wash or body wash.
As with any wash that has an active ingredient, you want to lather it to the affected area, leave it on the skin for a few minutes and then rinse it off.
This is something you can do in the shower and if you’re talking about your face, you can wash your face with it.
How to Get Rid of Fungal Acne
Those are my top five ingredients for fungal acne, but how do you begin? Do you need to dive all in and go all in with all five of these ingredients?
But it may be a good idea, depending on the severity of your fungal acne, to incorporate multiple ingredients.
For example, you may want to use that Z-Bar as a face or body wash and you may also want to then apply a leave-on salicylic acid product to exfoliate the pore, open it up. And you may also want to use the Clotrimazole cream.
It all depends on what you can maintain and what’s not going to be too irritating for you.
Remember that little yeast is down in the pore, and a lot of times topicals are just not going to target it effectively, in which case I recommend seeing a board certified dermatologist, because we can prescribe oral medications that will eradicate this issue much more efficiently than the topical things.
These are things over-the-counter that can help clear it up, but in many cases prescription treatments may be needed.
Definitely see a board certified dermatologist, but these are ingredients and products that you can get started with.
Fungal Acne Safe?
One more thing before I end this article.
There is all of this hype on the internet about fungal acne safe. There is no such thing as fungal acne safe!
I get asked all the time is this product fungal acne safe. Stop focusing on that.
The pathophysiology of fungal acne relates to oiliness in the pore, just a predisposition to that, and immune response.
There’s not a cream that’s immune response safe. It doesn’t work that way.
I hate nebulous marketing things that are not substantiated in science and the fungal acne safe thing is one of those things that if we keep putting it out there on the internet as a reality, then skin care companies are going to start putting it on their products.
The ingredients I mentioned in here can help, but oftentimes prescription remedies are necessary. Also removing the aggravating factor, whether it be immuno-suppression, long-term antibiotic use, changing up your routine if you live in a hot climate so that you’re not leaving sweat on the skin.
These are things that can make a difference, not like obsessing over random ingredients and products.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.