How to identify and treat fungal acne at home
It seems like every day that a new product or skincare line is released with the goal of eliminating acne. It’s the most common skin condition in America, affecting roughly 50 million people every year. Whether you’re on social media or strolling the aisles of your local drugstore, there’s no way to miss the countless products marketed at acne sufferers, and promoted by dermatologists, skincare experts, and influencers. Information about skin health and acne treatment has never been more widely accessible— so why do some of us still struggle to clear breakouts?
The truth is, despite having more treatment options than ever, eliminating acne isn’t always straightforward. There are lots of factors that contribute to developing acne (like hormones, diet, and genetics) that aren’t necessarily easy to pinpoint or address. It often takes a medical professional’s expertise to help sort out the root cause of stubborn acne. If that wasn’t ad enough, there are skin conditions that mimic the symptoms of acne, but don’t respond to conventional acne treatment (and can actually be made worse by many acne products.) One of the most common skin conditions mistaken for acne is fungal acne— but don’t be fooled by the name! It isn’t acne and won’t resolve by using acne products. Many people with fungal acne assume they just have “bad skin” and don’t realize the true problem for years— but you don’t have to be one of them!
Identifying Fungal Acne: Symptoms
So how can you tell if you’re experiencing regular acne (acne vulgaris) or fungal acne? It can be confusing, but there are some signs to look for if you suspect your breakouts are fungal. These are the symptoms of fungal acne:
- Clusters of small red or white bumps
The most obvious sign of a fungal acne infection are clusters of small red or white bumps that appear on the skin. This is also the symptom most commonly mistake for acne vulgaris, since these bumps can resemble whiteheads or small pimples. These bumps can affect the face and body, and most often develop on areas where the skin is oily or there are more sweat glands, like the forehead, back, or groin.
- Itchy, irritated skin
Fungal acne is actually a type of yeast infection, and like any kind of yeast overgrowth on the body, it usually causes itching. If you notice that the affected areas are particularly uncomfortable with bothersome itching, fungal acne could be the culprit.
- Irritated hair follicles
Fungal acne is a type of folliculitis, which is an infection of the hair follicle. Folliculitis can be caused by different bacteria or fungi present on the skin, but Pityrosporum folliculitis is what we refer to as fungal acne, and is caused by the Malassezia species.
- Acne that doesn’t respond to treatment
Many of the symptoms of fungal acne are similar or nearly identical to other types of skin infections. One of the best ways to determine that your breakout is pityrosporum folliculitis (fungal acne) and not acne vulgaris is by observing how your skin responds to traditional acne treatments, particularly antibiotics. Even if it doesn’t clear completely, most acne shows signs of improvement when treated. A yeast infection caused by fungal acne will not only fail to improve, but usually gets worse when conventional acne treatments are used. Antibiotics especially will worsen a fungal acne infection because they can kill off beneficial bacteria on the skin, causing an imbalance within the skin’s micro biome.
What Causes Fungal Acne?
Fungal acne is an overgrowth of Malassezia fungus (sometimes referred to as yeast.) It’s more common in men, teens, and people with oily skin, but it can happen to anyone. If you think your skin condition is fungal acne, consider these risk factors:
Sweat is the most common reason fungal infections occur. Fungi of all kinds, including Malassezia, thrive in warm, damp environments. Sweaty areas of the body, including the face, arms, neck, back, and groin, are where fungal acne thrives.
Exercise, be it hiking or team sports, is associated with developing fungal acne. If you participate in any form of exercise that results in more sweating than usual, it’s critical that good hygiene measures are followed. Always shower after exercise and change out of sweaty clothes. Never re-wear exercise clothes.
- Tight clothing
Even if you don’t exercise much, tight clothing can trap sweat against the body and create the type of environment that fungi need to thrive. Leggings, hosiery, bathing suits, and anything else worn close to the body can become a problem if worn frequently. Always change out of wet bathing suits as soon as possible, and minimize how often (and for how long) you wear other form-fitting styles.
- Synthetic clothing
Clothing doesn’t have to be skin tight to cause a problem with fungal acne. Synthetic fibers (including those advertised as sweat-wicking, performance fibers) trap sweat more easily than natural fibers like wool or cotton. If you regularly wear synthetic fiber clothing, it could be contributing to the development of fungal acne. Many synthetic fibers retain sweat even after washing (this is especially true of athletic clothing) be sure to use a detergent developed specifically for use on synthetic fibers to ensure clothes are truly clean between wears. If you sweat a lot or exercise frequently, consider switching to natural fiber clothing to minimize risk of fungal acne.
- Skin rubbing on skin
The sweat and friction caused by skin rubbing against skin can cause or worsen fungal acne. When possible, minimize rubbing by using anti-chafe products or garments. Some instances of skin rubbing are not preventable, but always take care to practice extra hygiene measures to reduce the amount of sweat sitting on the skin.
Treating Fungal Acne with PurClarity Skincare’s Revitalizing Mist
Lifestyle changes are the best way to prevent fungal acne (and are sometimes sufficient to resolve the issue) but frequently they aren’t curative. It’s usually best to confirm your fungal acne diagnosis with a dermatologist or skincare professional before treating it. They will likely prescribe anti fungal pills or a topical cream. These treatments are effective at combating active fungal acne infection, but they aren’t ideal for long-term use due to their effects on the skin micro biome. Many anti-fungal treatments also require a prescription.
For a long time, over-the-counter fungal acne treatment didn’t exist. DIY solutions are easy to find on the internet, but DIY skincare isn’t reliable or even safe. Essential oils, dandruff shampoos, and kitchen concoctions are not designed for use on facial skin and can cause adverse reactions (in addition to not being effective.) Fortunately, there is now a safe, effective solution for fungal acne available without a prescription.
Hypochlorous acid is a strong antimicrobial (considered more effective than bleach) that is miraculously gentle on skin— even the face. That’s because it’s a substance naturally produced by the human body, so it manages to kill harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses without irritating even sensitive skin. It’s efficacy is well-established and it’s been safely used in wound care and surgical settings for years.
Until recently, hypochlorous acid wasn’t easily available to consumers, but skincare companies like PurClarity have caught on to its amazing benefits for the skin. It’s effective as an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory treatment, which means it can treat folliculitis, acne, rosacea, and fungal infections. For those concerned about making fungal acne worse by using the wrong product, hypochlorous acid offers a unique solution: it works for all types of skin infections!
Hypochlorous acid is available from Purclarity in an easy-to-apply misting applicator, ideal for use on the go (hypochlorous acid can be applied on unwashed skin.) The Revitalizing Skin Mist is ideal for use both as a part of your nightly skincare routine and after exercise (whenever a shower isn’t available) and can be safely applied multiple times a day. Hypochlorous acid is:
- Safe for sensitive skin
- Available without a prescription
Purchase Purclarity Skincare’s Revitalizing Skin Mist here.