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What is the difference between Acne and Fungal Acne?

Updated: Jun 6


A woman with many pimples on her cheek area

What Is Fungal Acne?

Although the symptoms of fungal acne and regular acne might look similar, they have vastly different causes and methods of treatment. Therefore, it is important to recognize which condition you have to seek the appropriate treatment. Unlike common acne which is caused by pores clogged with dead skin and oil, fungal acne is an infection of the hair follicles caused by yeast present in the skin.

What Are the Differences Between Fungal Acne and Acne?

The main recognizable difference between fungal and common acne is that fungal acne irritates the skin, causing it to be itchy and possibly red. Moreover, fungal acne tends to be much more persistent on the skin than common acne. It is also possible to have both fungal and common acne at the same time.

However, it can be easy to misdiagnose fungal acne due to it looking similar to whiteheads or pimples (pustules and papules).

Causes Of Fungal Acne

The fungi that are responsible for fungal acne, Malassezia, exists in everyone’s body but is predominant in teenagers undergoing puberty.

Some causes for the occurrence of fungal acne include:

  1. Continuous perspiration during hot and humid climates and intensive workouts. Since Malassezia grows abundantly in the presence of sweat, excessive sweating can be a breeding ground for fungal acne.

  2. Close physical contact with individuals with fungal acne. Fungal acne is contagious due to yeast being prone to spreading.

  3. Failing to properly wash off perspiration trapped under tight clothing

  4. Using antibiotics can cause excessive growth of yeast while decreasing good bacteria on the skin

Treatment for Fungal Acne


If you suspect you have fungal acne and home remedies have not been reducing the acne, it is important to consult a dermatologist. They would be able to offer you medication and/or appropriate advice on treating and preventing fungal acne in the future based on the severity of the fungal acne.

Some examples of anti-fungal medication they might prescribe are oral Fluconazole and topical Ketoconazole.

Schedule a consultation today and start your acne recovery journey today.

Over-the-Counter medication

Over-the-counter medications include topical creams such as ketoconazole 2% cream, econazole nitrate 1% cream, clotrimazole 1% cream, and selenium sulfide 1% dandruff shampoo. These creams should be used daily for the best results. However, if none of these medications work, you should consider consulting a dermatologist.

Home Remedies

If you prefer to use home remedies here are a couple of options to choose from:

  1. Honey: While having antimicrobial properties, honey also keeps the skin moisturized. You should use raw honey and layer it over the fungal acne for about 30 minutes and then wash it off using warm water.

  2. Tea tree oil: This natural-occurring oil is known to have both antiseptic and antifungal properties. The compounds in tea tree oil can kill the yeast infecting the skin. However, if tea tree oil is constantly used on healthy skin, it might irritate the skin. Before applying on the skin, tea tree oil should be diluted with a carrier oil with a 1:10 drop ratio. Then, use a cotton bud to lightly apply the mixture over the fungal acne.

  3. Azelaic acid: This naturally-forming acid can be used to treat fungal acne as it can balance the ratio of fatty acid in the area, similar to how antifungal treatments work. You can find azelaic acid in the form of a serum. After applying the serum to the skin, a moisturizer should be applied over it for maximum effect.

Preventing Fungal Acne

It is important to ensure that your hygiene is well taken care of to reduce the risk of fungal acne occurring on your body. Along with the aforementioned treatments, proper measures to reduce breeding grounds for fungal acne should be done for a significant decrease in fungal acne. Some of these methods include:

  1. Removing sweaty clothes and showering immediately after a workout or being in hot and humid weather

  2. Restricting yourself from wearing tight clothing for long hours


If you suspect you have fungal acne, and it has not been subsiding even after trying home remedies and good personal hygiene, it is important to consult a dermatologist. They will be able to recommend the proper treatment procedures to follow and prescribe medication to control your fungal acne.

This blog post was medically reviewed by Dr Summer Zhang.


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