If your acne refuses to clear despite your best efforts, here’s why: you may have fungal acne. That means standard anti-acne measures are unlikely to bring the clear skin you desire. Don’t let that worry you though, for there is good news! Fungal acne is easy to treat—once you know what it is. All you need is the right treatment plan.
What is fungal acne?
Let’s be clear: fungal acne is different from regular acne. In fact, those pimple-like bumps on your skin may not be acne at all.
If you have pimples from time to time, you know that excess oil and bacteria are to blame. That is not the case with fungal acne, which results from the overgrowth of yeast (a type of fungus). High levels of yeast lead to inflammation and infection of the hair follicles on the skin.
Now, yeast is not inherently bad. The skin is home to yeast, other fungi, and bacteria, all of which coexist in a delicate balance. Yeast overgrowth happens if this balance is upset. High levels of yeast may spread to the hair follicles, giving rise to the inflamed bumps seen in fungal acne.
What causes fungal acne?
A number of factors can trip up the skin’s natural balance and lead to yeast overgrowth. Some common culprits are listed below:
Sweat: Yeast thrives in warm, moist spaces. (It absolutely loves sweaty environments!) People who live in hot and humid areas perspire more, which leaves them prone to fungal acne breakouts. Sweaty clothes also encourage the growth of yeast. So does tight apparel that traps moisture and prevents the skin from breathing freely.
Health factors: Antibiotics help clear up nasty infections but they can do a number on your skin. Overuse of antibiotics could destroy the bacteria on the skin, thus affecting the skin’s natural balance and triggering yeast overgrowth. Immunocompromised people may also have high yeast levels and, consequently, a tendency to develop fungal acne.
- Diet issues: Fungi like yeast feed on carbohydrates. If you eat a lot of candy or follow a high-carb diet, keep an eye on your skin. Your diet could be fuelling yeast growth and setting off the acne.
Although fungal acne is more common among males, these breakouts affect women and girls too. It may also spread from person to person through close contact.
How to identify fungal acne
Life is too short to worry unendingly about zits. If your pimples are not going away, take charge, pull up a mirror, and subject your skin to a close examination. Fungal acne looks a lot like regular acne at first glance, but there are some key differences. Here’s how to differentiate one from the other:
- Size: Acne caused by bacteria typically features bumps of different sizes. In fungal acne, on the other hand, pimples and whiteheads are roughly the same size. Whiteheads resulting from yeast overgrowth tend to look like pinpricks, with a circumference of about one millimetre.
- Location: Since fungal acne is a condition of the hair follicles, it can show up anywhere that you have hair. It is most common along the chest, back, and arms. While facial zits are mostly due to acne bacteria, fungal breakouts can occur on the face, neck, and chin as well.
- Clustering: Fungal acne often clusters together, as yeast-related infections have a tendency to spread. In contrast, bacterial acne may pop up singly or take on a more scattered appearance.
- Itchiness: Moderate to severe bacterial acne can be painful but rarely cause itchiness. If your breakouts leave you itchy, a yeast infection may be to blame.
- Related conditions: High yeast levels often lead to issues like dandruff and psoriasis as well. Such conditions could indicate that your breakouts are of fungal origin.
Dermatologists will consider all these factors while diagnosing your skin condition. They may also examine a skin scraping under a microscope or request a skin sample biopsy before confirming the diagnosis.
How to treat fungal acne at home
Here are some quick tips to keep your skin clean and sweat-free—that’s the key to preventing fungal breakouts.
- Bathe frequently.
Just completed your daily workout? Don’t lounge around in those sweaty yoga pants all day. Take a quick shower and change into clean clothes. If your job leaves you perspiring, hop into the bath as soon as you get home.
The goal is to wash away excess yeast that may have started growing in your sweaty clothes and on perspiring skin. Incorporate an exfoliating body wash into your shower caddy. This will get rid of the grime and keep the fungus at bay.
- Wear looser fits.
Nothing wrong with stretch jeans and body-hugging tees. But on hot and humid days, they may not be your best bet. Tight clothes that trap moisture and cause friction against the skin could lead to fungal acne.
What should you do? Add some loose, relaxed fits in breathable fabrics to your wardrobe. These will ensure better circulation and maintain your skin’s natural balance through the hot and humid days of summer and the monsoons.
- Upgrade your skincare.
Take a few minutes every morning and night to cleanse and tone your skin. Boost your regimen by including a gentle but broad-spectrum acne treatment product like Clearica Anti-Acne Cream. Follow up with an oil-free moisturiser that keeps your skin nourished and baby-soft. Exfoliate once or twice a week to keep the skin squeaky clean.
You could also invest in an over-the-counter antifungal product. For best results, apply the medicine in the direction of hair growth.
Get on a fungal acne diet
The jury is out on whether dietary habits play a role in pimple formation. But if watching what you eat helps you win the fight against fungal acne, monitoring your food intake might be a good place to start.
For example, did you know yeast thrives on carbs? Mull over that fact the next time you reach for a box of cookies or a bag of chips. And there are other culprits too. Candy, pizza, burgers—all those foods you love so much could be causing your skin to break out. Moreover, it is not just what you are eating that matters but also your choice of beverage. If you have multiple cups of sweetened tea and coffee a day or you absolutely need that chilled cola, the sugar content in those drinks could be giving the yeast the fuel it needs to grow.
If you are serious about beating the fungal acne cycle, it may help to draw up a diet plan. Some people give up carbohydrates cold-turkey, but it may be wiser to consult a nutritionist or physician on whether it is a good idea for you to cut out an entire food group. The doctor will take your unique health requirements into consideration when dispensing nutrition advice.
Besides, there are small substitutions that you could make on a regular basis:
- If you need a chocolate fix every now and then, there’s no harm in a little treat. But you can support your complexion and your cravings by choosing dark chocolate varieties that are lower on sugar and dairy content. Just remember, moderation is key.
- Feeling snacky in the evening? Resist the urge to gorge on carb-heavy snacks—take all those burgers, fries, pakodas, and more off the menu until your skin feels calmer. Reach instead for some fruit, healthy veggies, or protein.
Finally, remember to stay hydrated. You should be drinking at least six to eight glasses of water every day. As for those unending cups of coffee, they are no good for hydration. Coffee is a diuretic, which means much of the fluid is lost through urine. Alcoholic drinks are dehydrating, so take those off the table as well.
Should you consult a doctor?
If your acne does not respond to your home treatments within three weeks, set up an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor may prescribe oral or topical medicines to treat the yeast infection.
In case new zits appear soon after the treatment, call the dermatologist again. Consult the doc about a treatment plan for chronic fungal acne and discuss ways to prevent future breakouts.
Zits are not forever
Fungal acne is curable—it just needs to be tackled differently from regular pimples. Although you cannot avoid these breakouts altogether, you can minimise their impact. Simply monitor your skin closely, keep it sweat-free and dry, and consult a doctor if required. Smoother, brighter, clearer skin is yours for the taking.
Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.