When it comes to acne on your face, you’ve probably heard of bacterial or hormonal acne — but acne caused by fungus is a different beast. So what is fungal acne, anyway, and how do you get rid of it? Here’s how to tell if you might have fungal acne and how to treat it.
If you have small, uniform bumps — especially on the forehead, jaw, chest, or back — you just might have fungal acne. They are usually pinkish and/or skin-colored, and they are more common along the hairline.
Itchy acne with tiny pinkish bumps
Small, uniform bumps that may spread across a central area
Dandruff — not everyone who has fungal acne gets it, but the same fungus can be a contributing factor!
A fungal breakout is often caused by pityrosporum, a naturally occurring type of fungus that lives on our skin. It can grow in pores in moist environments — you might accidentally nurture your fungi by exposing your skin to sweat and friction, pore-clogging ingredients (yep, pomade acne is a thing), or a humid climate.
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Here’s how to swipe left on this breakout:
Do laundry. From your bedsheets to your undies, the first step to evicting fungal acne is to help prevent the environment that makes them thrive. Sweat and product residue can build up on clothes — and bedclothes! — which can help fungus incubate.
Rinse off. Any time you break a serious sweat — like after a workout — take a quick shower and pat yourself dry with a towel (be gentle — friction may aggravate acne). Check your products for pore-clogging ingredients, which might be making your acne worse!
Seek out zinc. Zinc pyrithione is one of the go-to ingredients for fighting fungal acne. It has antimicrobial properties that help to stop the growth of acne-causing fungus and bacteria. It’s also used in over-the-counter products for dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis.
Here are a few zinc pyrithione products we can vouch for:
Curology's Custom Formula with zinc pyrithione (if that’s what your provider prescribes!) for breakouts on the face and neck
Noble Formula 2% Zinc Pyrithione Bar Soap for body breakouts
DHS Zinc Pyrithione Sulfate-Free Shampoo for breakouts around the hairline
Because acne is complex, getting rid of the fungus causing your breakouts may be just one step to achieving clear skin. You can take the guesswork out of your skincare routine when you sign up for a free month of Curology (just pay $4.95 + tax to cover shipping and handling). We’ll pair you with one of our in-house dermatology providers who can prescribe you a customized cream and field your questions about all things acne.
Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
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Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C