Dealing with stubborn acne that just won't go away? While regular acne can be hard to treat, if you’re getting breakouts that don’t respond to usual acne treatments, you could be suffering from fungal acne. Here's a simplified lowdown on the condition and what can you do to identify and treat it.
Photo via: Anthony Cotsifas
Different acne, different bug
Regular acne is caused by a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes or P. acnes. Fungal acne, on the other hand, is caused by several different species of fungi under the genus (family) Malassezia. On your skin is an entire ecosystem of microorganisms interacting with each other, including the ones that cause the kind of acne mentioned above. When certain trigger factors occur, such as using overly harsh products or having clogged pores, these microorganisms "act up" and cause acne.
Because fungal acne is caused by an entirely different organism, it requires completely different treatment methods compared to regular acne. The worst thing about fungal acne is that the fungi that causes it can feed on many ingredients in many skin care products, including ones that actually treat regular acne!
How to tell if you have fungal acne
It can be hard to confirm, but there are some key differences that can help you identify whether or not you have fungal acne.
Common signs include:
- Almost any product you use causes you to break out.
- Your acne doesn't respond to traditional acne treatments(benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, Tea Tree Oil etc)
Your acne has a specific appearance - there are papules and pustules but no cystic acne. This means that they tend to be quite evenly sized, and often comes with redness. Here are some visual examples.
- Acne appears differently under UV light. You can use a black light, also known as a UV light, to illuminate the acne. Hold it against the bumps, if it is bacterial or "normal" acne, it will show an orange-red colour while if it is fungal acne it will be blue-white. This is, however, a rough estimate, and to truly confirm whether or not you have fungal acne, we recommend going to a doctor.
(Photo via: u/picky-trash-panda & Aliaa Daifalla)
Come by our store to try the UV fungal acne test!
Although these signs can be helpful for identifying fungal acne, the most reliable method is to find a dermatologist and get diagnosed by a professional.
What to avoid if you have fungal acne
Avoiding products that can aggravate fungal acne is the first step to curing it. This is easier said than done, as Malassezia feeds on fatty acids with carbon chain lengths 11-24, which can be found in 95% of skincare products out there! We recommend instead, going the opposite routes and only picking products that are fungal acne safe.
For a comprehensive list of what is fungal acne safe, we recommend referring to this post. If a product is not on this list or recommended by us, you should assume that it is not fungal acne safe.
For products in our range, our Pure Castile Face Wash and Gromwell Squalane Gentle Restoring Face Oil are fungal acne safe.
How to cure fungal acne
There are various ways to treat fungal acne, here we recommend a method using 2% Ketoconazole Anti-Dandruff shampoo. Ketoconazale is an antifungal that works well against Malassezia. You can use any brand as long as it is 2% Ketoconazole. This method also works with the commonly available Head and Shoulders shampoo, which contains Zinc Pyrithione, which inhibits Malassezia as well.
The instructions are simple, clean the affected area twice weekly using the shampoo, leaving it on for 3-5 minutes before washing off. If after regular usage the lesions are cleared off, you can use once weekly to keep fungal acne at bay.
If you are applying the above treatment on your face, do note you don't need to cleanse again after doing the above treatment. The treatment can be a little harsh on the skin, thus we highly recommend using our Gentle Oil to moisturise and restore it.
We hope this helps you understand a bit more about fungal acne. For more detailed information, please refer to this very comprehensive post from simpleskincarescience.com. If your condition doesn't get better, we highly suggest consulting a dermatologist for further treatment.