Fungal Acne: All You Need To Know

Fungal Acne: All You Need To Know



Man with acne on his face

Do you have small, sometimes red, and itchy blemishes, especially in oilier skin areas, like the forehead? Does your skin concern look like clogged pores or even acne?

Then you may have fungal acne.

Fungal acne is a very stubborn skin condition. If you suffer from fungal acne, then you have probably tried a LOT of different treatments that didn't work. (Right?)

It's time to stop the guesswork. Let's dive deeper into this topic and find out how to treat it the right way...

What is fungal acne?

Fungal acne, scientifically known as Pityrosporum folliculitis or Malassezia folliculitis, is an acne-like skin condition. The forehead is a very common area for fungal acne.

Fungal acne looks similar to 'normal' acne. That's why fungal acne is often mistaken for 'normal' acne. And this is critical since the treatments differ a LOT!

The most significant difference between fungal acne and 'normal' acne is that fungal acne is caused by fungi (Malassezia), and 'normal' acne is caused by bacteria (P. acnes).

The so-called Malassezia-fungi are part of everyone's skin microbiome. So theoretically, they're fine. They only become problematic if they start to proliferate because of factors such as hot, humid weather, sweat, or even antibiotics.

There are a lot of studies about (the factors that may trigger) fungal acne. But the skin condition isn't fully understood yet, which makes it even more frustrating.

Do I have Fungal Acne?

Before we continue, let's check if fungal acne is one of your potential skin issues. Here are the main characteristics of fungal acne:

  • ➭ Stubborn impurities, especially in oilier skin areas (forehead)
  • ➭ Impurities can be itchy
  • ➭ Acne medication doesn’t work
  • ➭ Oily or combination skin type

If most of the above-mentioned key points are true for your skin, chances are high that fungal acne is an issue.

Fungal acne is characterized by small, sometimes red, and itchy blemishes, especially in oilier skin areas, like the forehead.

Many anti-acne products fail to fight these stubborn imperfections. The reason: a large number of ingredients worsen fungal acne.

That's why even proven acne-fighting ingredients, like Benzoyl Peroxide, can't work properly.

What ingredients are safe for fungal acne?

Over 50,000 ingredients are used in cosmetics.

If an ingredient doesn't belong to the following ingredient families, then it can be considered safe:

  • ➭ Fatty acids (number of carbon atoms C12 - C24) and fatty acid esters
  • ➭ Vegetable oils, waxes, butter, and lecithin
  • ➭ Polysorbates
  • ➭ Amino acids (potential triggers)
  • ➭ Ceramides and cholesterol (potential triggers)
  • ➭ Fermented ingredients.

Generally, it's better to avoid (or at least patch test) products that contain the ingredient families mentioned earlier since even the smallest amounts are likely enough to trigger fungal acne.

So what should you do? Scanning all skincare products for these ingredients without any help is impossible!

Right. That's why we've created the Glow Coach Fungal Acne Ingredient Checker.

What can a fungal acne ingredient checker do for me?

The Fungal Acne Ingredient Checker by Glow Coach tells you if a product contains ingredients that may trigger fungal acne. All you need to do is copy-paste the ingredients of your product in a box. The product gets analyzed in a few seconds...and voila, it tells you if the product is safe.

How to cure and treat fungal acne?

First of all: Once you have had fungal acne, you are very likely prone to it in the future. So pay attention when choosing new products and to how your skin behaves.

The treatment of fungal acne includes 2 main steps:

1. Step: A 4-weeks treatment with Ketoconazole
The best-known anti-fungal acne treatment so far contains the ingredient Ketoconazole. An appropriate product is applied twice a week to the affected skin areas for 4 weeks and washed off after 3 - 5 minutes. After a 4-week treatment, the blemishes should be significantly minimized.

2. Step: Regular treatments
An appropriate exfoliant should be used at least once a week to keep fungal acne at bay. The exfoliant should preferably contain BHAs (salicylic acid) or retinol. AHAs should work as well.

Other helpful ingredients that can be incorporated into a regular skincare routine are sulfur or urea. 

Hope this post has helped you! If you're looking for products that are safe for fungal acne, check out this post or browse products with the help of our search engine here.


DermaNet NZ (2019): Malassezia folliculitis. Published online: (22.12.2019)

JClinical and Experimental Dermatology, Volume20, Issue5, September 1995, Pages 406-409. Pityrosporum (Malassezia) folliculitis in Saudi Arabia—diagnosis and therapeutic trials.

Clinical Microbiology Reviews, January 2012, 25(1), Pages 106–141. The Malassezia Genus in Skin and Systemic Diseases.

British Journal of Dermatology, April 2000, 142(4), Pages 758-65. In vitro susceptibility of the seven Malassezia species to ketoconazole, voriconazole, itraconazole and terbinafine.

Antimicrob Agents and Chemotherapy, July 2003, 47(7), Pages 2342-4. In vitro susceptibilities of Malassezia species to a new triazole, albaconazole (UR-9825), and other antifungal compounds.

Mycoses, July-August 1996, 39(7-8), Pages 309-12. In vitro susceptibility of Malassezia furfur against azole compounds.

Biochem Journal, June 1968, 108(2), Pages 225–231. A study of the fatty acid metabolism of the yeast Pityrosporum ovale.

Journal of Investigational Dermatology, March 1976, 66(3), Pages 178-82. Growth requirements and lipid metabolism of Pityrosporum orbiculare.

Clinical Microbiology Review, January 2002, 15(1), Pages 21–57. Immunology of Diseases Associated with Malassezia Species.