"Fungal acne is caused by a type of yeast called malassezia," says Lavanya Krishnan, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Arya Derm. "Malassezia is normally found on the skin, and usually lives in symbiosis with normal types of skin bacteria. Conditions that cause the yeast to overgrow, such as excess sweating, or that cause a decrease in the skin bacteria, such as after taking antibiotics, or that affect the immune system, such as diabetes, can lead to fungal acne. Some people are also genetically predisposed to overgrowth of malassezia on their skin, and can therefore develop fungal acne more often."
Because it's more like facial dandruff than acne, your typical pimple-fighting products aren't going to do the trick, but you'll need to speak with a dermatologist to determine if you have fungal acne. "I typically make a fungal acne diagnosis after traditional treatments for acne don't work," says New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. What does work, though, is using dandruff shampoo... on your face.
"You can use your dandruff shampoo as a liquid cleanser for your face, neck, and chest. These shampoos contain ingredients that lower levels of yeast on the skin. The same type of yeast that caused fungal acne can cause dandruff," says Dr. Zeichner. "Simply apply the shampoo on the skin and let it sit while you sing the alphabet before rinsing it off. The shampoo needs enough contact time with the skin for it to do its job."
Ready to say goodbye to fungal acne once and for all?
The best fungal acne products recommended by dermatologists
"This shampoo contains zinc pyrithione, which effectively lowers levels of yeast on the skin, making it effective in treating dandruff. It can also be useful if you have fungal acne," says Dr. Zeichner. "This product is also enriched with a blend of Chinese herbs that soothe inflammation."
"Selenium sulfide is another ingredient that helps lower levels of yeast on the skin," says Dr. Zeichner. "Keeping yeast levels low will reduce the driving force behind the inflammation causing fungal acne."
"For particularly stubborn cases of fungal acne, over-the-counter and prescription topical antifungal creams, such as clotrimazole and ketoconazole, can be effective," says Dr. Krishnan.
4. Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Treatment Body Wash, $18 (for a 3-pack)
"This shampoo contains salicylic acid, which helps remove excess oil from the skin and exfoliate dead cells," says Dr. Zeichner. "Once you get your fungal acne under control, you can use this product as a body wash to lower the risk of recurrence. Removing excess oil from the skin will create an inhospitable environment for yeast to grow."
Here's how to deal with adult acne:
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