What is Fungal Acne? Causes, Treatments, And Symptoms

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My mission is to heal your body from the inside out so that you never have to deal with acne (or digestive issues or hormonal imbalances) again so that you can live your best life ever! But let’s be honest – how you wash your face matters. Especially if you have fungal acne or you are using a foaming cleanser. So let’s get right into it. First up, fungal acne.

what is Fungal Acne  ?

Fungal acne is an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia on the skin, and up to 90% of all people have this yeast as part of their skin microbiome without any reaction at all. Fungal acne is an overgrowth of yeast that resides in the hair follicles – and it is usually misdiagnosed. Fungal acne leads to itching, breakouts, and irritation on your skin’s surface.

What does fungal acne look like?

Fungal acne is often mistaken for regular acne, but it actually is quite distinct. Tiny, tiny red bumps or pustules characterize it – and they are often itchy! Fungal acne tends to worsen in a hot or humid environment (because that is the environment in which yeast thrives!)”

What causes fungal acne?

There are two main causes of fungal acne: an imbalanced microbiome and a damaged moisture barrier.

The microbiome is a community of trillions of microbes that live in the gut and on the skin. Its’ health is vital for our well-being, and when it is imbalanced, an overgrowth of yeast, bacteria, and other microbes can happen. And if the gut microbiome is not balanced, it is likely that the skin’s microbiome is out of balance as well. When the skin’s microbiome is out of balance, the yeast Malassezia can overgrow, which can lead to fungal acne.
The other cause of fungal acne is a damaged moisture barrier on the skin. The skin is the functions best when it has an intact barrier and has a pH of 7.7. When the skin is compromised by excessive washing, over-exfoliation, or other damaging skincare practices, the skin’s pH is compromised, and this can lead to an overgrowth of certain microbes.

What are the symptoms of fungal acne?

Fungal acne is characterized by small bumps all over or in certain areas of the skin. The bumps can become worse in heat and humidity, and they tend to get itchy. They can also get worse when products containing oils are used on the skin.

Fungal acne vs regular acne:

In contrast to fungal acne, regular acne is more inflamed, red, and sometimes cystic. Regular acne can also develop a whitehead, which fungal acne does not.

How is fungal acne treated?

Because the yeast that causes fungal acne, Malasezzia, thrives in heat and loves oils, it is best to avoid heat, humidity and use an oil-free skincare routine. It is also critical to repair the skin’s moisture barrier by using gentle skincare and heal the gut. If the gut’s microbiome is not in balance, it is unlikely that the skin’s microbiome will be in balance. Thus, any gut issues must be addressed.

How can I prevent fungal acne?

Using gentle skincare that does not over-cleanse, over-exfoliate, or damages the skin is essential to preventing fungal acne. Also, healing your gut and addressing any imbalances (such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea) are also essential to ensuring fungal acne does not appear.


Now Your Face wash Routine:


Foaming Cleansers

Most foaming cleansers contain an ingredient called ‘sodium lauryl / laureth sulfate’ (SLS).  Not only has SLS been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and organ toxicity, but it can also damage the skin’s moisture barrier.

SLS is a detergent that can strip away many of the skin’s protective oils and alter the pH of the skin’s moisture barrier.  This can lead to dry, irritated, inflamed skin that is more prone to acne.

When my acne patients are starting their clear skin journey, I start them on a simple oil-free, detergent-free cleansing protocol that helps protect and heal their moisture barrier while ensuring any fungal acne is not exacerbated.

And today, I am sharing.  Here is the cleansing routine I prescribe to those just beginning their clear skin journey:

Morning Cleansing Routine:

1.  Wash the face with manuka (or raw) honey.  That’s it.

Evening Cleansing Routine:

1.  Remove make-up with micellar water.

2.  Wash the face with manuka (or raw) honey.

How simple is that?  As always, less is always more when you are healing your acne.

Final take away:

Even though fungal acne can be frustrating, the good news is that it can resolve fairly quickly. Taking care to heal the skin and the gut will balance the skin’s microbiome, which will ensure that Malasezzia does not overgrow and cause fungal acne.


To learn how to get rid of your acne from the inside out click here to check out my 7-Week Clear Skin Program.  It has helped hundreds of women clear their skin!  It is also the only doctor-designed program that helps heal acne from the inside out so that you can stop thinking about your skin and live your best life!

If you prefer a more personalized approach to healing I also have limited spots available for 1:1 Coaching.  Please click here to learn more.

I am so excited to help you on your clear skin journey!

Sending love,

Dr. Stacey Shillington ND

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