Pityrosporum Folliculitis

Fungal acne

Learn about the yeast that can have a detrimental effect on your skin.

What is fungal acne?

Fungal acne (pityrosporum folliculitis or malassezia folliculitis) may look like inflammatory acne (pustules, papules, nodules and cysts) and non-inflammatory acne (blackheads and whiteheads), but its cause is different. While other forms of acne are caused by excess sebum and dead skin cells clogging hair follicles, fungal acne is an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast that inflames the hair follicles. 

The Malassezia yeast is a normal part of your skin microbiome – a diverse collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and even mites that help defend your skin from pathogens while boosting your immunity. 

It’s only when this balanced microbe is disrupted that skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and psoriasis occur.

How do I know if I have fungal acne?

Fungal acne has small, uniform-size bumps, similar to the more irregular papules and pustules. It also has the pus-filled appearance of pustules and whiteheads, but the main difference is that the fungal pimples can be very itchy and may feel like they’re burning. 

It shows up as breakouts in areas where you typically have a lot of oil — in your T-zone (forehead, nose, chin), chest and back. 

Fungal acne doesn’t respond to over-the-counter or prescription acne treatments. In fact, they may make the problem worse.

Another tell-tale sign is that fungal overgrowth takes other forms, so you may also experience dandruff, tinea versicolor, psoriasis or eczema.

The only sure way to differentiate between bacterial and fungal acne is to see your dermatologist or doctor. They can take a small sample of your skin for analysis.

The good news is, once you’ve been diagnosed with fungal acne, it is relatively easy to manage with antifungal medication.

What triggers fungal acne?

The yeast responsible for fungal acne, is present on everyone’s skin and is harmless. It’s only when it gets out of balance that an outbreak occurs. 


There are many reasons why this might happen, including changes in diet, environment, skin care, medication or exercise. It can occur after a period in intensive care, after a course of antibiotics, as a result of HIV/AIDS or after a transplant. Sometimes the yeast is able to rebalance on its own. Other times, it may need some intervention.

How can I help myself?

Yeast thrives in warm, wet conditions so, after a workout, make sure you wash and dry thoroughly. It also loves sugar and carbs so take care with your diet and try to introduce some beneficial bacteria.