Fungal Acne: What It Is and Creams to treat it

Fungal acne, also known as fungal folliculitis, is a skin condition that is often mistaken for traditional acne. However, it is actually an infection of the hair follicles caused by an overgrowth of yeast, which can result in bumps resembling acne.

While it can be challenging to diagnose, fungal folliculitis is relatively easy to treat, as long as you take the right approach. Stick till the end of this article to know more about Fungal acne and Creams to treat it.

What Is Fungal Acne?

Fungal folliculitis is a type of yeast infection on the skin that can occur when the yeast, known as Malassezia, overgrows and elicits an immune response, leading to inflammation and the formation of acne-like papules and pustules. It is commonly found in areas where sebum is produced, such as the back, arms, and chest, and can also appear on the face, particularly on the chin and cheeks.

Fungal acne is more common in those with oily skin, people who live in hot and humid environments, and those who use oral or topical antibiotics, which can alter the normal balance of bacteria and yeast on the skin.

How Is Fungal Acne Different from Traditional Acne?

Traditional acne occurs when excess oil and skin cells block oil glands, creating a prime breeding ground for bacteria. In contrast, fungal folliculitis is caused by an overgrowth of yeast, which contributes to pimple-like bumps.

Unlike traditional acne, fungal acne appears only as small, uniform, one- to two-millimeter bumps that typically do not come to a head. Fungal acne can also be clustered together, creating the appearance of a rash. Additionally, fungal acne is very itchy, whereas traditional acne is not.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fungal Acne?

Fungal folliculitis presents itself as a cluster of small, uniform bumps that are very itchy. They can appear on the back, arms, and chest, as well as on the face, particularly on the chin and cheeks. It can be challenging to diagnose fungal folliculitis since it closely resembles traditional acne.

Therefore, a dermatologist may use a presumptive diagnosis after treating with traditional anti-acne medications and moving to antifungal treatments if the anti-acne medications do not work.

What Are the Best Treatments for Fungal Acne?

Traditional acne treatments, such as Accutane and benzoyl peroxide, are not effective in treating fungal folliculitis. Using antibacterial acne medications can also exacerbate the situation by killing the bacteria that keep yeast in check, leading to overgrowth and causing fungal folliculitis.

Therefore, antifungal treatments are usually the first line of defense against fungal folliculitis. A skincare medical expert may prescribe topical or oral antifungal medications, such as ketoconazole, to eradicate the overgrowth of yeast. Other treatments that can help manage fungal folliculitis include using dandruff shampoo as a body wash and avoiding tight clothing and excessive sweating.

Creams to treat Fungal Acne

1. Ketoconazole Cream

Ketoconazole is an antifungal medication that comes in the form of a cream and is used to treat fungal or yeast infections of the skin, as well as seborrheic dermatitis. Here are some of the pros and cons of using Ketoconazole cream for treating fungal acne:


  • Effective treatment: Ketoconazole cream has been found to be an effective treatment for fungal acne, with many people seeing improvement in their symptoms after just a few applications.
  • Easy to use: The cream is simple to apply and can be used at home, making it a convenient option for those who don’t want to go to a doctor or dermatologist.
  • Widely available: Ketoconazole cream is available under various brand names, such as Kuric and Nizoral, and can be found in most pharmacies.


  • Potential side effects: Some people may experience allergic reactions to the cream, such as a skin rash, itching, hives, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. Other side effects may include burning, itching, crusting, or peeling of the treated skin.
  • Not effective for all types of acne: While Ketoconazole cream is an effective treatment for fungal acne, it may not be as effective for other types of acne, such as hormonal or inflammatory acne.
  • Not suitable for everyone: People with large areas of burned or damaged skin or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use Ketoconazole cream without consulting their healthcare provider.

2. Clotrimazole Cream
Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole) is an antifungal medication that works by damaging the protective outer layer of the fungus, causing skin infections. It is commonly used to treat athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch.


  • Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole) is available without a prescription and is relatively inexpensive.
  • It is effective in treating athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch.
  • It causes no side effects for most people.


  • Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole) may cause skin irritation.
  • It must be used for a few weeks before you can make sure the infection is gone.
  • It is only available as a cream and should not be used for children under 2 years old.

Additional tips:

  • Wash and dry the affected skin before using Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole).
  • Improvement in symptoms should be seen within the first week. Stop using it if you experience skin irritation.
  • Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole) should not be used for fungal infections on the scalp or nails.
  • Different Lotrimin products contain different active ingredients, so be sure to check the label.
  • If symptoms persist after 2–4 weeks of continuous use, talk to a healthcare provider about alternative options.
  • While Lotrimin AF (clotrimazole) is generally considered safe, there are potential side effects.
  • Contact a medical expert immediately if you experience an allergic reaction or severe blistering, swelling, itching, burning, or peeling of the skin.

3. Ciclopirox Cream

Ciclopirox is a versatile antifungal medication available in various forms, including creams, gels, shampoos, suspensions, and topical solutions. It is effective in treating a range of fungal skin and nail infections, such as jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm, tinea versicolor, yeast infections, and fungal nail infections.


  • It is simple to use and can be applied directly to the affected area(s).
  • Available in different formulations for specific medical conditions
  • Typically, it takes a week to a month to see improvements in most infections.
  • It is safe for use in patients who have liver or kidney problems.
  • Available as a lower-cost generic.


  • It is not recommended that young children use it.
  • It may take longer to treat certain infections (up to 6 months).
  • It requires a prescription from a skincare expert.
  • Not the best option for treating severe or complicated fungal infections.

Additional tips for using Ciclopirox:

  • Do not apply Ciclopirox cream to the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Wash and dry the affected areas before applying the medication.
  • Use the medication for the full duration prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Do not use dressings like bandages on affected areas.


Fungal acne is not true acne, but a type of yeast infection of the hair follicles that manifests as bumps resembling acne. This condition can be challenging to diagnose, but with the right approach, it is relatively easy to treat.

Traditional acne treatments are not effective in treating fungal folliculitis, so antifungal treatments are the first line of defense. If you suspect that you have fungal acne, it is best to consult a dermatologist for a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

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