Carmen Jiménez / EyeEm via Getty Images
Fungal spots tend to be small in size and are usually the same size as bacterial. However, bacterial acne may appear larger and can also manifest itself as nodules, blackheads and cysts.

For many people, any deviation from clear skin means it’s time for a treatment plan, especially when it comes to acne. Those inflamed bumps may be frustrating to manage, but what if we told you that what you’re experiencing isn’t actually acne? There’s a condition that can look eerily similar to what we think of as “traditional acne” (e.g. You may experience whiteheads or blackheads as well as red bumps. However, this condition is caused by an excess of yeast in your hair’s follicles.

Fungal acne: What does it mean?

“Fungal acne” is really a bit of a misnomer. Though its symptoms can be very similar to bacterial acne, fungal acne is entirely different and isn’t even considered a type of acne at all.

“Fungal acne is a benign disorder that goes by the name Malassezia (pityrosporum) folliculitis or MF, where the ‘M’ refers to the yeast Malassezia,” said Marie VeroniqueShe is a chemist, and an esthetician. “While the development of acne and [fungal acne] follow similar pathways — starting with an overgrowth of a microorganism that feeds on sebaceous glands, leading to occlusion of the follicle followed by inflammation, infection and eruptions — the actual microorganisms differ.” In the case of traditional acne, the microorganism is bacteria; in the case of fungal acne, it’s yeast.

And while yeast is a natural part of our skin’s microbiome, it becomes an issue when there is an overgrowth of it.

How can you prevent fungal skin?

Based on Dennis GrossBoard-certified dermatologist who also founded a skin care brand, the yeast prefers warm and humid environments. Your sweaty gym clothes are likely to be a factor. The combination of heat and moisture is a haven for yeast overgrowth, and keeping your workout clothes on longer than necessary means you’re creating the ideal environment for yeast to thrive.

But sweaty workout gear isn’t the only thing that can create a warm, wet environment, as board-certified dermatologist and AmberNoonErum Illyas is the founder. “Hormonal fluctuations and humid environments [can cause] sweat to build up on our skin and become trapped underneath clothing,” she said. “While this sweat is intended to work as a thermoregulatory mechanism to cool our skin, if it doesn’t have the chance to evaporate, it can create an environment that allows yeast to flourish or overgrow.”

Other causes of fungal acne can involve taking steroids ― which can decrease your immune response to fungus and bacteria ― and taking antibiotics to treat acne vulgaris, which changes the skin’s bioflora and allows yeast to overgrow, Ilyas said.

Are there any symptoms?

Although fungal acne can often resemble bacterial acne in appearance, there are some differences such as the size. Fungal acne “can appear as red bumps or whiteheads just like bacterial acne,” Gross said, “but the biggest difference is that fungal acne spots are generally small and all the same size, while bacterial acne can be varying sizes and also show up as blackheads, nodules and cysts.”

Ilyas suggested that each fungal acne lesions be viewed as a pinhead for visual aid. Bacterial pimples can vary in size from an inflamed, small papule to a large cystic nodule about the same size as a gumball.

One of the best ways to prevent fungal acne is to immediately change out of your sweaty workout clothes.
Grace Cary via Getty Images
You can prevent fungal breakouts by immediately changing out of sweaty gym clothes.

You should also consider the possibility of fungal breakouts. Fungal acne, like traditional acne, can occur anywhere there’s a hair follicle, but you’ll often see it more extensively through the full length of the back (as opposed to the upper back for traditional acne) and along the sides of the neck. Another prime spot is the forehead, temple, chest, and hairline.

Ilyas said that fungal acne can often be itchy and tender, but not like bacterial acne.

What are the best ways to deal with fungal skin?

Prevention is number one. 1 treatment for fungal acne. You should immediately wash your workout clothes and shower after you have finished a hard session. Ilyas advised that moisture-wicking fabrics are a must, especially when it comes down to sports bras. These will absorb sweat and release it into the atmosphere. Switch to lightweight bedsheets for those who sweat at night.

Two to three weeks can be expected for fungal acne. One big issue is that because it’s usually confused with bacterial acne, people mistakenly attempt to treat it with acne products, which can actually worsen and prolong its symptoms. Veronique stated that topical and oral antifungals are effective in relieving fungal acne symptoms quickly.

Ilyas recommends using an over-the-counter soap, or shampoo, containing zincpyrithione, as a wash for your body, up to three times per week to minimize yeast buildup. Also, having a fan near your workout area ― or your bed, if you experience hot flashes at night ― can help cool the skin.

Ilyas stated that your dermatologist can diagnose fungal acne by looking at all aspects of the skin, including the exact location and characteristics of each breakout, as well as the triggers.

The experts’ favorite products for preventing and treating fungal acne

HuffPost could receive a portion of any purchases through links found on this page. Each item is selected independently by HuffPost Shopping. All prices and availability can be changed without notice.

Vanicream Z-Bar
Ilyas suggested using the 2% zincpyrithione medicated cleaning bar following exercise, because it may help to reduce yeast spread and growth.

Get it from Amazon for $11.

Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo
OTC anti-dandruff shampoo 1% ketoconazole is used to control yeast overgrowth. “The prescription option [for Nizoral]The rate is 2%, and it can be used if you have the [OTC] treatment fails,” Ilyas said.

Get it from Target for $15.

Selsun Blue medicated maximum strength dandruff shampoo
Veronique said that a selenium shampoo — commonly used for seborrheic dermatitis, also known as dandruff — can be used as a body wash to help manage fungal acne.

Get it from Amazon for $7.

100% cotton percale sheets
Ilyas stated that percale sheets allow heat to escape the skin. This is beneficial in preventing yeast overgrowth. These sheets are available in many sizes and come in various colors. They’re made from Indian long-staple, combed cotton yarns for a warm and comfortable sleep.

Get them from Amazon for $45.


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