What is fungal acne and is it causing the persistent bumps on my forehead?

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The facts about those pesky little browbones.

For most of us, acne and skin problems are a right of passage on our way into adulthood. Spots, pimples, pimples, boils – whatever you call the pus-filled red bumps that have stuck to our skin since we were teenagers, the global acne treatment market has devoted us to anything that makes it forgotten.

But could there be a niche the size of a “monster pimple” in the market? While multi-level skincare programs give some of us the airbrushed skin we all dream of, others experience a few more “bumps” along the way.


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Like me, you may find that the routine splash of benzoyl peroxide has satisfied most of the acne-prone areas of your face, but certain stubborn areas, in my case the forehead, remain littered with unwanted clusters of tiny bumps.

These are not the kind of spots that peak inflamed and erupt in an impatient pressure of blood and pus (an indication of frustration with the dermatologist). No, these spots are like titled colonizers on the skin. Whether you gently force them to leave with skin care cleansers and treatments, or take a more straightforward approach and physically try to express and push them out, they’ll stay firmly in their newly claimed home.

So if part of our acne is routinely kept in check by a splash of salicylic acid or a treatment with roaccutane, why do these stubborn spots remain? Well, they couldn’t be acne at all.

What is “fungal acne” and what causes it?

Dermatologist Dr. Jo-Ann See, out Central Dermatology in Sydney, explains that while fungal acne may look like normal whiteheads, it is technically a yeast infection known clinically as Malassezia folliculitis or pityrosporum folliculitis.

So while skin enthusiasts like Skin care from Hyram might call it fungal acne, in the dermatology books it isn’t really classified as a type of acne. But don’t let the thought of a yeast infection on your face put you off – yeast occurs naturally on all skin. Sometimes we just experience an overgrowth of it that can lodge in the hair follicles of your skin, and hey presto, we get those tiny, pimple-like bumps that we informally call “fungal acne”. But to keep things precise, we’ll refer to it as yeast folliculitis.

Dr. See says that while it generally occurs in clusters, it’s non-contagious and has nothing to do with your diet. And because it’s fungal rather than bacterial, it unfortunately doesn’t respond to typical acne treatments. But she tells me that the yeast infection thrives on oily and also sweaty skin. “Yeast folliculitis is very common in acne sufferers as it is common in young, active people with increased oil flow,” she reveals.

If you notice that your bumps are particularly hungry for attention during the summer, there is a reason for that too. “Our yeasts in normal skin like hot, humid climates. So be careful that you can develop trunk folliculitis in summer and on tropical vacations, ”she reveals.

How do I know if my spots are bacterial acne or yeast folliculitis?

Although they require different treatments, there is no doubt that the two skin problems share much in common. “The two conditions look very similar, making it very confusing for patients and often explaining why they won’t go away with typical acne treatment,” says Dr. Lake.

Both skin problems manifest as small, raised pustules, most commonly in oil-rich areas such as the chest, upper back, and sometimes the forehead. While acne can vary in size and appearance, yeast folliculitis usually occurs in groups of similar size and appearance. Folliculitis also lacks comedones, or “openings” that we see in blackheads and whiteheads, and, unlike acne, can sometimes be itchy.

Dr. See adds that an easy way to tell if you’re dealing with folliculitis is to assess whether the spots are reducing with typical acne antibacterial treatments. So, if you find that your skin has cleared all but a certain area with small bumps, it may be a fungus. But, as always, it is best to see a family doctor or specialist for a formal diagnosis.

How do I treat yeast folliculitis?

We’ll take care of the housekeeping before we dive into any of the unusual treatments for yeast folliculitis. To keep fungal stains at bay, Dr. See to wash off sweat immediately after exercising, avoid long hot showers and baths and, especially in summer, avoid greasy moisturizers and sunscreens.

Talk to a dermatologist about switching to oil-free alternatives. So how do we say goodbye – or maybe “get well soon” – to yeast folliculitis? Trust that this has not been researched again viral skin care hack, but For the treatment of yeast folliculitis, dermatologists often recommend anti-dandruff shampoo!

“Topical treatments like selenium sulfide shampoo and topical ketoconazole are effective in most cases,” advises Dr. Lake. In fact, dandruff and fungal acne are actually more similar than we think – both can be triggered by overproduction of yeast, so it makes sense to treat them the same way. You can pick up products like Nizoral or Neutrogena T Gel at your local pharmacy or supermarket.

Dermatologists recommend washing the affected area with an anti-dandruff shampoo several times a week to see results. You can also use it as a face mask in addition to your normal skin care routine and you should see improvements as you continue to use it.

“Continuous weekly use can be particularly useful as maintenance therapy to prevent recurrence, especially in summer or during periods of intense activity,” says Dr. Lake.

But if you have a more severe case of folliculitis or are wary of the dreaded shampoo-in-the-eye sting (a real form of torture, if you ask me), Dr. See that oral treatments are also available to treat yeast folliculitis. Oral treatment can be more effective than topical treatment, but you need to see your GP for a prescription, ”she informs me.

Unfortunately, the word “yeast infection” is often answered with grimaces and shaky moans, but it’s just another largely uncontrollable body function that we as humans have to learn to deal with. So, throw on your favorite movie, pour yourself a glass of pinot and smear a dermatologist-recommended shampoo mask.

For more information on yeast folliculitis, see here.



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