Frustrated by breakouts on your chest, back, or shoulders that just won’t clear up? It could be fungal acne.
Here’s everything you need to know about it. For starters, fungal acne is sort of a nickname for something called pityrosporum folliculitis, or malassezia folliculitis. Regardless of what you call it, it’s usually the result of excess yeast known as malassezia, which is the same biological classification as fungi, within hair follicles. When it happens, it results in inflammation and itchy, acne-like breakouts.
Malassezia lives on everyone’s skin. But yeast levels tend to increase during hot, humid weather or when you’re sweaty. So, if you’re spending a lot of time outside or even exercising inside, your yeast levels may be running high, and that can promote inflammation, which, in turn, manifests on the skin as pus bumps.
Also, because it’s a yeast, yeast has a tendency to spread. Which means that fungal acne can actually be contagious.
It’s important to note, however, that while it may look like acne, fungal acne isn’t acne at all. It’s an infection of the hair follicle. That’s an important distinction because fungal acne is often accompanied by intense itching. And, where true acne tends to affect the face, fungal acne frequently appears as uniform papules and pustules on the chest and back or in beneath your workout clothes.
How do I get rid of it?
If this is something that hasn’t cleared up on its own after a couple of weeks, consult a board-certified dermatologist. They may suggest something as simple as a body wash or they might prescribe medication. They’ll most likely recommend incorporating a topical sulfur wash into your routine because it’s anti-fungal and antibacterial.
The dandruff shampoo Selsun Blue fits the bill. Lather it onto the affected areas, allow it to sit for a minute or two, and then rinse it off. It won’t be effective unless it has enough time to sit on the skin.
If, after a month, the infection still isn’t clearing up, your dermatologist may prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication in order to reach deep into the infected hair follicles.
How do I prevent it?
There’s no foolproof way to prevent fungal acne from happening, unfortunately. Keeping your skin dry will help—easier said than done during the humid days of July and August, I know—as will showering immediately after you finish your workout.
For an extra line of protection, keep a salicylic acid cleanser in your shower or towelettes formulated with the exfoliating ingredient in your bag. They’ll help remove excess oil and dirt from your skin, which promotes an increase in growth of the yeast.