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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Fungal Acne vs Bacterial Acne: Identifying and Treating Different Acne Types

Updated: 2 days ago

This guide focuses on the differences and management strategies for fungal acne and bacterial acne, providing clear, evidence-based information.

Bacterial Acne vs Fungal Acne

What is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne, or Pityrosporum folliculitis, arises from an overgrowth of yeast in hair follicles. It's distinct from bacterial acne, often resulting from an imbalance in the skin's microbiome.

Key Characteristics of Fungal Acne

  • Small, uniform, itchy pustules.

  • Commonly on the chest, back, arms, and sometimes the face.

  • Triggered by factors like excessive sweating, humid environments, or prolonged antibiotic use.

Causes of Fungal Acne

  • Humid conditions and tight clothing can encourage yeast growth.

  • A diet rich in carbohydrates may contribute to yeast overgrowth.

  • A suppressed immune system can increase susceptibility.


Check out some of our other related articles:


What is Bacterial Acne?

Bacterial acne, or acne vulgaris, is caused by clogged hair follicles or clogged pores, leading to a proliferation of Cutibacterium acnes AKA Propionibacterium acnes bacteria.

Key Characteristics of Bacterial Acne

  • Blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts, or nodules.

  • Appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back, and shoulders.

  • The severity varies, and it can lead to scarring.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Dermatologists diagnose these conditions based on appearance, sometimes requiring skin culture or microscopy.

Fungal Acne Treatment

  • Antifungal medications: Topical or oral antifungals like ketoconazole, fluconazole, or itraconazole.

  • Skincare routine: Non-occlusive, oil-free products.

  • Lifestyle changes: Avoid tight clothing and showering after sweating.

Bacterial Acne Treatment

  • Topical treatments: Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids.

  • Oral medications: Antibiotics, oral contraceptives, or isotretinoin for severe cases.

  • Skincare: Gentle cleansing and non-comedogenic products.

If you are suffering specifically from acne on the chest or breast area, it is most often bacterial in nature, but it can be a case of fungal acne, too.

Prevention and Management

Maintaining a balanced skin microbiome is critical. Regular cleansing, avoiding harsh products, and a diet low in sugars and refined carbohydrates are beneficial.

If your acne resulted in dark spots, you will find my article on getting rid of dark spots due to acne very useful.

When to Consult a Dermatologist

You should consult a dermatologist before starting any form of treatment, but especially consult one in the case of ineffective over-the-counter treatments, severe acne, or distressing symptoms.


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