Bacterial Acne vs Fungal Acne: Understanding the Differences and How to Treat Them

Mariah Brown

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Mariah Brown

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Acne can be frustrating and sometimes confusing, especially when it comes to determining the root cause of the breakouts. Bacterial acne and fungal acne are two common types of acne, each with its own unique characteristics and treatment approaches. In this article, we will delve into the differences between bacterial acne and fungal acne, exploring their causes, symptoms, and effective treatments. So, let’s dive right in and uncover the secrets behind these pesky skin conditions!

Bacterial Acne vs Fungal Acne: Understanding the Differences and How to Treat Them
bacterial acne vs fungal acne

What Is Bacterial Acne?

Bacterial acne, also known as acne vulgaris, is the most common form of acne. It occurs when excess oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria clog the hair follicles, leading to inflammation and the formation of pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Bacterial acne is primarily caused by the overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes, a type of bacteria that naturally resides on our skin. However, certain factors such as hormonal changes, stress, and genetics can contribute to the development of bacterial acne as well.

Symptoms of Bacterial Acne

  • Red, inflamed pimples
  • Pus-filled whiteheads
  • Blackheads
  • Cystic nodules under the skin

Treating Bacterial Acne

To effectively treat bacterial acne, a multi-faceted approach is often necessary. Here are some tried-and-true strategies:

1. Keep the Skin Clean

Gentle cleansing of the skin twice a day using a mild cleanser can help remove excess oil and bacteria, preventing further breakouts.

2. Avoid Overwashing

While it’s important to keep the skin clean, overwashing can strip away natural oils, leading to dryness and increased oil production. Stick to washing twice a day for optimal results.

3. Use Non-Comedogenic Products

Non-comedogenic products are specifically formulated not to clog pores, reducing the likelihood of acne breakouts. Look for this certification on skincare and cosmetic products.

4. Topical Treatments

Over-the-counter creams or gels containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. For more severe cases, a dermatologist may prescribe topical antibiotics or retinoids.

5. Oral Medications

In cases of moderate to severe bacterial acne, oral medications such as antibiotics or hormonal therapies may be prescribed by a dermatologist. These can help control inflammation and balance hormones, preventing further breakouts.

What Is Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne, also known as pityrosporum folliculitis or Malassezia folliculitis, is a type of acne that is caused by an overgrowth of yeast called Malassezia. Unlike bacterial acne, fungal acne is not caused by bacteria or clogged pores, but rather by an imbalance of yeast on the skin. This condition is more common in individuals with warm and humid climates, or those who frequently engage in activities that cause excessive sweating.

Symptoms of Fungal Acne

  • Small, uniform bumps
  • Clusters of red or skin-colored bumps
  • Pustules or whiteheads
  • Itchiness or irritation

Treating Fungal Acne

Since fungal acne is caused by an overgrowth of yeast, treatment focuses on reducing the levels of Malassezia on the skin. Here are some effective treatment options:

1. Antifungal Medications

Topical antifungal creams or lotions containing ingredients like ketoconazole or selenium sulfide can help eliminate the yeast overgrowth and alleviate symptoms of fungal acne.

2. Anti-Dandruff Shampoos

Some anti-dandruff shampoos contain antifungal ingredients that can be used as body washes or spot treatments for fungal acne. Look for ingredients like ketoconazole or zinc pyrithione.

3. Avoid Moisture-Trapping Clothing

Fungal acne thrives in warm and humid environments. Opt for loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics to prevent moisture buildup and minimize the risk of fungal acne.

4. Take Probiotics

Probiotics can help restore the balance of healthy bacteria on the skin and body, reducing the likelihood of yeast overgrowth. Consult with a healthcare professional for the appropriate probiotic supplement for your needs.

The Bacterial Acne vs Fungal Acne Breakdown

To better understand the differences between bacterial acne and fungal acne, let’s break them down in a table:

Characteristic Bacterial Acne Fungal Acne
Cause Propionibacterium acnes bacteria Malassezia yeast overgrowth
Symptoms Pimples, whiteheads, blackheads Uniform bumps, clusters of bumps, pustules
Common Triggers Hormonal changes, stress, genetics Warm and humid environments, excessive sweating
Treatment Cleansing, topical treatments, oral medications Antifungal medications, anti-dandruff shampoos, probiotics

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What causes bacterial acne?

Bacterial acne is primarily caused by an overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, but hormonal changes, stress, and genetics can also contribute.

2. Is fungal acne contagious?

No, fungal acne is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.

3. How do I know if I have bacterial acne or fungal acne?

The best way to determine the type of acne you have is to consult with a dermatologist, who can examine your skin and provide an accurate diagnosis.

4. Can I treat fungal acne with benzoyl peroxide?

Benzoyl peroxide is primarily used to treat bacterial acne and may not be effective against fungal acne. It’s best to use antifungal treatments specifically designed for fungal acne.

5. Can stress cause fungal acne?

While stress is not a direct cause of fungal acne, it can weaken the immune system and disrupt the skin’s natural balance, potentially exacerbating fungal acne symptoms.

6. Are there any natural remedies for bacterial acne or fungal acne?

While natural remedies may provide some relief, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment. They can recommend the most appropriate remedies for your specific condition.

7. Can I prevent bacterial acne and fungal acne?

While it is not always possible to prevent acne completely, practicing good skincare habits like regular cleansing, using non-comedogenic products, and avoiding excessive moisture can help minimize the risk of bacterial and fungal acne.

8. Can using too many skincare products cause bacterial acne or fungal acne?

Using a variety of skincare products does not directly cause bacterial or fungal acne. However, using products that are unsuitable for your skin type or that clog your pores can increase the likelihood of developing acne.

9. Can I wear makeup if I have bacterial acne or fungal acne?

Yes, you can wear makeup if you have bacterial or fungal acne, but it’s important to choose non-comedogenic and oil-free products that won’t clog your pores. Remember to thoroughly remove your makeup at the end of the day.

10. When should I consult a dermatologist?

If over-the-counter treatments and home remedies do not improve your acne symptoms or if you experience severe or persistent acne, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist for a personalized treatment plan.


Understanding the differences between bacterial acne and fungal acne is key to effectively treating and managing these conditions. Bacterial acne is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, while fungal acne is a result of an imbalance of yeast on the skin. By following proper skincare routines, identifying triggers, and using appropriate treatments, you can regain control over your skin and achieve a clearer complexion. Don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if needed, as dermatologists can provide tailored solutions to address your specific concerns. Remember, healthy skin is within reach, so start your journey to clearer skin today!

Thank you for reading! If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out our other informative articles on skincare and beauty.

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