Fungal acne isn't acne at all – it's pityrosporum folliculitis (PF), which is the inflammation of hair follicles due to an overgrowth of yeast (and yeast, by the way, is a form of fungus). Fungal acne-safe products aren't truly a thing either as "fungal acne-safe" isn't an official classification with set guidelines, like vegan or clean. "Like non-comedogenic, it is just a designation that suggests it won't stoke fires if used with PF," explains Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine.
When you do see the phrase tacked onto a skin-care product, it's based on knowledge of ingredients known to inhibit or enable the growth of fungal acne- causing yeast or bacteria, notes Kaveri Karhade, a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist in the San Francisco Bay area. "Unfortunately, this is not a black-and-white topic," she adds. "Some people are more prone to [PF] than others, and some topicals may more frequently contribute to [PF] in some people but not others."
Some facts that apply across the board: Tea tree oil and sulfur, for example, have fungicidal benefits, making them safe and effective pityrosporum folliculitis treatments.
Fatty acids, on the other hand, feed PF, says Jennifer Chwalek, a board- certified dermatologist at New York City's Union Square Laser Dermatology. So products spiked with linoleic, oleic, stearic, palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids could exasperate fungal acne. Many of these are naturally found in coconut oil, so you can also add that to the list of ingredients to avoid. Acids you can seek out include lactic and salicylic, cosmetic chemist Jim Hammer tells ishonest.
Oils, in general, are off-limits, too. "[They] actually serve as a growth medium for Malassezia, which is the yeast that causes inflammation around the hair follicles," Karhade says.
To keep you from investigating ingredient labels, we rounded up several fungal acne-safe products based on recommendations from dermatologists and cosmetic chemists. Allow these picks to save you the guesswork and help you revamp your skin-care routine during a fungal acne breakout.
Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Daily Shampoo
Although Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Daily Shampoo may not be the first product you'd think of putting on your face to treat fungal acne, it's on the top of dermatologists' list of suggestions. The dandruff shampoo stars pyrithione zinc, which has an anti-fungal, as Karhade points out, and you can wash your face and body with it.
"I typically recommend using an anti-dandruff shampoo in the shower daily when the bumps are active and weekly once it's gone to keep it gone," she adds. "It works better if you apply it to the affected area and leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing it off. Some people find anti-dandruff shampoos a bit drying, so make sure to moisturize generously after showering."
Lancer Clarifying Detox Mask with Green Tea + 3% Sulfur
Lancer's Clarifying Detox Mask with Green Tea + 3% Sulfur is not only a Best of Beauty Award winner but also a recommendation from Chwalek. The wash-off clay mask features a trio of fungal acne-fighting ingredients: aforementioned sulfur, as well as antioxidant-rich green tea and blemish-busting azelaic acid. All "have some inhibitory activity against PF," she explains.
Krave Beauty Oat So Simple Water Cream
Keeping skin nourished after masking and cleansing with dandruff shampoo is key, but when doing so, Hammer stresses slathering on a lightweight, oil- free moisturizer, like the Krave Beauty Oat So Simple Water Cream. Thick, oily products can "create a barrier on the skin, which can trap moisture and encourage the growth of the yeast and fungus," he explains.
Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask
The Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask will more or less power wash your skin – gently, of course. Its 10 percent concentration of sulfur combined with soothing aloe vera will simultaneously clear pores of yeast and bacteria while calming irritation.
If you're experiencing breakouts on your chest and back, you can also mask those areas with this, says Chwalek.
Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo
Nizoral A-D Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is another dandruff shampoo to consider cleansing with. Its fungicidal of choice is called ketoconazole. For those unfamiliar, it "works by disrupting the cell membrane of the fungus, which prevents it from growing and replicating," Chwalek says.
Dr. Jart Teatreement Cleansing Foam
If the thought of washing your face with a dandruff shampoo just doesn't do it for you, try the Dr. Jart Teatreement Cleansing Foam instead. Tea tree and green tea extracts will do their best to extinguish your PF. However, we advise against following it up with other products from the Teatreement line as they contain linoleic acid.
100% Pure Tea Tree & Willow Clarifying Astringent
Although the 100% Pure Tea Tree & Willow Clarifying Astringent is called an astringent, it's more of alcohol-free toner to hydrate and clear pores after cleansing. Its anti-fungal tea tree leaf water base packs a powerful punch at PF with the help of willow bark extract, which is a natural derivative of salicylic acid.
Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser
The Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser is another dandruff shampoo alternative from Chwalek for deep-cleansing fungal acne-prone skin. Sulfur, in case you were wondering, produces pentathionic acid, which is toxic to fungi, she says. Three percent of the stuff is in the fluffy pink formula alongside soothing oat and honey extracts.
Glow Recipe Pineapple C Brightening Serum
Vitamin C lovers can still indulge in the powerful smoothing ingredient with the Glow Recipe Pineapple C Brightening Serum. It's infused also with exfoliating lactic acid and hydration-boosting sodium hyaluronate, which is a derivative of hyaluronic acid.
Read more on: acne
Start your journey to healthy skin in 2 minutes