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All opinions are honest + my own. All products are put through a 2 week test period conducted on myself.
About 2 years ago, I started dealing with an acne that would not respond to my trusty sensitive skin acne treatments. It could not have been more frustrating! And honestly confusing. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but breadcrumbs lead me to hear about fungal acne.
This brought me to Simple Skincare Science – the most amazingly comprehensive fungal acne blog + information source to date. For about a year + a half, I tested products from his list + finally found some that work for sensitive skin 7 months ago.
What is Fungal Acne?
Our skin naturally has a balance of bacteria and yeast that coexists on our skin harmoniously. It’s totally normal.
Fungal acne is a beast in that it thrives off of commonly used ingredients. To beat it, you need a combination of a fungicide (kills the fungus to try to rebalance) + products it can’t feed off of (prevents bounce back). But it will likely be an on and off issue, reoccurring at some time + needing to be put in its place again. From my experience, it gets easier once you find what works, but it’s possible to have a flare.
What Are the Signs?
- Tiny, equal-sized pimples (about 1-3mm). Sometimes red, sometimes not.
- Pimples that do not respond to acne treatments.
- You may find a spike in them a day after working out, if you do not shower right away.
- Itchiness (or reflexive scratching, in my case) near breakout sites.
- Typically found, but not limited to, forehead, neck, shoulders, chest, or back.
A Sensitive Skin Fungal Acne Regime
Yes, a full one!
It’s worth noting there are different fungicides. And I tested a few. What worked + cleared my skin was this below list. I had also tried ketoconazole and chlorhexidine without luck.
I tried a lot of treatments. Some were too strong, some had surfactants that were too aggressive, some almost helped, and others just didn’t seem to have an effect for me. Until I found this! It visibly works, visibly calms, and resolved things faster than I thought possible.
It’s incredibly creamy + gentle, while lightly moisturizing. And the ingredient list is tiny! All you need to remember is to let it sit on your skin for 2-5mins to properly do its job. Then wash it off like normal. I recommend only using it on affected areas, which allows the bar to last for 1.5mos – from my tests. Be sure to store it somewhere it can dry out after use as will melt if kept in a splash zone.
This one aims to gently dial down skin oil levels to give fungal acne a harder time. It doesn’t dry out the skin at all. And I even use it for hormonal acne. (It’s not a one trick pony!)
I did a recent side-by-side test and it appears MSM + azelaic acid might be in the same ballpark of effectiveness.
I use this as an AM/PM moisturizer.
One way of navigating this is apparently to make your skin believe its oil levels are sufficient by replacing with an oil type that fungal acne finds useless. (As it thrives on our natural oils.)
Used as a body oil or facial oil, this gives your skin some lovely moisture and keeps your skin hydrated. Meanwhile, fungal acne has a hard time as this isn’t something that it can feed upon.
I use this as another option for a moisturizer. Typically for PM.
(Side note: I also use it to gently remove stubborn eye make-up. Works like a dream!)
This is apparently an up-and-coming approach to fungal acne. Azelaic acid is something that is produced as a byproduct of Malassezia (aka fungal acne) +, though not fully understood, has been flagged as something that may help as it reduces what fungal acne thrives on.
I was curious + spent a few months testing this. I found really positive results, that it doesn’t dry out sensitive skin, and have since started using it as a spot treatment or extra push for stubborn areas.
This gel moisturizer does a great job at calming the usual redness that that fungal acne sites have. I found redness was reduced either overnight or within about 2 days.
This is best used as a layered product with a hydrating essence and/or serum under. Alone, it doesn’t have enough hydration for the face; I found it left my skin under-hydrated + looking (but not feeling) a little taught.
It’s perfectly fine to use on its own for the body, but given the jar size, I would suggest the MSM Gel instead for body fungal acne.