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Fungal vs. Bacterial Acne: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between fungal vs. bacterial acne? Our guide is here to help you find out the difference between these two skin conditions.

Did you know that by the age of 21, eight to nine in 10 people have had acne? In any given year, though, acne affects almost 10% of the world’s population.

Those figures apply to acne vulgaris, the most common type of acne caused by bacteria. However, some cases of acne are also a result of a fungal infection.

With that said, we came up with this guide comparing fungal vs. bacterial acne. Read on to know their differences, causes, symptoms, and treatments. 

Fungal vs. Bacterial Acne: The Technical Difference

Fungi and bacteria can both be pathogenic, which means they can cause disease. However, they’re different microorganisms; fungi have many cells, bacteria are single-celled. Fungi are more structurally similar to animals, while bacteria are less complex.

In that way, fungal and bacterial acne differ in terms of the pathogens that cause them.

What Exactly Is Fungal Acne and What Causes It?

Fungal acne is also known as Malassezia folliculitis or Pityrosporum folliculitis. Folliculitides are skin conditions wherein the hair follicles become inflamed.

In fungal acne, the inflammation is a result of an overgrowth of yeast known as Malassezia furfur. It naturally occurs on the skin, and it accounts for more than 80% of all fungi on the skin. However, it can grow at an even more rapid rate due to antibiotic use or compromised immunity.

People with fungal acne develop pimple-like bumps or papules filled with pus. The pimples are usually uniform in size and often appear on the arms, chest, and sometimes, the back. Some people develop them on the face, too.

The inflamed skin affected by fungal acne usually develops itchiness, too. In addition, the swollen follicles tend to appear in clusters.

What About Bacterial Acne?

Bacterial acne occurs when the bacterium called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) infects pimples. P. acnes is the most abundant bacterium of all bacteria on the skin. This helps explain why most cases of acne, specifically acne vulgaris, seem to occur due to P. acnes.

People with bacterial acne can have whiteheads and pimples of different sizes. The bumps or papules it creates tend to develop mostly on the face. Unlike fungal acne, though, bacterial acne usually doesn’t cause itchiness.

Can You Treat Both Types of Acne With the Same Products?

Antibacterial treatments for acne won’t work on fungal infections. Many anti-acne bacterial treatments include benzoyl peroxide. Using such products on fungal acne can aggravate the symptoms.

However, some products that work on bacterial acne can also be helpful for fungal acne. An example is Accutane, the main active ingredient of which is isotretinoin. To learn about your isotretinoin treatment options for both types of acne, see more here.

If you’re not sure what type of acne you have, it’s best to see a dermatologist as soon as possible. This way, the skin specialist can determine if it’s acne vulgaris or fungal acne. Your dermatologist may also have to prescribe a stronger antibacterial or antifungal medication.

Use the Right Treatments To Keep Acne Away

As you can see, the main factor that makes fungal vs. bacterial acne different is the pathogen behind them. The pimples they cause may look the same, but you may have to treat them using different products. As such, it’s best to seek a dermatologist’s advice so that you can make the right treatment choice.

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