What kind of acne do you really have?

November 30, 2021
Natalise Kalea Robinson

We’ve all heard the term “acne,” but it turns out that we don’t always experience it in the same way. Many of us have struggled with breakouts in high school and college, usually dubbed “teenage acne.” Some of us, as adults, have experienced “adult acne” or “hormonal acne.” And yet, others of us have less common types of acne that show up as inflamed cysts, small bumps, etc. Some of us even have fungal acne. The root cause of acne vs. fungal acne are fundamentally different and it’s important to understand in order to find the right solution.

What is acne?

Acne, otherwise known as acne vulgaris, is one of the most common skin conditions in the world. People with acne often experience breakouts on the face and/or other body parts in the form of cysts, blackheads, pimples, and other types of blemishes. Acne is correlated with an overgrowth of C. acnes bacteria. Oftentimes, the skin follicles become clogged with dead skin cells and oil, a perfect breeding ground for C. acnes to grow. It’s important to note that there are “healthy” and “unhealthy” strains of C. acnes, but obviously, it is generally the “unhealthy” strains that we observe alongside inflammation and live in the inner pocket of each blemish. There are also different types of “unhealthy” C. acnes bacteria, and ones that are present on your skin that cause your blemishes might be different than those on someone else’s skin.


What is fungal acne?

Fungal acne, on the other hand, which can sometimes be misdiagnosed as acne vulgaris, is actually not caused by bacteria at all. Instead, it is caused by an overgrowth of a yeast called Malassezia. Though having yeast on your skin might sound absurd, many types of yeast (alongside bacteria and other microbes) are a normal part of the skin flora. Unfortunately, in the case of fungal acne, Malassezia can grow on your skin and ascend to harmful levels, especially when you exhibit high sugar levels, low immunity, and constant use of antibiotics. A lot of people confuse fungal acne with “normal” acne and continue with traditional acne treatments only to see zero improvement.

Symptoms of acne vs. fungal acne

With acne, you might experience:

  • A variety of different sized and shaped blemishes at the same time
  • Some pain at the site of the blemish, especially if cystic
  • Pimples, cysts, blackheads, or whiteheads on the shoulders, face, back, and chest
  • Hormonal blemishes related to your monthly cycle
  • Cysts/nodules that grow from deep underneath the skin and feel more solid 


With fungal acne, you might experience:

  • Papules, bumps, and pimples of similar shape and size
  • Itching
  • Breakout(s) on your chest, back, and shoulders, sometimes also on your face
  • Worsening of skin conditions during hot, humid days
  • Other yeast-related skin conditions like dandruff and dermatitis


In addition to the points above, acne can affect almost anyone at any point in life. However, fungal acne usually impacts young adults, especially those who reside in hot, humid climates. It is possible that one can have both conditions simultaneously, as well. 


The Takeaway

Various types of acne may have similarities, but they often require a different solution. It goes without saying that it is important to understand what type of acne you have, so that you can pursue a solution that is effective, safe, and sustainable. 

Regardless of acne type, we understand that the experience can be a punch in the gut to your confidence and mental well-being, especially if your breakout arises at the least opportune time. Additionally, it can be frustrating to have a skin issue that you can’t seem to get rid of, no matter how (and what) you try. We get it. And we got you. 

At Parallel, we aim to help you understand your skin microbiome so that you can find the right product for you. Interested in joining our community? Sign up here to share about your skin journey and be kept apprised of skin microbiome research opportunities and personalized products. 


About Parallel

A parallel world lives amongst us: the microbial world. This world impacts not only our lifespan, but also our healthspan. 

Our mission is to empower people with real science to make meaningful decisions to improve their healthspan. 

Parallel is a microbial diagnostics and next-level skincare company that aims to revolutionize skin health by providing deep insight and true personalization, through best-in-class testing and targeted, clean microbial formulations.


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