Ok guys, it’s about to get real. You read the title…yes, this is about Malassezia Folliculitis, aka fungal acne…which I’m telling you from experience…which means I’ve got it! (This routine also works for very sensitive skin) I have no idea how I got it, but let me tell you – I used to be a total skincare junkie – I had every product under the sun in my bathroom closet, constantly switched things up when I ran out, had more than one of each functional item (4 cleansers, 3 serums, etc). I loved loved loved to experiment…until my skin just screamed at me, only instead of sound, little tiny bumps came out and decided to nicely display themselves all over my face. Except this is not the season’s exhibition of Delacroix at the Louvre kind of display that you can just swap out when you need, this is like mushrooms-growing-on-a-tree kind of display and must be exterminated! quickly!! I’m getting flashbacks of my mom dabbing my pimples with Salicylic Acid, chanting, “die! die! die!” (yes, for real) when I was a teen. If you’ve ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, my mom is Gus, only instead of Windex, she believes that “every ailment, from psoriasis to poison ivy, could be cured with” Salicylic Acid. Now there is a lot of truth to this almost-religious belief, but I will leave that for another blog post.
So I initially diagnosed myself with this condition, just by doing a lot of research and looking for symptoms that sounded and looked like what I was experiencing. I then did go to a doctor for a consultation, and the doctor confirmed what I had dreaded (except I was secretly mildly happy that I was right haha!) all along. How did I know? I started noticing these bumps when I used very oily products or when I layered a lot of products – oil cleanser, foaming cleanser, toner, essence, ampuole, serum, moisturizer. It was during these experimental times that the bumps got really pronounced. I remember I had received a ton of samples with an online skin purchase I had made once, so what did I do? I took all of them on vacation with me and slathered them all onto my face one night. I didn’t last even an hour – I could feel them coming up, and when I touched my face, it felt like…oily sandpaper. You know those tiny tiny grains, imagine them soaked in oil…all over your face. That’s what my skin felt and looked like. Those kinds of “outbreaks” lasted about 2-3 days, and then they would die down (with me simplifying my routine) and my skin would become normal. Only…it was never really “normal,” I always had a tiny bit of these bumps on my forehead, nose, and cheeks…always, all day, every day. Eventually, I decided that no, this isn’t what “normal” skin should be like, and I took a deep-dive into the interwebs to try to find out for myself.
The Perfect Source of Information
Now…there is a lot of research online, and there are a lot of people who profess their opinions online (kind of like what I’m doing right now). Do you ever hear your doctor telling you “if you want to Google it, ONLY look at Mayo Clinic?” Mine does all the time. Despite this very well-meaning advice, of course I had to Google eeeeeverything. One of the best and most helpful websites I came across was Simple Skincare Science – the post on Malassezia Folliculitis is the best post ever on the topic. Basically, what you need to avoid if you have this or any kind of fungal acne, is broadly, fatty acids, esters, and ferments (at least that’s what I had the most of in my old routine). Clean up your skincare routine and it will clean up your face for you. But please please read the post for ALL the details – the person writing it took an unbelievable amount of time to research and compile evidence-based studies and put it all together in a nice easy-to-read post for us.
Of course being in Switzerland has its perks for my dear fungal acne – there is a pharmacy on every corner…literally like Starbucks in Seattle. This is the perfect place to clean up your routine. Products are high in quality and relatively inexpensive. The Swiss Pharmacy is also a skincare junkie’s dream playground, except the nice thing now is, my dearly beloved fungal acne has limited my choice drastically – a blessing in disguise. What I did find that I’ve been using for the past month now is the Avène range. Alert alert – not the whole line is safe for Malassezia Folliculitis, but the products that are are actually very very good.
The Avene Routine
I use MCT oil as my oil cleanser to get that stubborn waterproof mascara off (safe for fungal acne). From the Avène range, I’m using the Avène Mousse Nettoyante Cleansing Foam, which I got on sale for 14 CHF! Score! (Normally it’s 17 CHF) (In the U.S., it’s $20). And I’m also using the Avene Tolérance Extrême Emulsion that I got for 22 CHF ($38 in the U.S.) as my moisturizer. Side note: guys, please come shopping in Switzerland in the summer. There are sales everywhere and prices are amazing. I’m loving both of these! The foam is so gentle but definitely cleans what needs to be cleaned off your face, and the emulsion is a dream! It contains squalane (read about it here), which is one of the only oils safe for us Malassezia people, and it also happens to have amazing antibacterial properties and is great at protecting from free radicals that cause age spots and premature aging.
Incorporating Anti-aging Ingredients
Now that I’m on the right side of my 20s, it’s time to start thinking about anti-aging. I actually used to have a lot of anti-aging ingredients in my routine back when I had a bunch of products, but now that I’ve had to tone down my routine, I had to let them go – ALL of them were not formulated properly for this condition. In general though, I’m a big fan of AHA/BHA acids, niacinamide, retinol, and vitamin C (never together of course – dangers of ingredient combining can be found here). I’m on the hunt to incorporate some of these ingredients back into my routine, and I actually found one product today from Bioderma that is safe to use and contains niacinamide. It’s their Hydrabio Serum (costs the same here as in the U.S.). I’m really excited to try it, and will report back with an update soon!
Lastly I just wanted to say, listen to your skin – know when it’s trying to tell you something. Read, research, learn about it. Take care of your body with healthy eating habits – what we put on top of our skin is really only a fraction of how the skin feeds. It’s important to nourish our body as well for the glow to come out through the skin. It IS possible to have beautiful skin with proper care!