Avène: My Skincare Go-Tos for Fungal Acne (Malassezia Folliculitis) or Sensitive Skin

The Story

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.

Swiss Pharmacy in Zurich

Swiss Pharmacy in Zurich

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.

Avene Tolerance Extreme Emulsion, Avene Mousse, Bioderma Hydrabio Serum

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!

13 Comments

  1. Jing Xia
    August 7, 2018 / 6:00 pm

    haha Love your story!

  2. Luke Bayer
    October 15, 2018 / 11:13 pm

    Did you incorporate any anti fungals too along with the Avène items?? Thank you

    • malinka89
      Author
      January 16, 2019 / 8:31 pm

      Hi Luke,

      Sorry for the late reply, but yes, I use Nizoral shampoo from time to time, but not regularly (maybe once or twice a month). I find that I don’t really need it as long as I’m consistent with my routine. I started using squalane oil as a moisturizer at night and it’s amazing! I wake up with totally smooth skin, it’s like magic.

  3. patricia
    October 30, 2018 / 10:28 am

    are you sure that the biotherma is safe for Malassazia…it has oils in it..

  4. Elle
    February 10, 2019 / 9:30 am

    Love this post!

    I’m also dealing with PF as well as a damaged moisture barrier so trying to get rid of the fungus by paring down my skincare and makeup to only safe ingredients rather than attacking it with potent anti fungals. I’m struggling to find suitable mascara, which waterproof one do you use??

    Thanks!

    • malinka89
      Author
      February 19, 2019 / 3:02 pm

      I totally agree with you about paring down the skincare and makeup to safe ingredients, but I’ve never had any issues with eye makeup (face makeup yes totally). I’m using the Ere Perez waterproof mascara.

  5. Faye Hofmann
    March 14, 2019 / 1:53 pm

    Hi! I also live in Switzerland and am concerned my sensitive skin that sometime has eczema flare ups might actually have a fungal problem. Have you found a foundation/powder product that is safe? I can only found bare minerals online but this is the kind of product where you need to check the shade in an actual store before purchasing! Any other brands worth looking at?

    • malinka89
      Author
      March 14, 2019 / 4:18 pm

      Hi neighbor! Oh no, its no fun dealing with skin problems for sure. I have 3 things in rotation – I use pearl powder, and mix it into my face cream or sunscreen. It gives a light coverage, but it does make the skin super super pale (think Mary from Downton Abbey) so if that’s not the look you’re going for, I wouldn’t recommend it.

      Another thing I’m using is a translucent powder that has just 2 ingredients, silica and sodium hyaluronate (it’s a salt, not an ester, so it’s safe for fungal issues). It’s the byTerry Hyaluronic Hydra Powder. No coverage, but it does act as a sort of “filter” – definitely evens out the skintone.

      The third powder product I use is a finishing powder from Lily Lolo, it’s called Translucent Silk. It also has only 2 ingredients, kaolin clay and mica. This one gives more coverage than the byTerry, not as much as pearl powder, but this Lily Lolo powder has a sheen, while the other 2 are completely matte. The sheen isn’t anything too shiny, definitely not shimmery, but sort of a pearlescent glow. Kind of creates that “dewy” “glass skin” look without having to use oils, etc. The ingredient list is also safe for fungal issues. They also have a colored one called Flawless Silk, but I haven’t tried it. In Switzerland you can buy these online from Ecco Verde or Biomazing.

      I’ve never used real foundation so am not very experienced in that realm and can’t make any recommendations, but I love all 3 of these products and they do work in their own way. Also translucent powders work especially well with every skintone. Hope this helps!

  6. Mar
    March 16, 2019 / 1:47 pm

    Hi!
    What kind of makeup or, more specifically, bb or cc creams would be good for fungal acne? I use the Garnier original bb cream but I just started with fungal acne and don’t know what to do.

    Also, what do you think about pressed powders? I use L’ Orelal’s true match perfecting powder. Don’t know if this is making my condition worse. 🙁

    • malinka89
      Author
      April 20, 2019 / 12:00 pm

      Hey girl,
      I’m sorry for the late reply! You know, I’m so unfamiliar with foundations/bb/cc creams I really don’t think I can give you any good advice on them. However, there is a list of fungal-acne-safe makeup on https://simpleskincarescience.com/pityrosporum-folliculitis-treatment-malassezia-cure/
      I think pressed powders are oftentimes full of non-fungal-acne-safe ingredients that could give you trouble. For a powder to be pressed into a compact and not flake apart, it needs to be held together by some kind of oils/esters/fatty acids – all of which, with the exception of mineral oil, capric triglyceride, and squalane, are unsafe for fungal acne.
      I looked up the ingredients of the L’Oreal True Match Perfecting Powder, and it has some essential oils (non fungal acne safe), esters, and PEGs. So your best bet for fungal acne is to take this out of your routine. See if you can find something you like from the list I linked.
      There are a few good loose powders I really like. One is any of the Lily Lolo finishing powders, and another one I love is the byTerry Hyaluronic Hydra Powder. Both are quite translucent.

  7. Sara
    April 17, 2019 / 11:13 am

    Hello from a fellow fungal acne sufferer from Germany!
    I have read that Avene does a very good job for fungal acne safe products so that’s a plus :). I am in the process of finding a safe sunscreen, so I wanted to ask what do you use? Also have you tried the La Roche Posay line?

    • malinka89
      Author
      April 20, 2019 / 11:32 am

      Hi neighbor!
      Avene has been great. I started using it around this time of year last year, and it has not given me any trouble. Interestingly, the thing that did give me a really bad reaction was Nizoral!
      For sunscreen, I rotate between the CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 and the Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46. Both are equally good in terms of formula, I wouldn’t say that any one of them is better than the other. CeraVe is cheaper, so why not? The CeraVe SPF is lower (30), but that just means you have to reapply it a bit more often – that’s no problem, the bottle is nearly twice bigger anyway. Both contain great skin-nourishing ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. I love them!
      I have used La Roche Posay in the past and have loved it, but when I realized I had fungal acne, I just stopped everything and switched to Avene literally overnight. I’ll share this in a post, but I thought I’ll just share with you here – my skin has really cleared up since using Avene, so the other day, I thought I would do an experiment and apply rosehip oil before going to bed. I was a little anxious, but I kid you not, in the morning when I woke up, my skin was COMPLETELY smooth, clear and soft – I could not believe it. I guess this must mean the fungal acne is gone. And since I had such bad reactions to Nizoral, I really cannot owe it to anything other than Avene. I’m not sponsored by them, but I can honestly say I 100% stand behind their product and their brand – it has totally changed my skin.

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