Skin Care

Head And Shoulders for Fungal Acne: Does it Work?

African American woman in bath using antidandruff shampoo, blowing bubbles

Fungal acne, technically known as Malassezia folliculitis or Pityrosporum folliculitis, is a common skin condition that often resembles traditional acne. However, instead of being caused by bacteria, fungal acne is triggered by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin.

As a result, people are constantly seeking effective treatments to alleviate this condition. The Head and Shoulders dandruff shampoo has gained attention for its potential effectiveness in treating fungal acne.

In this article, we will delve into the topic and explore whether Head and Shoulders genuinely live up to its reputation for treating fungal acne.

Understanding Fungal Acne (Pityrosporum Folliculitis)

Young man wearing mask, with forhead fungal acne and bacterial acne (acne vulgris)

What is Fungal Acne?

The yeast Malassezia is the culprit behind the fungal skin infection known as fungal acne. This yeast can be found on the skin of all warm-blooded animals, but when it grows excessively and enters the hair follicles, it can lead to the development of fungal acne.

This skin condition can affect anyone, but it is more prevalent in individuals with a compromised skin barrier or those who frequently take oral antibiotics. [1]

Additionally, individuals with overly oily, dry or sensitive skin are more prone to this condition, especially those in persistent hot and humid environments.

Unlike bacterial acne, fungal acne is not caused by clogged pores or excess oil production. Instead, it is triggered by this opportunistic fungus that takes advantage of an imbalance in the skin’s microbiome. [2 , 3]

Symptoms of Fungal Acne

Fungal acne typically presents as small, uniform, itchy bumps that are often mistaken for traditional breakouts. These bumps can appear on the chest, back, or even the face, or any area with hair follicles. Fungal acne may persist for an extended period, and if left untreated, it can worsen and spread.

Learn how to combat forehead fungal acne with our informative article.

Head and Shoulders: The Antidandruff Solution

Head and Shoulders has long been recognized as one of the top trusted over-the-counter dandruff shampoos that effectively tackles flaky scalps. Its success lies in its active ingredients, such as Pyrithione Zinc and Selenium Sulfide, which work wonders in combating dandruff. [4 , 5

However, growing evidence suggests this popular shampoo may offer additional benefits beyond dandruff relief. Some individuals have reported positive results in using Head and Shoulders to treat fungal acne, shedding light on its potential as a versatile solution for various skin conditions.

Fun Fact:
The Selenium Sulfide versions of Head & Shoulders is usually reserved for more severe cases and is part of their clinically proven line of products.

Understanding How Head and Shoulders Works

The primary function of Head and Shoulders is centered around its remarkable ability to specifically combat the excessive proliferation of Malassezia yeasts, the well-known culprit in dandruff and fungal acne occurrences.

This popular shampoo contains a crucial ingredient called pyrithione zinc, well renowned for its potent antifungal properties and has been included in their formulations since 1960. [6The presence of this compound aids in effectively curtailing the growth of yeast on the skin.

By reducing the levels of this problematic yeast, Head and Shoulders shampoo effectively mitigates the unpleasant symptoms associated with fungal acne, such as the formation of irritating and itchy bumps.

The secret to Head and Shoulders’ success lies in its targeted approach. By directly targeting the root cause of these skin issues, namely the overgrowth of Malassezia yeasts, this shampoo offers a specialized solution for individuals struggling with fungal acne and dandruff.

Through their antifungal qualities, Pyrithione Zinc and Selenium Sulfide are powerful agents that ensure yeast growth is kept in check. As a result, users experience relief from the uncomfortable symptoms associated with fungal acne and regain a healthier, more balanced scalp and skin.

Head and Shoulders’ dedication to tackling the core problem of yeast overgrowth sets it apart as a trusted and effective solution for those seeking relief from dandruff and fungal acne concerns.

For effective treatment of a fungal breakout, adding an active ingredient such as selenium sulfide to your skincare routine can produce noticeable results within two weeks.

Excellent options to try are:

Head And Shoulders Clinical Dandruff Defense Sensitive Shampoo (1% Selenium Sulfide)
This is most useful for individuals with sensitive skin or scalp.

Head And Shoulders Classic Clean Anti-Dandruff Shampoo For Daily Use (Pyrithione Zinc 1%)
This is most useful for individuals with normal, oily, or combination skin or scalp.

Head & Shoulders Bare Soothing Hydration Silicone-Free Dandruff Shampoo (Pyrithione Zinc (1%)
This is most useful for individuals with dry skin or scalp.


The Effectiveness of Head and Shoulders for Fungal Acne

1. Positive Anecdotal Evidence

Anecdotal evidence from numerous individuals struggling with fungal acne has shed light on the potential efficacy of Head and Shoulders in managing this condition. Many have reported positive experiences and shared their success stories, attesting to the positive impact of regular use of the shampoo on affected areas. [7, 8 , 9]

According to these accounts, Head and Shoulders reduces the appearance of bumps and relieve the persistent itchiness that often accompanies fungal acne. While anecdotal evidence should always be cautiously approached, the consistent and positive feedback suggests that Head and Shoulders anti dandruff shampoo may be effective for some individuals in combating fungal acne.

2. Limited Scientific Research

Despite the promising anecdotal reports, scientific research on the effectiveness of Head and Shoulders, specifically for fungal acne, still needs to be completed. Most studies conducted thus far have focused primarily on its efficacy against dandruff, leaving a gap in our knowledge regarding its direct impact on fungal acne.

As such, it is crucial to approach the use of Head and Shoulders for fungal acne with an open mind, recognizing the need for further research to validate its effectiveness and determine the optimal treatment approach.


If you are searching for fungal acne-safe products, read our article on 7 Fungal Acne-Safe Makeup Products to Achieve Smoother Skin.

Considerations and Alternatives

Potential Side Effects

While Head and Shoulders shampoos are generally considered safe, being aware of potential side effects is essential. Some individuals may experience scalp dryness, irritation, or allergic reactions when using shampoo.

To minimize the risk of adverse reactions, it is advisable to perform a patch test before applying the shampoo to a larger body area. This simple precautionary step can help determine whether an individual is sensitive to any of the ingredients present in the product, thereby avoiding potential discomfort or adverse effects.

This is where the new BARE line from Head and Shoulders with 1% Pyrithione Zinc really stands out for its simplicity and effectiveness. Featuring only nine ingredients and packed with anti-inflammatory properties, this formula is gentle yet suitable for all skin types. Unlike other products that can irritate sensitive skin, it is free of dyes, sulfates, and silicones. Plus, it has been dermatologist-tested and recommended.

Shop this product on Amazon now.
Head & Shoulders Bare Soothing Hydration Silicone-Free Dandruff Shampoo (Pyrithione Zinc (1%)

Consulting a Dermatologist

If you suspect fungal acne or any other skin condition, it is highly recommended to consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Dermatologists are medical professionals specialized in diagnosing and treating various skin conditions. By seeking their expertise, you can receive professional guidance on whether Head and Shoulders or alternative treatments suit your specific condition.

A board certified dermatologist can also rule-out, effectively diagnose, and treat bacterial acne and acne-prone skin by prescribing traditional acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid.

These preparations are specifically designed to combat acne and soothe inflammation due to their active ingredients.

It is important to be aware that in certain cases, there may be simultaneous bacterial and fungal breakouts on the skin. In such situations, a dual therapy approach may be necessary, which includes using an anti-dandruff shampoo in addition to traditional acne treatments.

Furthermore, a dermatologist can assess the severity of your fungal acne and recommend the most appropriate course of action tailored to your needs.

Alternative Treatment Options

In addition to using Head and Shoulders, alternative treatment options are available for managing fungal acne.

Dermatologists may prescribe things like a face wash, body wash, or a topical anti fungal cream with antifungal active ingredients such as selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole, or other azole-based topical solutions, or even oral medications to combat the condition effectively.

These topical medications and anti-dandruff shampoos can also be used to treat other skin conditions besides Pityrospurim folliculitis.

They are effective because they target Malassezia, the common culprit behind other skin ailments such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), seborrheic dermatitis, and tinea versicolor (pityriasis versicolor).

These treatments are specifically formulated to address the underlying cause of fungal acne and help restore the skin’s balance. Depending on the severity of the condition, your dermatologist may recommend a combination of treatments to achieve optimal results.

Following their guidance and adhering to the prescribed treatment plan is crucial for the best possible outcome.

Furthermore, maintaining good hygiene practices is crucial in managing fungal acne. This includes wearing breathable clothing, avoiding excessive sweating, and keeping the affected areas clean and dry.

By practicing proper hygiene, you can minimize the growth and spread of the yeast responsible for fungal acne, reducing the likelihood of recurrence.


Are you looking for information on antifungal creams that can effectively treat fungal acne? Read our article on The Best Antifungal Cream for the Face.



Young woman, with hyperpigmentation (dark spots) from acne and fungal acne


Head and Shoulders, a widely recognized antidandruff shampoo, has shown promise in managing fungal acne due to its antifungal properties. While positive anecdotal evidence supports its effectiveness, scientific research in this context still needs to be expanded.

Therefore, it is essential to approach the use of Head and Shoulders for fungal acne with caution and consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

By prioritizing proper skincare practices and following the advice of healthcare professionals, you can effectively manage fungal acne and promote healthy skin.

  • Rubenstein RM, Malerich SA. Malassezia (pityrosporum) folliculitis. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 Mar;7(3):37-41. PMID: 24688625; PMCID: PMC3970831.
  • Green M, Feschuk AM, Kashetsky N, Maibach HI. Clinical characteristics and treatment outcomes of Pityrosporum folliculitis in immunocompetent patients. Arch Dermatol Res. 2023 Aug;315(6):1497-1509. doi: 10.1007/s00403-022-02506-0. Epub 2022 Dec 14. PMID: 36517586; PMCID: PMC9750048.
  • Saunte DML, Gaitanis G, Hay RJ. Malassezia-Associated Skin Diseases, the Use of Diagnostics and Treatment. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020 Mar 20;10:112. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.00112. PMID: 32266163; PMCID: PMC7098993.
  • Vest BE, Krauland K. Malassezia Furfur. [Updated 2023 May 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  • Head and Shoulders. “Our Active Ingredients | Head & Shoulders,” n.d.
  • Reddit Inc

    Does Head n Shoulders really works for face? Has anyone tried it?
    by u/_beastyyy_ in IndianSkincareAddicts

    LPT: head and shoulders really does help with acne.
    by u/caitejane310 in LifeProTips


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