A variety of pathogens live on healthy skin, including bacteria, fungi, and dermatophytes. Typically, these pathogens are not harmful and even provide nutrients for the skin. However, in some situations, they can cause infections.

Candida is a yeast (a type of fungus) that lives on the skin and can cause an infection.

In this article, we discuss the causes and symptoms of yeast infections on the face and explain the different treatment options.

A yeast infection is an infection of the skin or mucous membranes, such as those inside the mouth or vagina. It occurs due to a fungus from the Candida species.

Candida albicans and other yeasts live on the skin with other pathogens, such as bacteria, dermatophytes, and other fungi, in a well-balanced ecosystem.

When the conditions of the skin change, the usual environment becomes disrupted.

This disruption can allow pathogens, including yeast, to increase in number and cause skin infections.

Yeast infections may occur on the feet or face and in the skin folds. People may also develop yeast infections on the eyelids and the corners of the mouth.

Researchers estimate that yeast skin infections affect about 20–25% of the world’s population.

People with a yeast infection on the face may experience:

  • thickening of the skin
  • itchiness
  • redness

A yeast infection on the face can also occur if a person has developed intertrigo, which can lead to a fungal infection that affects the skin folds of the eyelids.

People with intertrigo on the face may notice:

  • mild redness that might worsen over time
  • oozing
  • crusting
  • inflammation, which is typically a sign of infection if it worsens

If a yeast infection follows intertrigo, the person may notice:

  • itchiness
  • pain
  • burning
  • thickening of the affected area
  • the development of pus filled lesions in the area

Some people may have an acute infection, whereas others, such as those with diabetes or a weakened immune system, may have lingering, chronic yeast infections on the skin.

Infants can also develop a yeast infection called seborrheic dermatitis, which people sometimes refer to as cradle cap. It is a common skin condition that typically affects 10% of children in the first 3 months of their life.

The symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis in infants may include:

  • red, scaly patches of skin
  • itching
  • burning
  • small, raised bumps on the skin

Researchers have identified 200 Candida species of yeast, but only some of these can cause yeast infections.

Typically, Candida albicans is responsible for yeast infections on the skin.

The following factors can trigger yeast infections:

  • Friction: A yeast infection can occur between folds of skin due to friction.
  • Medication: Antibiotics may disrupt the environment of the skin and cause an imbalance of the bacteria and fungi that live on the surface.
  • Health conditions: People with a weakened immune system or diabetes may have a higher risk of developing yeast infections on the face.
  • Injury to the skin: Injury to the skin and intertrigo can destroy the natural barrier of the skin, which may promote infections.

Factors that may increase the risk of developing yeast infections include:

  • excessive sweating, called hyperhidrosis
  • poor hygiene
  • malnutrition

To treat a yeast infection on the face, people can use antifungal medications.

Topical antifungal products are available in the form of creams, gels, ointments, or sprays that people apply directly to the affected area, such as the face.

People should always be careful when treating facial rashes or skin conditions as the skin on the face is sensitive, particularly around the eyes. Some people may experience reactions to medications or treatments that they apply to the face, even if they do not have a reaction on other parts of their body.

Some infections may require oral or intravenous antifungals.

Examples of antifungals may include:

  • econazole (Spectrazole)
  • ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • clotrimazole (Canesten)
  • terbinafine (Lamisil)
  • miconazole (Monistat)
  • amphotericin B (Fungizone)
  • fluconazole (Diflucan)

If the yeast infection on the face is on a skin fold, such as the eyelid, the person may have developed intertrigo before the infection.

To manage intertrigo, doctors may also recommend minimizing moisture in the area and reducing friction using barrier creams.

However, barrier creams may irritate the area and help the yeast colonize on the skin.

People who want to apply barrier creams to a skin fold should speak to a doctor to make sure that it will not worsen the condition or pose a risk to the eye.

Yeast infections can occur in hot and humid weather. People should ensure that they dry themselves thoroughly after physical activity or sweating.

It is also best to avoid using terbinafine and ciclopirox (Loprox) cream with a cortisone cream because they have stronger anti-inflammatory effects.

People should not use a cortisone cream alone on a fungal infection as the steroid may worsen the infection. If cortisone is necessary, a person should use it alongside an antifungal treatment.

In infants, parents or caregivers can use emollients to treat yeast infections. These will soften and loosen the scales.

Doctors can diagnose a yeast infection on the face by carrying out a physical examination.

Sometimes, doctors will collect samples of the infection to confirm which pathogen caused the infection.

People can often self-diagnose yeast infections because they typically occur in moist or humid areas of the skin, such as the folds.

Applying an over-the-counter topical antifungal, such as clotrimazole, may relieve redness and itchiness, as well as treating the infection. However, before using medication, a person should speak to a doctor.

A person should see a doctor if they notice a rash on their face.

Doctors may want to collect a culture of the skin infection and check the sensitivity to antifungal treatments.

People with chronic infections may consult their doctor to discuss methods of prevention, which include reducing heat and moisture and keeping high risk areas clean and dry.

For most fungal infections, doctors recommend using antifungal treatments for 2–4 weeks. If there is no change, the person should make another doctor’s appointment for further testing.

Some people may experience side effects with antifungal treatments.

Side effects may include:

  • rash
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • irritation
  • burning
  • itching

If these symptoms appear, people should stop using the medication and speak with a doctor.

Candida albicans is a yeast that causes fungal skin infections on the face.

People may be more likely to develop an infection on their face if they have diabetes, a weakened immune system, an injury, or intertrigo.

Yeast infections may burn, itch, and turn red.

People can treat yeast infections with antifungal creams, but more severe infections may require oral antifungals.

With the correct diagnosis and treatment, a yeast infection on the face may disappear in a few weeks.