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Could You Have a Beard Hair Loss Fungus? And Which One?
Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Updated on May 24, 2024

If you are experiencing facial hair shedding alongside itchiness and inflammation in your beard area, you may have contracted a beard hair loss-inducing fungus. While most internet searches point to beard ringworm (tinea barbae) as a likely culprit, this type of beard fungal infection is very rare, with only a few hundred documented cases [1]. 

However, your real problem might be due to a much more familiar fungus, better known for causing yeast infections on the scalp, such as dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Research shows that in 87.7% of cases [2], seborrheic dermatitis occurs on your face (often alongside your scalp), including your beard area. 

The good news is that regardless of the microorganism that causes them, beard fungal infections are rare and normally easy to treat. They respond well to antifungal shampoos or medications, and the beard hair loss they cause is usually reversible. Find out all you need to know about:

  • Signs you may have a beard fungus
  • The main type of fungi that can affect your beard
  • How to treat fungal infections in your beard area
  • Other common causes for beard hair loss
Table of Contents

What does beard fungus look and feel like?

You may have a beard fungal infection if you notice one or more of the following symptoms on the skin under your facial hair [1][2][3]:

  • Itchiness 
  • Inflammation
  • Tenderness or soreness
  • Yellow, greasy flakes or plaques
  • A weeping rash
  • Pustules, red bumps or oozing plaques around the hair roots (kerion)
  • Localised beard shedding (facial hair that comes out easily)
  • Changes to your beard hair in the affected area (broken, deformed or bumpy strands)

If you are experiencing these symptoms and they don’t improve or they worsen with home care, it is a good idea to see a dermatologist or trichologist. That is because leaving beard fungus untreated can make the infection spread or lead to local scarring that prevents facial hair growth

What types of fungi can affect your beard area?

Beard fungus is a rather rare occurrence, as the skin underneath your facial hair is normally well protected by the thick strands and not as oily as your scalp. However, there are certain types of fungi that can grow on it, causing conditions such as:

Beard seborrheic dermatitis
Beard seborrheic dermatitis [11]

1. Beard dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis

Beard dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are yeast infections that affect your facial hair area, caused by a fungus called Malassezia furfur [2][4]. This microbe grows naturally on your skin but can overdevelop and cause dermatological problems when you produce too much sebum.

The fungus feeds on this natural oil secreted by your skin and multiplies, causing local inflammation. Other factors that may favour the development of seborrheic dermatitis are a weakened immune system, stress, or hormonal imbalances.

While beard dandruff only causes white flaking and itching under your facial hair, seborrheic dermatitis can have more unpleasant symptoms. They may include redness, inflammation, itching, yellow, greasy scales, rash, tenderness, and beard hair loss.

Tinea barbae with kerion
Tinea barbae with kerion [12]

2. Tinea barbae (beard ringworm)

This uncommon condition is caused by a type of fungi known as dermatophytes, such as Trichophyton mentagrophytes or Microsporum canis [5]. It is often contracted by adult men who spend large amounts of time around livestock, as beard ringworms can pass from animals to humans [1]. One side of the beard area is usually affected, though your nails and hair can also be affected by dermatophytes. 

The main symptoms of tinea barbae contracted from animals include inflammation and pustules, which can turn into massive kerion (puss-filled pockets covered in a crust) [6]. The moustache area can be affected as well as the beard.

This condition can be painful, may cause a fever, and normally leads to beard hair shedding in the affected area. Left untreated, the skin lesions can advance and become superinfected with bacteria, leading to serious health risks [1]. It can also cause permanent scarring and hard-to-fix bald spots in your beard.

 However, a mild, non-inflammatory strain is normally passed among humans, resembling beard folliculitis. It presents with itchiness, flaking and small pimples around the beard hair roots. Sometimes, they may have the typical ringworm appearance, with circular redness and pustules with symptom-free skin at the centre [1].

White piedra nodules on hair
White piedra nodules on hair [3]

3. Beard piedra

This very rare hair and beard infection, caused by the fungus Trichosporum spp., does not affect the skin under your facial hair area but your beard strands. Fortunately, this condition is superficial, causing cosmetic complaints more than physical discomfort.

Not much is known about how this fungus spreads, but it is believed that high humidity, excessive sweating, and sexual contact with an infected person are predisposing factors [7]. A weakened immune system may also favour the development of this fungal infection.

Piedra is mostly encountered in humid, tropical climates and it causes your beard hair (as well as your scalp, pubic or axillary hair) to be covered in small (1-3 mm), white or light brown soft nodules (known as white or black piedra) [8]. These can often be confused with headlice nits. The nodules weaken hair structure, making them easier to break [3]. 

Beard fungus treatment

How do you treat beard fungus?

Beard fungus normally responds well to antifungal medication such as ketoconazole, terbinafine, fluconazole or itraconozole [1]. Topical medicated hair products such as Nizoral shampoo for hair loss can often be enough to treat mild to moderate infections. However, since tinea barbae often manifests with more serious symptoms, it usually requires oral antifungal treatment. 

Advanced forms of seborrheic dermatitis that do not improve with topical treatment may also require oral antifungal therapy. However, once developed, this condition will often keep flaring up again, so the treatment keeps symptoms under control when they occur rather than fully curing it [2].

Be sure to get the recommendation of a medical professional before taking any oral medication. While they are generally safe, antifungals can have unwanted side effects in patients with preexisting health conditions, or they may interact with other treatments you might be taking.

Man checking beard hair loss from fungus

Does beard hair loss from fungus grow back?

In most cases, once you have treated your beard fungus, your facial hair growth should return to normal. However, if you have experienced a severe infection that produces scarring in your beard area, it may leave a bald spot requiring a beard transplant to restore it. This happens most often when fungal infections are left untreated for too long, so make sure you address any relevant symptoms early on.

Beard skin problems

What other skin problems can be mistaken for beard fungus?

The two beard-area conditions most frequently mistaken for beard fungus are beard psoriasis, eczema (atopic dermatitis), and folliculitis. Just like scalp psoriasis, the beard variety is autoimmune in nature, which means your white blood cells attack your hair follicles. Its symptoms include itching, inflammation, tenderness, thickened red plaques, and silver-white flaking. 

Eczema is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors and can manifest anywhere on your skin, including your beard area [9]. It manifests with dry, cracked skin (which may occasionally bleed), itching, tenderness and small, red bumps or lesions which may be oozing or crusting.

Beard folliculitis is often caused by a bacterial infection. It manifests with small red bumps or pustules around your hair roots and localised pain, tenderness and itchiness. There is also a different condition with similar symptoms, called pseudofolliculitis, which is not produced by an infection but by skin irritation from repeated shaving or ingrown hairs [10].  

While it may be challenging for you to make the difference between a beard fungus and a different type of skin problem in your facial hair area, a dermatologist or hair doctor should be able to do so easily. So do not hesitate to contact one whenever you’re in doubt.

Beard hair loss

Other potential causes for beard hair loss

If you are struggling with a patchy beard and have trouble curbing its shedding, it may be caused by other, more common conditions than fungal infections. The most frequently encountered are:

  • Alopecia barbae – This form of alopecia areata that affects the beard causes circular bald patches in your facial hair. It is autoimmune in nature and may come and go, causing repeated flare-ups followed by beard regrowth, usually within a year. Steroid creams or intralesional steroid injections can often help relieve symptoms. 
  • Genes and hormones – While male hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) can accentuate male pattern baldness, they can actually help you grow a fuller beard. A sudden drop in androgen levels combined with a lower genetic sensitivity to these male hormones can lead to beard hair loss.  
  • StressAnxiety and stress can cause hair loss from your head as well as your beard. That is because they can trigger a condition called telogen effluvium. This causes excessive, temporary hair loss, which normally lasts for 3-6 months. 
  • Beard traction alopecia – Tension from tying your beard tightly for prolonged periods of time can damage its hair follicles, leaving you with a patchy beard. Normally, this condition resolves on its own once you stop pulling on your facial hair. However, in some advanced cases, a beard transplant may be needed to fix your beard bald spots. 
Man concerned about beard hair loss

Are you concerned about beard hair loss?

If you have noticed increased beard shedding, it is best to see one of our highly skilled beard hair specialists. That is because they are the most qualified to diagnose the cause of your hair loss – be it fungal or otherwise – and recommend the most effective treatment. 

Some types of alopecia that affect the beard can be treated with specific medication, such as Minoxidil, steroid creams or antifungal substances. However, more advanced facial hair loss may require a beard transplant, especially if it is caused by scarring. 

If your trichologist recommends surgical beard restoration, there’s no need to worry, as beard transplants look natural, and they are fast, simple, painless procedures. And the best part is that they can solve your sparse, patchy beard problems forever. That is because just like a hair transplant is permanent, you can enjoy a surgically restored beard forever.

The perfecting of the FUE technique, which leaves no scarring, has led to a rise in the popularity of beard transplant surgery in the past few years. And the best hair transplant clinics have almost perfect success rates for this procedure.

So, if you are interested in what a beard restoration surgery can do for you, book a consultation today. You will have the entire process explained to you in personalised detail by some of the best hair transplant surgeons in the UK.

Could You Have a Beard Hair Loss Fungus? And Which One?, Wimpole Clinic

Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)Updated on May 24, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

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