If the idea of foot fungus makes your skin crawl, you aren’t alone. However, you may need to start getting used to the idea, because recent research has revealed that there are trillions of fungal microbiota living on your skin right now. And they have called it “home” since the day you were born. In fact, researchers estimate that your skin contains over 100 trillion microbes, including fungi, bacteria, and yeast.1
Skin fungus is actually very healthy, despite how distasteful it sounds. And you need every one of those 100 trillion microbes in order to maintain healthy skin. However, not all fungi are created equal.
Getting to Know Your Skin’s Microbiome
The trillions of living microbiota have a name. Scientists called it the “microbiome,” which sounds a little like science fiction, but it is quite real. Those crawling critters are living (and dying) on your face, hands, legs, and your feet. But some of them are not very friendly. You see, within the trillions of fungi, there are many different strains. Some of them, if left on their own, can overgrow, leading to large populations of potentially harmful fungi.
Among these fungi are “friendly” types, including Demodex brevis, and some “unfriendly” types that can potentially become harmful, like Staphylococcus epidermidis. While all of the different species are needed, the “unfriendly” types can easily become pathogenic in specific situations, including low immunity or bacterial overgrowth.
How to Get Rid of Skin Fungus
Those creeping fungi can take over your healthy skin, but never fear. These types of infections are common, and easy to eliminate at home.
Just try these seven ways to get rid of skin fungus:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Able to kill off all types of microbiota, including bacteria, yeasts and fungi, ACV is a unique type of vinegar containing what’s known as “Mother of Vinegar.” That cloudy film at the bottom of the bottle is the “Mother,” and it contains all of the good stuff needed to get rid of skin fungus. Apply small amounts of apple cider vinegar to your skin with a cotton swab to kill off fungi. But remember to always dilute the solution with water, to avoid stinging from the acidity.
2. Coconut Oil
This nutrient-rich oil is a good source of saturated fat, but it also possesses natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. Due to it’s content of healthy fats, and antimicrobial actions, coconut oil makes an ideal cosmetic oil for getting rid of skin fungus. To use coconut oil for healthy skin, apply a small amount to a cotton swab and apply it directly to affected areas.2
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Microscopic fungi hides in the fine lines and tiny pores of your skin. There, it thrives in moisture, spreading to other areas. This can be problematic for oily skin types. The foaming bubbles of hydrogen peroxide get deep into those small areas, stopping fungal infections and helping to dry out the skin of excess moisture. Apply hydrogen peroxide to get rid of skin fungus as a face wash, or blot onto affected areas with a cotton swab.
4. Essential Oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated substances that provide naturally occurring antifungal properties. The most effective and popular home remedies include tea tree oil, lavender, oregano oil, and garlic oil.3-6
Note: Always dilute essential oils into a skin-friendly carrier oil like jojoba, to avoid any damage from these highly potent oils.
5. OTC Medications
If you are in a pinch, head to your local pharmacy and pick up an over-the-counter, (OTC) anti-fungal medication that can be applied topically to the skin. There are many different types, inducing creams, gels, and powders, but the active ingredient may vary from product to product. They include miconazole nitrate, clotrimazole, and repara.
Note: Do not put these medications on the face or around the delicate eye area, as they can cause damage or irritation to sensitive skin and mucous membranes.
6. Baking Soda
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a household cleaning agent that also works to kill microscopic bacteria, mold, yeast, and fungi on your body. So, go ahead: take that baking soda out of the fridge and use it to help you get rid of skin fungus. Just add water to create a baking soda paste that you can apply all over the face and body.7
7. Topical Probiotics
Probiotics are the “friendly” strains of microbacteria that are also found in your skin. By applying them topically, studies suggest that probiotics may help to reduce the severity of skin problems.8
Skin fungus can be bothersome and highly contagious. It’s also not unusual for someone to not know they have it. If do know you are dealing with a fungal skin infection, avoid spreading it around your home and on your skin by killing it off with these seven tips. Be vigilant: Fungal infections are notoriously stubborn. Fight back hard against funky fungi!
Looking for more foot care tips? Keep reading:
1. Gary B. Huffnagle, Mairi C. Noverr. The emerging world of the fungal microbiome. Trends Microbiol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 Jul 1.
2. Lindsey K. Elmore. Treatment of Dermal Infections With Topical Coconut Oil. A review of efficacy and safety of Cocos nucifera L. in treating skin infections.
3. C. F. Carson, K. A. Hammer. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Rview of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Jan; 19(1): 50–62.
4. Society for General Microbiology. Lavender oil has potent antifungal effect.
5. Marlete Brum Cleff, Ana Raquel Meinerz.In vitro activity of origanum vulgare essential oil against candida species. Braz J Microbiol. 2010 Jan-Mar; 41(1): 116–123.
6. Pai ST, Platt MW. Antifungal effects of Allium sativum (garlic) extract against the Aspergillus species involved in otomycosis. Lett Appl Microbiol. 1995 Jan;20(1):14-8.
7. Letscher-Bru V, Obszynski CM. Antifungal activity of sodium bicarbonate against fungal agents causing superficial infections. Mycopathologia. 2013 Feb;175(1-2):153-8.
8. Could probiotics be the next big thing in acne and rosacea treatments. American Academy of Dermatology. 30 January 2014