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Best cream for fungal infections: The best antifungal creams to clear itchy skin infections, from £4.20

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Blitz the itch of fungal skin infections before they spread around your body or to others. We reveal the best antifungal creams to help

The best creams for fungal infections are versatile medicines, quickly able to clear up everything from athlete’s foot to ringworm, thrush and even dandruff. But different conditions respond best to different medications, so in this article we’ll help you choose the best antifungal creams for you. You won’t need a prescription or even a trip to the chemist to buy any of them.

Fungal infections may sound gross, but they’re incredibly common. Microscopic fungi, including various types of yeast, live all over your body. Most of the time, these fungi don’t cause any problems, but sometimes a fungus will change and cause an infection. Left untreated, these infections spread easily, so treat them with creams before they get a chance to do more damage.

Skip down the page to discover our recommended best antifungal creams for different fungal and yeast infections. To find out more about these infections, read on.

Best cream for fungal infections: At a glance

  • Best to clear up fungal infections fast: Lamisil AT Cream | Buy now
  • Best for painful skin infections: Daktacort Hydrocortisone Cream | Buy now
  • Best once-a-day cream for thick skin: Canesten Bifonazole | Buy now
  • Best to stop fungal dandruff for good: Daktarin Intensive Cream | Buy now
  • Best-value cream for nappy rash and kids: Clotrimazole 1% Cream | Buy now

How to choose the best cream for fungal infections

What causes fungal infections?

Anything that disrupts your body’s natural balance of fungi and yeast can result in a fungal infection. Stress, illness and antibiotics, for example. You can also catch fungal infections easily through contact with other people, or from infected surfaces (sharing a towel, for example).

Fungal and yeast infections are different from bacterial infections. The good news is that they’re usually less dangerous than bacterial infections, and quicker and easier to treat with creams.

“Most people experience at least one fungal condition at some point in their lives,” says Hussain Abdeh, superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct. “Some people are at a greater risk of getting fungal infections than others, such as if you are taking antibiotics or if you have a weakened immune system. Diabetics are also more prone to them. Most of these conditions are not serious or a cause for concern, but they should be treated swiftly.”

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What are all the different fungal infections?

Different fungi, in different parts of the body, trigger fungal infections with different symptoms and different names. What they all have in common is that they can be treated using similar antifungal medicines, which we’ll list in a moment.

First, here’s a list of the most common fungal infections. How many have you had?

Ringworm (tinea corporis) is a round, red, itchy patch of skin that grows in rings (hence the colloquial name) as it develops. It’s most common on the chest and back. It’s highly contagious, but responds really well to most antifungal creams. Ringworm is most common in people under 20, whose immune systems are still developing.

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is suffered by one-third of the population at any one time, says the British Medical Journal. So there's a good chance that you, too, are battling itchiness, inflammation, cracked skin and nasty whiffs to your poor feet.

Jock itch is very similar to athlete’s foot, but it affects the groin area instead; women as well as men. The itchy, inflamed skin can take up to four weeks to clear. Since it’s so contagious, you’re advised to avoid sex until it’s cleared up.

Thrush is a candida yeast infection that affects the mucosal membranes inside the vagina and sometimes even the mouth. See our article on best thrush treatments.

Nappy rash can become infected by candida yeast, resulting in a fungal nappy rash. It’s best treated with a gentle antifungal such as Clotrimazole 1% cream.

Sweat rash (intertrigo) is also caused by candida yeast, this time in areas where the skin gets sweaty and rubs together, such as your armpits. It can be quite sore, so it’s worth treating with an antifungal treatment which also contains an anti-inflammatory pain-killer, such as Daktakort Hydrocortisone.

Pityriasis (tinea versicolor) creates itchy, scaly and discoloured patches of skin, usually on your back, chest, upper arms and neck. It’s caused by the malassezia yeast over-multiplying.

Dandruff is often caused by seborrhoeic dermatitis (aka cradle cap in babies), caused by malassezia yeast.

Fungal nail infections start in the skin beneath the toenails, the perfect breeding ground for out-of-control bodily fungi. See our article on best fungal nail treatments.

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What ingredients should I look for in creams for fungal infections?

Some antifungal ingredients, such as clotrimazole, are effective against all types of fungal and yeast infection. Others are best for targeting specific fungi and conditions. Here’s a quick summary.

Clotrimazole (such as Canesten Thrush Cream) is suitable for treating all kinds of fungal infection, including ringworm, genital thrush and nappy rash. “It works by killing the fungi that causes the problem, and can often clear infections within a couple of weeks,’ says Hussain. “It's important to complete the course, even if your symptoms have cleared up, otherwise the infection could come back.”

Ketoconazole (Daktarin Intensive Cream), bifonazole (Canesten Bifonazole Once Daily) and miconazole (Daktacort) are suitable for many external fungal and yeast skin infections, including athlete’s foot, jock itch, sweat rash and pityriasis. This family of antifungals is not suitable for ringworm or genital thrush.

Terbinafine (Lamisil) is a versatile antifungal medicine found in creams, sprays and gels for fungal infections including ringworm and jock itch.

Amorolfine is used to treat fungal nail infections. “It works by stopping ergosterol from being produced, which is a chemical fungus that causes nail infections,” says Hussain. “Using an amorolfine cream helps to kill the infection, and allows healthy nails to grow instead.”

READ NEXT: The best athlete’s foot treatment to buy

The best creams for fungal infections

1. Lamisil AT Cream: Best cream to clear up fungal infections fast

Price: £6 | Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy

Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal infection (the one people are most likely to admit having, anyway), and a picture of a foot is a bit more box-friendly than a picture of an itchy groin or a scabby back. So Lamisil, like many other all-purpose antifungal creams, sells itself as an athlete’s foot treatment. But its active ingredient, terbinafine, is one of the fastest-working medicines for controlling all kinds of fungal infections and soothing symptoms, including cracked skin and itching.

It’s a fast worker, too. Lamisil AT can clear up ringworm, jock itch and athlete’s foot in one to two weeks, with three or more weeks’ treatment needed for pityriasis. One 15g tube of cream is enough to combat most fungal outbreaks. You only need a tiny amount (which absorbs very fast, leaving your feet dry) twice a day. The box warns of possible burning and peeling side effects, but most verified buyers report that this doesn’t happen. Many say their feet felt much smoother after a course of Lamisil.

Lamisil is not a cream to use on your intimate bits and bobs. It’s safe to use on your upper thighs and buttocks to combat an attack of jock itch or sweat rash, and does feel lovely and cooling, but it’s not suitable for genital thrush.

Key specs – Size: 15g; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Terbinafine 1%

Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy


2. Daktacort Hydrocortisone Cream: Best cream for painful skin infections

Price: £5.49 | Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy

Fungal infections can be painful as well as annoying and unsightly. So Daktacort combines the antifungal ingredient miconazole with anti-inflammatory steroid hydrocortisone to quickly relieve itching and soreness. Buyers report that it soothes the itch of sweat rash and eczema “instantly”, and clears up skin inflammation within a week. But the steroid content means you shouldn’t let it near any delicate areas. And don’t use it to treat ringworm, which hydrocortisone can actually make worse.

Key specs – Size: 15g; Format: Cream; Active ingredients: Miconazole 20mg, hydrocortisone 10mg

Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy


3. Canesten Bifonazole Once Daily: Best once-a-day cream for thick infected skin

Price: £4.20 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re suffering dry, scabby skin that other creams just seem to sit on top of, this cream from Canesten may finally do the trick. Its antifungal ingredient, bifonazole, penetrates deep into your skin to attack the infection, so you only need to apply a thin layer once a day, rather than the standard twice a day of other creams. So it’s not one to go for if you enjoy the soothing sensation of rubbing cream into your skin, but it’s easier and less messy. It’s pretty fast, too, with buyers reporting that infections and symptoms start to clear up in a week to 10 days.

Key specs – Size: 20g; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Bifonazole 1%

4. Daktarin Intensiv Cream: Best cream to stop fungal dandruff and skin rashes for good

Price: £5.49 | Buy now from Chemist Direct

Daktarin takes a long-game approach to clearing up infections. Its 2% ketoconazole won’t work overnight or even over a week, but if you keep using this cream it will kill the fungi/yeast causing your infection and stop it coming back, so it’s ideal for a long-term condition such as pityriasis or fungal dandruff. Indeed, you can also get ketoconazole shampoos.

Ketoconazole is also a great itch-killer, so Daktarin is a good choice for treating athlete’s foot and jock itch. It’s not suitable for ringworm or thrush, though. And don’t expect fast results. Daktarin Intensiv clears up most fungal infections in about three weeks, or double that for a bad case of athlete’s foot.

Key specs – Size: 15ml; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Ketoconazole 2%

Buy now from Chemist Direct


5. Clotrimazole 1% Cream: Best value cream for nappy rash and children's skin infections

Price: £5.99 | Buy now from Chemist Direct

Canesten's thrush creams are 1%-2% clotrimazole (see our best thrush treatments article for recommendations), and this is the generic equivalent. Chemist Direct sells single and multiple packs of clotrimazole cream, whose 1% strength is strong enough to treat fungal infections effectively, but gentle enough to be safe for use on children, whose undeveloped immune systems make them particularly susceptible. So it’s ideal for fungal nappy rash and eczema. It’s also suitable for treating ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch, sweat rash, fungal dandruff and the external symptoms of thrush.

Clotrimazole is not powerful enough to treat fungal nail infections or to clear painful and inflamed pityriasis. And if you want fast results, opt for Lamisil. But this safe and soothing cream is a brilliant standby for the bathroom cabinet.

Key specs – Size: 50g; Format: Cream; Active ingredients: Clotrimazole 1%

Buy now from Chemist Direct


6. Canesten Dermatological Spray: Best for hard-to-reach skin rashes

Price: £7.99 | Buy now from Chemist Direct

Canesten's spray is a liquid solution containing 1% clotrimazole – the same as its basic thrush cream – that you can spray on using an easy atomiser. That makes for much easier application if you're battling with an attack of ringworm on your hairy chest, pityriasis across large areas of your back that you struggle to reach, or jock itch and athlete's foot in your less fragrant nooks and crannies. It also absorbs very well, leaving no white trace like a cream would. Being 1% clotrimazole, this antifungal spray won't endanger your intimate bits, but it is intended for external use only.

Key specs – Size: 40ml; Format: Liquid spray; Active ingredient: Clotrimazole 1%

Buy now from Chemist Direct


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