Fungal Acne Vs Closed Comedones: Are They Different?

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Everyone dreams of having healthy and clear skin. 

However, one of many people’s main struggles today is maintaining acne-free and healthy skin.

Having acne continues to be one of the worst nightmares everyone doesn’t want to experience. 

But did you know that not all acne is the same? In fact, there are different types that could be on your face now! 

A close-up image of a girl's jaw full of acne

Among these several types are fungal acne and closed comedones, which are totally different. 

Now, you might ask yourself: “Do I have closed comedones or fungal acne?”

To help you distinguish, we will delve deeper into closed comedones vs fungal acne — their differences, causes, symptoms, and available treatment options. 

What Is Fungal Acne?

If you try to look and compare closed comedones vs fungal acne, you probably won’t observe a lot of difference, especially if you have untrained eyes. 

Sure, both may feel and appear nearly identical. However, what makes them different is the cause and source of these skin conditions.

So what really is fungal acne?

To set things straight: fungal acne is not really acne. Instead, it is a type of folliculitis known scientifically as Pityrosporum folliculitis

Folliculitis means “inflammation of hair follicles,” which makes it appear like acne. This happens when the follicle is blocked or when the hair follicles are damaged. 

Your face has tiny hairs, each growing from a hair follicle. Once a single hair follicle gets infected, it will develop a tiny bump.

In fungal acne, the infection starts when Malassezia folliculitis — a naturally occurring yeast on the skin — rapidly reproduces.

Fungal acne usually appears uniform, which makes them different from comedonal acne.

This can develop anywhere on your body parts with hair. However, this skin condition can be seen frequently on the face, scalp, and upper body. 

Moreover, since the cause of fungal acne differs from comedonal acne, it will not respond well to typical acne treatments.

Symptoms of Fungal Acne

To help you determine whether you have fungal acne, here’s a summary of its symptoms that you need to look out for:

  • Acne that typical acne medication can’t treat
  • Can be spread from one spot to another
  • Clusters of what looks like small whiteheads 
  • Irritated hair follicle
  • Redness
  • Sometimes a stinging sensation
  • Spots on the sides of your face, chin, and forehead
  • Spots on your arms, neck, back, and chest
  • Tiny pus-filled bumps
  • Very itchy skin
a close-up image of a fungal acne on cheeks

How to Treat Fungal Acne?

Fungal acne is a skin condition that can last long, especially if misdiagnosed as acne. 

To avoid misdiagnosing fungal acne and to avoid its possible long-term effects, it’s best to consult a certified dermatologist and have your skin diagnosed and medically treated.

If you’re sure you have fungal acne, you must target treating the yeast infection with antifungal creams, ointments, or medication prescribed by your dermatologist. 

Take note that antibiotics won’t work for fungal acne.

This is one of the indicators that help doctors recognize the main cause of your skin issue. To verify the yeast infection, they might consider swabbing your skin.

Aside from that, dermatologists recommend everyone to regularly practice hygiene to help nourish and condition the skin and to discourage fungus from thriving.

Some of these tips include the following:

  • Always use loose clothing.
  • Apply medication along the direction of your hair’s growth.
  • Change sweaty exercise clothing right after any activity.
  • Take a bath after working out.

If you have fungal acne, make sure not to pop the tiny pus-filled bumps that may ooze or bleed. Otherwise, it could cause large bump formations in a short span.

Moreover, the fungal infection can spread through hair follicles from one spot to another, making it worse. 

If this happens, contact your dermatologist right away. 

What Are Closed Comedones?

Closed comedones are commonly recognized as whiteheads. 

Closed comedones are developed once excess oils and dead skin cells block the hair follicle where the hair grows from. Once the follicle is filled, it starts to create a bump on your skin. 

If you have closed comedones, you don’t have to worry since they’re the usual acne that most people are used to. 

Unlike fungal acne, closed comedones don’t have redness, swelling, or pus. They are also non-inflammatory and painless, although this does not mean that you should care less about them.

Symptoms of Closed Comedones

Here are some of the symptoms of closed comedones:

  • Can happen anywhere on the skin
  • Look like small bumps across the skin’s surface
  • Usually pops up on the face, neck, chest, and back
  • Don’t hurt
  • Are not red and inflamed, unlike your typical pimple
a guy pinching his using two fingers to better see the comedones

How to Treat Closed Comedones

It can be frustrating to have closed comedones on your skin. Thankfully, you can actually treat them!

If you see these mild bumps on your skin that look like closed comedones, you can start with over-the-counter (OTC) acne treatment products. 

OTC Treatments

Glycolic and salicylic acid are some of the best OTC ingredients that help expedite dead skin cell shedding. Plus, these acids help prevent clogging your pores. 

Reminder: OTC products don’t offer instant effects. So you need to be patient with the process. 

Develop a skincare routine with these and religiously apply them for at least two months. From then on, you might be able to observe some improvements in your skin. 

If you think it works, keep using such products until your skin is cleared and healthy. 

Prescription Medications

You may want to see your trusted skin doctor to get prescription medication if you’ve been struggling with closed comedones for a long time.

In this case, most dermatologists would recommend you try topical retinoids first. Usually, a prescription medication for acne includes the following:

  • Differin
  • Retin-A
  • Retin-A Micro
  • Clascoterone
  • Isotretinoin
  • Tazorac

These topical retinoids help clear out present pore blockages and prevent new ones from developing. Moreover, they offer additional skin softening and smoothing benefits. 

Aside from retinoids, your doctor might suggest other acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid

Sometimes, dermatologists also prescribe oral contraceptives for women along with prescribed topical treatments to help prevent closed comedones from emerging on the skin. 

Closed Comedones vs Fungal Acne: What Is the Difference?

Now that we have discussed clogged pores or closed comedones vs fungal acne, here are some of the aspects that make them different from each other: 

Causes

When comparing fungal acne vs closed comedones, the top difference that comes to mind is the cause or trigger. 

An overgrowth of yeast causes fungal acne. Meanwhile, closed comedones develop because of the combination of oil, bacteria, dead skin, and dirt that clogs pores.

Symptoms

Are you unsure whether you have the signs of closed comedones vs fungal acne? If so, here’s a quick summary of the symptoms that you may experience:

Fungal AcneClosed Comedones
  • Uniform in sizeItchy
  • Appears in clusters
  • Pus-filled
  • Can vary in size
  • Does not itch
  • Spread out
  • Red or flesh-colored

Treatment Approach

Since the causes and signs of fungal acne vs comedonal acne are totally different from each other, so are their treatments. 

If you mistake Pityrosporum folliculitis for comedonal acne and continue using regular acne treatments, you might be wasting your effort, time, and money on that. 

Comedonal acne can be treated successfully with topical retinoids and drying agents like glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid.

For more severe cases like comedonal acne with inflammatory lesions, hormonal treatments or systemic antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor. 

On the contrary, fungal acne should be treated with antifungal medications. 

Your dermatologist can give you a topical antifungal medication for mild cases or an oral antifungal treatment if your skin does not respond to topical solutions or if your skin condition is more severe. 

Importance of Understanding Fungal Acne vs Closed Comedones

If you’re experiencing severe acne breakouts, you probably won’t ask what caused it. Instead, all you want is to focus on getting rid of them! 

But did you know that you cannot just get rid of any skin problem if you don’t know what caused it?

Knowing the main cause of your acne is crucial since not all acne types respond to similar treatments. If one treatment works on a particular skin concern, it does not mean it also works on other skin conditions. 

Without fully understanding your skin condition, you’ll end up wasting your time, money, effort, and patience.

Once you figure out which skin problem you have, you can choose the best treatment to help you achieve clear and beautiful skin in no time!

a close-up image of a girl applying salicylic acid serum on her fungal acne

Frequently Asked Questions on Fungal acne vs Closed Comedones

Are closed comedones fungal acne?

No, closed comedones and fungal acne are different. 

Fungal acne is caused by fungus in your hair follicles, while the accumulation of sebum and dead skin cells in the pores causes closed comedones.

Hence, fungal acne should be treated with antifungal medications, while closed comedones can be treated with prescription and OTC acne medications. 

However, to avoid misdiagnosing your skin condition, professional help from a certified dermatologist is the best option. This way, your skin will be properly evaluated and will get the most effective treatments. 

Can you squeeze out fungal acne?

Absolutely not! In fact, squeezing out fungal acne will spread the fungal infection to other follicles, making your acne worse. 

If you really want to treat your fungal acne, a skin assessment and treatment recommendation from your doctor can help.

How to prevent acne?

“Prevention is always better than cure.” This adage is particularly true when it comes to acne. 

While treatment can effectively minimize acne, they are likely to return if you do not commit to necessary preventive measures. 

Here are some of the simple yet impactful things you can do that can significantly minimize the chances of dealing with pesky pimples and developing fungal acne or closed comedones:

  • Cleanse regularly.
  • Drink plenty of water. 
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Look for non-comedogenic and oil-free products.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Use the right moisturizer for your skin type.

Fungal Acne vs Closed Comedones: Learning the Difference

Fungal acne and closed comedones are two different skin conditions that occur on the skin due to various causes. 

As covered in this article, fungal acne is a fungal infection of the hair follicle, which is not considered acne. On the other hand, closed comedones show up because of a combination of bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells. 

Fortunately, both skin conditions are easily treated with either over-the-counter remedies or by seeing a dermatologist.

If you observe bumps on your face, it can be difficult to tell which skin condition you might have. However, it would be best to distinguish it as soon as possible or consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

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Author

  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

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