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Fungal Acne vs. Closed Comedones: How to Tell Them Apart

Fungal Acne vs Closed Comedones

You wake up in the morning and wash your face.

Like most women, you notice red bumps on your skin when looking at the mirror. You begin asking yourself, are these acne scars

It’s hard to see the difference between fungal acne and comedones.  We’ll help you identify these questions.

  • What exactly are these red bumps?
  • How can you treat them properly?
Table of Contents

Let's Spot the Differences

Fungal Acne

Fungal Acne

It’s worth noting that fungal acne is not actual acne.  It’s a yeast overgrowth or fungal infection called Malassezia folliculitis and Pityrosporum folliculitis.

Malassezia folliculitis or Pityrosporum folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles. These yeasts can grow in hair follicles, thus leading to INFLAMMATION that we know as fungal acne. 

Malassezia folliculitis (known as Pityrosporum folliculitis) grows in warm, humid climates. An ingredient like Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate can also aggravate fungal acne.

Malassezia folliculitis enjoys an environment where sweat and sebum are present. These serve as the perfect 1-2 punch for fungal acne!

Are These Pimples?

Fungal acne can be tricky to spot because it appears to look like regular acne.  Sometimes it comes as a combination of acne and nodules.

It can be quite confusing for the untrained eye, but here are some clues to look out for:

  • It is very itchy. Much more itchy than regular acne because it irritates the hair follicles.
  • It’s seen as small clusters of acne that all look the same and similar in size. 
  • It is common in the extra oily body parts like your chest, back, and T-zone area.

How You Got It

There’s a lot of bacteria and fungi living in most people’s bodies. Combine these with unbalanced pH levels, you’re bound to have reactions.

Most of the time, fungal acne is harmless.  Sometimes, these skin conditions manifest in different ways. 

Fungal acne is bothersome during the summer months, but it can also appear on your skin ANY TIME OF THE YEAR.

Common triggers for fungal acne:

  • Living in warm, moist environments
  • Trapped moisture
  • Wearing tight-fitting clothes
  • Unhealthy diet

Closed Comedones


This type of acne is common during the preteen and teen years. Yet, it can occur at every age, including adulthood.  

Women typically go for facial treatments to get rid of it.

Comedonal acne is what is commonly called whiteheads and blackheads.  It happens when sebum and dead skin cells block hair follicles.  

They appear mostly on the forehead, chin, and cheeks.

Comedonal acne is different from inflammatory acne or pimples. Comedonal acne is never itchy or painful. 


These are comedonal acne filled with pus inside clogged pores. They are also called closed acne because they have a layer of skin over them. 

Comedonal acne are NOT PAINFUL when popped since they’re not infected. Usually, these appear on your cheeks or on your nose.


Blackheads are open comedones that become clogged pores.

The “black” part is MELANIN, NOT DIRT

This type of comedonal acne occurs when clogged pores become oxidized from exposure to air and then darken in the open comedones. 

Some Causes of Comedonal Acne:

  • Puberty or hormonal imbalance can put your oil glands into overdrive. 
  • Hereditary. If a family member had acne, you’d most likely have it too.
  • Follicle injury from popping or picking on pimples.
  • Skincare products and not washing well lead to dead skin cells buildup.
  • A poor diet consisting of high carbs, sugars, dairy, and fats.
  • Smoking. It is more common in smokers than in non-smokers.

Having comedonal acne DOESN’T MEAN you’ll get a pimple. Zits happen only when you pop nodules. 

When this happens, you should get it treated to AVOID getting more acne breakouts.

You only need acne treatment when you have inflammatory acne. Home treatment for inflammatory acne includes the following

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tea tree oil
  • Aloe vera
  • Witch hazel

Regular acne treatments take months at a time. Seek professional medical advice if acne doesn’t respond to treatments.

Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor can prescribe a combination of treatments.

Comedonal acne is usually treated with retinoids/salicylic acid while Benzoyl Peroxide or antibiotics are the best treatment for pustular acne.

Acne Prevention is Better Than Treatment

You can’t treat fungal acne and comedonal acne completely. These types of acne are stubborn. They tend to come back even with over-the-counter acne treatments.

These types of regular acne clear up with acne treatment. Be wary though, because they can still reappear when the skin conditions are right.

The good news is that there are simple treatments for this. Yes, you can still learn how to get rid of those red spots on your face

Fungal acne is especially treatable. So, don’t lose hope!

How to Reduce Both Fungal Acne and Comedonal Acne:

How to Reduce Both Fungal Acne and Comedonal Acne-
  1. Wear clothes with breathable fabric. It allows airflow, which prevents having a warm, moist environment for fungus to grow.
  2. Wash your workout clothes before wearing them again. You don’t want to have a full-grown fungus community living in your gym clothes.
  3. Wash bed sheets and pillows regularly. You don’t want to sleep with bacteria on your linen.
  4. Shower after a sweaty day. No matter how busy you are, take a shower after a workout or an outdoor activity. Wash away the sweat from your body. A shower helps prevent overgrowth issues.
  5. Don’t wash too much. Washing your face more than twice daily can cause irritation and start red bumps. You’re vulnerable to fungal infection and increase the risk of having a pimple. Make sure to wash with warm water to unclog your pores.
  6. Use non-comedogenic skin products. Choose products designed to prevent or stop blockage. Make sure it is non-comedogenic.
  7. Balance your skin pH level with skincare ingredients like glycolic acid.
  8. Eat a well-balanced diet. Yeast thrives on carbohydrates and a sugary diet. Stick to fruits and vegetables to discourage overgrowth. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce inflammation. You can find this in fish, beans, kale, grass-fed beef, and nuts.


Fungal Acne. Comedonal Acne. Inflammatory Acne.

Well, they all look like acne.

You can get a combination of fungal acne, comedonal acne, and inflammatory acne all at the same time. And you won’t be able to tell the difference. 

To the untrained eye, both comedonal acne and fungal acne tend to look the same in appearance. 

The difference is that fungal acne IS ITCHY and is commonly found in small clusters, while comedonal acne, also known as blackheads and whiteheads, is NEVER ITCHY. 

Final Words

Final Words

Suppose you’ve been wearing facemasks a lot. The constant moisture from your breath, the humidity, and sweat are all acne magnets.

All these kinds of acne (comedonal acne and fungal acne) can be reduced or treated. Wear clean, breathable clothes, use non-comedogenic products, and have a healthy diet.

Having a consistent treatment of cleanliness helps keep your skin texture preventable from any type of acne.


August 18, 2021 – Updated article formatting and content

July 15, 2021 – Reviewed and updated articles links

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.