The key difference between pustules and whiteheads is that pustules are small bumps on the skin that contain fluid or pus, while whiteheads are small bumps on the skin that contain oil and dead skin cells.
Pustules and whiteheads are two different types of small bumps that appear on the skin. Pustules are red, inflamed bumps with white centers. On the other hand, whiteheads are closed comedones. A comedo is a pore that has become clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria. A comedo can be open (blackheads) or closed (whiteheads).
What are Pustules?
Pustules are bulging skin patches or bumps that are full of a yellowish fluid called pus. They are basically big pimples. The signs and symptoms of this condition may include small red bumps with white or yellowish centers that show up on areas of the body such as the face, neck, scalp, back, upper chest, buttocks, groin, arms, legs, hands, and feet, redness, swelling, pain and warmth in the affected area in the body. Several conditions can lead to pustule formation; for example, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, chicken pox, IgA pemphigus, and smallpox.
Pustules can be normally diagnosed through medical history, physical examination, dermoscopy, and biopsy of the lesions. Furthermore, pustules can be treated by gently washing the area with soap twice a day, applying an over-the-counter calamine lotion, cortisone cream, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide gel, antibiotic cream, lotion, or gel, oral antibiotic pills, antifungal cream, shampoo, or pill, steroid cream, prescribed azelaic or salicylic acid cream, and dapsone (aczone) gel.
What are Whiteheads?
Whiteheads are a type of acne. They are caused by the inflammation of hair follicles or sebaceous glands as a result of increased sebum, abnormal formation of keratin, and an increased presence of bacteria. The main characteristics of whiteheads may include white or yellowish bumps on the nose, chin, forehead, neck, back, chest, and upper arms, which may be slightly tender.
Whiteheads are normally diagnosed through physical examinations. Furthermore, whiteheads can be treated with non-prescription medications such as salicylic acid, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), prescription-strength retinoids, oral antibiotics, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser skin resurfacing.
What are the Similarities Between Pustules and Whiteheads?
- Pustules and whiteheads are two different types of small bumps that appear on the skin.
- Both bumps can be tender to the touch.
- They are diagnosed through physical examination.
What is the Difference Between Pustules and Whiteheads?
Pustules are small bumps on the skin containing fluid or pus, while whiteheads are small bumps on the skin containing oil and dead skin cells. Thus, this is the key difference between pustules and whiteheads. Furthermore, pustules can be contagious, whereas whiteheads are not contagious.
The infographic below presents the differences between pustules and whiteheads in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Pustules vs. Whiteheads
Acne vulgaris is the medical term that refers to the presence of acne on the skin. There are different types of acne, such as pustules, whiteheads, blackheads, papules, nodules, and cysts. The most common spots for these acnes are the face, chest, shoulders, and back. Pustules and whiteheads are two types of small bumps on the skin. However, pustules are inflamed bumps that appear as red bumps with white centers, while whiteheads are bumps of enlarged hair follicles clogged with skin oils, cells, and bacteria. So, this summarizes the difference between pustules and whiteheads.
1. Kahn, April. “What Causes Pustules?” Healthline, Healthline Media.
2. “Whiteheads: What They Are, Causes, Treatment & Prevention.” Cleveland Clinic.
1. “Fold out Illustration of arm with smallpox pustules Wellcome L0049566” By Welcome Image Gallery (CC-BY-4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “OSC Microbio 21 02 acne” By CNX OpenStax – (CC BY 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia