Difference between Acne and Boils

Key Difference: Acne is the disorder of the skin that is caused by oil and/or debris clogged pore. It is characterized by a presence of pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. A boil occurs due to an infected hair follicle. The infection is usually caused by the bacteria known as Staphylococcus.

Acne and boils are both related to skin problems and thus, can cause severe damage if extreme cases are not treated on time. Most of the people confused between boils and pimples. Pimples are a common form of acne. Pimples and boils both are raised from skin and are of a reddish color. Inspite of this similarity, they both are totally different to each other. Few similarities may include appearance and other small little things. 

Acne is also known by the name of Acne Vulgaris, it is a skin disease/condition that occurs especially during the age of puberty. Generally, during puberty, the glands in the skin tend to produce excessive amount of oil. The oily substance that is produced by the gland is also referred to as sebum. This sebum blocks the pores or hair follicles. Due to this blockage, blackheads and whiteheads are formed. Then the bacteria that lives on the skin, infects the blocked follicle and causes the formation of lesions called as pimples, nodules or cysts. All these lesions are characteristics of acne, they generally appear on the face, but they could also be found on the neck, chest, back, shoulders and arms. Acne can take forms of following types:-

Whiteheads: - these are closed plugged oil glands.

Blackheads: - these are open plugged oil glands. (The black color is due to the oil’s exposure to air, turning it black colored)

Pimples: - can be referred to as red, inflamed and infected plugged oil glands; and can also be sometimes filled with pus.

Cysts and nodules are the most painful and most difficult type of acne, in which deeper layers of the skin are also affected. Acne can be caused or exacerbated by the following:-

Hormonal changes

Oily cosmetics

Excessive sweating

Certain prescription medications

One can avoid acne by keeping oil and dirt away from the skin pores. Skin specialists suggest certain soaps and lotions that should or should not be used on an affected skin. ‘Benzoyl Peroxide’ is often suggested for the initial treatment, and is directly applied on the effected area. Some antibiotic medication may also be advised. The best way is to show it to a skin specialist or a dermatologist, who can provide the treatment according to the severity of acne.

A boil or a furuncle can be defined as a skin outbreak in the form of a swollen bump. A cluster of boils is known as a carbuncle. It generally appears like a pimple. However, it is larger than a pimple. They are mainly caused due to a bacterial infection that happens due to infected hair follicles. A pocket of pus is developed and this is referred to as a boil.

They usually occur in the portions of skin containing hair. They are commonly found in the face, neck, armpits, breasts, groin and buttocks. They initially grow as red lumps which are quite tender. Later as they get filled with the pus, they finally grow till they burst. Bacteria known as staph bacteria generally live on the skin and inside of the nose and throat. A healthy person’s immune systems keep these bacteria under control. However, sometimes the bacteria enter into a hair follicle.

The immune system responds by sending white blood cells. These cells are sent to destroy the bacteria. This process results into the formation of pus: a combination of dead bacteria, dead white blood cells and dead skin. In addition to this, any break in the skin, such as a cut or scrape, can also be responsible for the boils. When the pus reaches to the top of a boil, it needs to be drained out. Sometimes, it happens naturally and sometimes a surgical method is applied to get rid of it.

There are several types of boils like:- carbuncle, cystic acne, hidradenitis suppurativa (seen in the armpit or groin), pilonidal cyst and sty. Cystic acne affects deeper skin tissue than common acne, and is caused due to clogged and infected oil ducts.

A person with a weak immune system is more prone to boils. People suffering from boils must not share their towels and washcloths with other people, as it may spread. An infected person is advised to wash the area at least twice a day. A warm and wet cloth can also be placed on the boils for atleast 20 to 30 minutes. This may help the boil to open and drain.

The symptoms of boils include a red lump that is filled with pus, tenderness and pain, occasionally fever and sometimes blood poisoning, in case of severe boils. Therefore, we can relate both by saying that boils can be compared to severe cases of acne. Some of the differences are listed below in the table:-





Acne is a disease of the skin that occurs due to excessive oil clogging in the pores of skin and is characterized by presence of pimples, blackheads and whiteheads.

Boil is a skin outbreak in the form of a swollen bump that is caused due to an infected hair follicle.

Prone areas of the skin

Face, neck, chest, back, shoulders and arms.

Face, neck, armpits, breasts, groin and buttocks

Develops in

Generally teenagers

Any age


Surface of the skin

Deeper parts of the skin


P. acnes



Includes Keratolytics (sulphur based treatment), antibiotics and antibacterials (Benzoyl Peroxide), Azelaic acid preparation, Topical antiseptic washes, Harmonal Treatment, Retinoids, etc.

May heal on their own, warm compresses on boils, surgery to drain deep or large boils, over the counter medicines like terrasil, bacitracin and STAPH for mild boils.


Include crusting of skin bumps, a sac, pus filled under the skin tissue of about 5mm in diameter – very painful, Papules (small red bumps), Pustules, Redness around the skin eruptions, Scarring of the skin, Whiteheads and Blackheads.

Initially a hard, red, painful swelling usually less than 4 cm in size. Later, the swelling becomes softer, larger and more painful. Then, a pocket of pus is formed on top of the boil, a raised temperature; Nearby lymph nodes (glands) may become swollen.

Taking care of the skin

Keep the skin clean, do not squeeze, pinch or pick the pimples; shave carefully, avoid too much exposure to sun, choose oil free make-up

Keep the skin clean, do not prick or squeeze, apply a warm facecloth to boil for ten minutes (repeat it thrice or four times a day)

Image Courtesy: liveacolourfullife.wordpress.com, primehealthchannel.com

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