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Folliculitis vs. Herpes — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on October 12, 2023
Folliculitis is inflammation of hair follicles, often from bacterial infection, while Herpes is a viral infection causing sores on the mouth or genitals.
Folliculitis vs. Herpes — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Folliculitis and Herpes


Key Differences

Folliculitis is characterized by the inflammation of one or more hair follicles, typically appearing as small red bumps or white-headed pimples around hair follicles. Herpes, on the other hand, is a viral infection that manifests as painful blisters or ulcers.
While Folliculitis is often caused by bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus, or fungal infections, Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which comes in two types: HSV-1 (oral herpes) and HSV-2 (genital herpes).
Folliculitis can occur anywhere on the body where hair is present, including the scalp, thighs, and armpits. Herpes sores typically occur in the mouth region (cold sores) or the genital area, depending on the type of virus.
Treatment for Folliculitis typically involves antibiotics or antifungal medications to combat the infection. Herpes, being a viral condition, requires antiviral medications and cannot be cured, only managed.
Both Folliculitis and Herpes can recur, but their triggers and manifestations are distinct. Folliculitis can result from friction, tight clothing, or blocked hair follicles, while Herpes outbreaks can be triggered by stress, illness, or sun exposure.

Comparison Chart


Inflammatory condition
Viral infection


Bacteria, fungi
Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 or HSV-2)


Red bumps or white-headed pimples
Painful blisters or ulcers

Common Areas of Occurrence

Anywhere with hair (e.g., scalp, thighs, armpits)
Mouth (cold sores) or genitals


Antibiotics or antifungal medications
Antiviral medications

Compare with Definitions


Inflammation of hair follicles due to infection.
The rash on her leg was diagnosed as Folliculitis.


Caused by the herpes simplex virus, either HSV-1 or HSV-2.
She was diagnosed with HSV-2, a type of Herpes affecting the genital area.


A skin condition manifesting as small red or white bumps.
Shaving improperly can sometimes lead to Folliculitis.


An incurable but manageable condition with antiviral medications.
While Herpes outbreaks can be painful, antiviral medications help in managing the symptoms.


Can be a result of friction, blocked follicles, or in-grown hairs.
Wearing tight jeans can sometimes cause Folliculitis on the thighs.


Can be transmitted through direct contact with a sore or body fluid of an infected person.
Herpes can be spread even when no symptoms are present.


Often caused by bacterial or fungal infections.
The doctor prescribed an antibiotic cream for her Folliculitis.


Outbreaks may recur and can be triggered by various factors.
Stress and sunburn can sometimes trigger a Herpes outbreak.


Typically treated with topical or oral medications.
He used a prescribed ointment for his Folliculitis, and it cleared up in a week.


A viral infection causing blisters or ulcers.
Cold sores around the mouth are a manifestation of Herpes.


Folliculitis is the infection and inflammation of one or more hair follicles. The condition may occur anywhere on hair-covered skin.


Any of several viral infections marked by the eruption of small vesicles on the skin or mucous membranes, especially herpes simplex.


Inflammation of a follicle, especially of a hair follicle.


(medicine) A viral infection, caused by Human alphaherpesvirus 1 and Human alphaherpesvirus 2, marked by painful, watery blisters in the skin or mucous membranes or on the genitals.


(medicine) Inflammation of one or more hair follicles.


An eruption of the skin, taking various names, according to its form, or the part affected, caused by a herpesvirus infection; especially, an eruption of vesicles in small distinct clusters, accompanied with itching or tingling, including shingles, ringworm, and the like; - so called from its tendency to creep or spread from one part of the skin to another.


Inflammation of a hair follicle


Viral diseases causing eruptions of the skin or mucous membrane


Any of the animal viruses that cause painful blisters on the skin

Common Curiosities

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a viral infection causing sores, typically on the mouth or genitals, due to the herpes simplex virus.

What is Folliculitis?

Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles, typically due to bacterial or fungal infections.

Can Folliculitis spread to other parts of the body?

Yes, especially if scratched or left untreated, bacteria can spread.

Is there a cure for Herpes?

No, but its symptoms can be managed with antiviral medications.

How many types of Herpes are there?

Primarily two: HSV-1 (oral herpes) and HSV-2 (genital herpes).

How long does a Herpes outbreak last?

Typically, 2 to 4 weeks, but antiviral meds can shorten this duration.

Is Herpes contagious?

Yes, Herpes is highly contagious and can be spread even without visible sores.

What causes Folliculitis?

Common causes include bacterial infections, fungal infections, friction, and blocked hair follicles.

Can you get Herpes from kissing?

Yes, if one person has an oral herpes outbreak, it can be transmitted.

Do antibiotics treat both Folliculitis and Herpes?

Antibiotics treat bacterial Folliculitis, but Herpes, being viral, requires antiviral medications.

How can Folliculitis be prevented?

Good hygiene, avoiding tight clothing, and proper shaving techniques can help.

Can Folliculitis be caused by viruses?

It's rarer, but certain viruses can lead to Folliculitis.

Is Folliculitis a chronic condition?

It can be, especially if one is prone to it or if the underlying cause isn't addressed.

Can you get Herpes from sharing a drink?

While less common, it's possible if one person has an active outbreak.

Are there home remedies for Folliculitis?

Warm compresses can alleviate symptoms, but medical treatment is often necessary.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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