Rosacea or Acne
Rosacea and Flushing

How to Tell the Difference Between Rosacea and Acne

+ Pamela Friedman

How to tell the difference between rosacea and acne?

It can be difficult, because the two skin conditions share many symptoms.

Knowing which you have, however, can help you choose the best treatment.

How to Tell the Difference Between Rosacea and Acne: Shared Symptoms

Acne and rosacea share similar symptoms. That’s why it can be difficult to tell which one you have.

Both conditions, for instance, can cause skin redness, bumps, and pustules on the nose and cheeks.

Both also tend to flare up in response to certain triggers, then fade for a while before flaring up again.

But as you look more carefully, you’ll see that there are significant differences between these two, including some key symptoms and who’s likely to get rosacea versus acne.

How to Tell the Difference Between Rosacea and Acne: What is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that causes red, flushed, rough, or bumpy skin on the cheeks, nose, and forehead, and sometimes on the chin. It usually begins as redness and then can progress to small but visible dilated blood vessels. The redness may extend to the scalp, neck, chest, and upper back.

As the inflammation increases, bumps and pimples may occur and the eyes may get red or bloodshot. Rosacea can cause pimple-like breakouts without blackheads. In more advanced cases, the nose may become swollen with excess tissue.

People with rosacea usually describe their skin as sensitive, reacting to various triggers like harsh weather, heat, alcohol, spicy foods, strong emotions, and personal care products. This condition most often affects adults in their 30s or older and is more common in people with fairer skin types.

Body Repair Rosacea

How to Tell the Difference Between Rosacea and Acne: What is Acne?

Acne vulgaris is a common skin problem where the hair follicles become clogged with dead skin and oils resulting in inflammation. Like rosacea, acne causes redness, but that redness is usually isolated to the pimple or lump in the skin, rather than spreading throughout an area of the skin.

And like rosacea, acne can appear on the face, but it can also show up on the chest, back, shoulders, and buttocks. Acne creates whiteheads and blackheads, bumps or pimples, hard lumps, and swelling. It most often affects teenagers, but it can also affect adults.

How to Tell the Difference Between Rosacea and Acne: What Causes These Conditions?

The exact cause of rosacea is unknown, but scientists believe it has something to do with how your body regulates the temperature of your skin. There is also some research suggesting that rosacea may be linked to a malfunctioning immune system.

Acne can be caused by a multitude of factors, including stress, diet, and hormone imbalances during puberty and menstruation that cause the skin to produce too much oil (sebum). It can also come about after using certain skin care products that clog pores or exacerbate inflammation.

Both conditions are typically triggered by stress. When you’re stressed out, your nervous system can cause you to sweat and experience facial flushing that can trigger a rosacea flare-up. Stress also increases the body’s production of cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause the body to release more oil into the skin, resulting in an acne breakout.

How to Tell the Difference Between Rosacea and Acne: Differences in Symptoms

Let’s take a quick look at how these two conditions are different in what symptoms they may cause:

Rosacea Acne
Pimple-like breakouts in some cases will include only whiteheads Whiteheads, pimples, and sometimes painful cysts or nodules
No blackheads Blackheads
Skin warmness No sense of warmth
Itchiness and flushing Pimples may itch, but no flushing
Eye irritation No effect on the eyes
Affects the cheeks, nose, forehead Affects the face and possibly the neck/jawline, shoulders, back, chest
Inflammation affects a larger area and comes and goes Inflammation occurs only around the pimples
Redness covers a larger area like the cheeks or nose Redness and pain only around the pustules
No excess oil in the skin Oily skin, particularly in the T-zone area
Large pores Large, visible pores
Visible blood vessels No effect on blood vessels
Sensitive skin—may react to skin care products or makeup with stinging or burning Sometimes sensitive, but more likely to react with breakouts

Can You Have Both Rosacea and Acne?

It is possible to have both conditions at the same time, but it’s not common. If you’re an adult with rosacea, however, you may have periods of acne breakouts as well if you have adult acne.

Particularly if you’re going through a stressful period, you may notice that you suffer from acne breakouts along with your rosacea flare-ups.Calming Moisture Rosacea

How to Tell the Difference Between Rosacea and Acne: Treatment for Each

Once you know whether you have rosacea or acne (or both!), you can tailor your treatment to achieve the best results.

Some Tips on How to Treat Rosacea

  • Avoid harsh and drying soaps. Wash with gentle cleansers that are fragrance-free and made without sulfates, drying alcohols, phthalates, or other toxic ingredients.
  • Wash gently with lukewarm water. Avoid harsh scrubbing.
  • Use our Rescue + Relief Spray as a toner and mid-day spritz. It helps calm, soothe and reduce redness.
  • Moisturize every day with a nourishing, fragrance-free formula. We suggest our Calming Moisture for Face, Neck & Scalp. It instantly soothes and hydrates flushed skin, with oat extract to reduce redness and itch.
  • Choose a safe, non-chemical sunscreen like zinc oxide and use it every day.
  • Avoid typical dietary triggers like hot beverages, spicy foods, alcohol, and large, hot meals.
  • Practice regular relaxation and stress relief through exercise, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. These may help reduce flushing.
  • Ask your dermatologist about topical or oral antibiotics as they may be helpful.

Some Tips on How to Treat Acne

  • Practice a daily stress-relieving activity.
  • Eat a healthy diet and try to limit refined sugar and high glycemic foods.
  • Take steps to the excess oil in your T-zone. Use a cleanser that is made for oily skin—a foam or gel cleanser is best. If your cheeks are usually dry, use the oily skin cleanser only in the T-zone, and stick with your creamier cleanser for your cheeks and other dry areas.
  • Use a clay mask 1-2 times a week in those oily areas to help soak up the excess oil.
  • Use skin care with anti-inflammatory ingredients. Start with Rescue + Relief as your toner, then follow with our Calming Moisture. Both have our exclusive Tri-Rescue Complex, a powerful anti-inflammatory, plus other calming ingredients like aloe, comfrey, and sunflower oil.
  • Avoid using skin care with pore-clogging ingredients like coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm oil, alcohol and stearates, and stearic acid.

Can you tell whether you have rosacea or acne?

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