Acne vs rosacea, how can you tell which one’s on your skin?
Because reddened skin and blemishes on your face doesn’t always mean acne—it can get very confusing.
Acne and rosacea can look pretty similar. So it’s totally understandable if you’ve mixed them up in the past.
But to properly care for your skin, it’s best that you know whch is which.
So, let’s get right to it, shall we?
The first thing we think of when we see breakouts and redness is acne.
But what is acne, really?
To be precise, we’re talking about acne vulgaris. This is a common skin disease where clogged pores turn into inflamed lesions.
But of course, it’s not that simple.
And trust me, it’s important to know how acne vulgaris forms so you can tell it apart from rosacea.
Hair follicles is what we're talking about when we say clogged ‘pores’. These tunnel-shaped structures in our skin can get clogged with dead skin and oils.
These non-inflamed clogged follicles are called comedones. Or what we call blackheads (open comedones) and white heads (closed comedones).
When they do become inflamed, it means that harmless bacteria on our skin turn just turned nasty.
Clogged pores become the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria because of the lack of oxygen.
So, let's say we've taken away oxygen. Now, the normally chill acne bacteria, Cutibacterium acnes, will multiply and cause inflammation. You know, the redness and swelling on your skin .
These inflamed clogged pores are called inflammatory lesions, like papules and pustules or what we call pimples and zits.
That’s also part of why we can encounter acne described as a chronic inflammatory skin condition.
We can find both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions appear not only on our face. But also our neck, shoulders, chest, and back.
Meanwhile, rosacea is also a skin condition that can cause redness, swelling, and inflamed lesions.
Sounds familiar right?
No wonder rosacea used to be called acne rosacea . The similar symptoms led to the belief that rosacea and acne vulgaris are related.
Take note that I said used to. As more studies focused on rosacea, it’s now clear that despite sharing some symptoms, rosacea and acne vulgaris are unrelated .
In fact, the redness, bumps, and pimples are not the only symptoms of rosacea.
People with rosacea can also experience:
- skin thickening and enlargement (mostly around the nose)
- eye symptoms like:
- bloodshot appearance
- light sensitivity
- blurred vision
Plus, remember how acne can appear on other parts of the body apart from the face. Well, rosacea only appears on the face—usually the cheeks, sometimes the chin or forehead.
And let’s take note that the redness rosacea causes is much more intense than what you can get from acne vulgaris. It’s straight up flushing.
The redness also becomes so much more visible since rosacea is more common in people with fair skin.
Acne VS Rosacea
We can already see from defining acne and rosacea that they are very different skin conditions.
Acne VS Rosacea: Triggers
Acne vulgaris triggers vary a lot. It can include the following:
- Hormonal changes
- Sebum build-up
- External factors
- Internal health issues
For rosacea, triggers are often external or environmental, excluding the first in this list:
- Strong emotions
- Sun exposure
- Spicy foods
Acne VS Rosacea: Risk Factors
It’s even more clear to see how different acne and rosacea is when you look at the risk factors.
For acne, you’re more likely to have it if:
- You’re a preteen or an adolescent.
- You’re experiencing hormonal changes (either from or pregnancy).
- Both your parents had acne.
- Your skin comes into too much contact with greasy or oily substances.
- Your skin is put through too much friction or pressure.
While for rosacea, you’re more likely to experience it if:
- You’ve passed age 30.
- You’re a woman.
- You smoke.
- Your family has a history of rosacea.
- You have fair skin.
What should you do if you have both acne and rosacea?
Acne and rosacea are unrelated. But that doesn’t mean they can’t occur together.
Yes, these two frustrating skin conditions can double-team your skin.
And when that happens, the best first step is a visit to the dermatologist. Even if your acne and rosacea are both mild, consult your dermatologist. This will help you avoid worsening both skin conditions.
After you’ve paid a visit to your derm, here are some things you can keep in mind when dealing with both acne and rosacea:
Keep yourself protected from the sun.
Heat from the sun can trigger rosacea flare-ups and worsen your acne. So, be sure to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
Don't stop with religious sunscreen application. Be sure to also wear appropriate garments and accessories (like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses). And stay in the shade whenever possible.
Be gentle with your skin.
Being gentle with your skin is very important, even if you don’t have acne or rosacea.
With that in mind, choose rosacea and acne friendly skincare products. Especially for rosacea, you should avoid anything that contains :
- glycolic acid
- lactic acid
- sodium laurel sulfate
Notice how two acids (glycolic and lactic) used in chemical exfoliants are on that list. That means if you’re using either, you’ll have to take a break from them for the sake of your rosacea.
To help with your acne, you can still exfoliate using milder acids like mandelic or azelaic acid. Just make sure to patch test before incorporating any product to your routine!
Avoid known triggers.
Since we’re now aware of what can trigger acne and rosacea, it’s best to avoid what we can.
Heat, stress, and your diet are some of the triggers that you have control over.
So, whenever possible, do what you can to avoid these triggers.
Observe your skin closely.
Apart from listening to your derm, you need to be observant with your skin.
Observe and take note of how products and treatments, and even daily activities affect your skin.
Doing so will be helpful for you and your derm to more accurately treat your skin.
Knowing more about the conditions your skin can experience is really helpful in keeping your skin healthy and happy.
You’ll become more mindful of how you treat your skin. And even avoid worsening any budding skin condition.
So, thank you for reading and until next time!