Acne and rosacea are both common skin conditions that cause breakouts but although they may look similar because they have some overlapping symptoms, they are very different. The main difference is in appearance: as acne is typically isolated to pimples and the pimple area whereas rosacea covers a larger area. Rosacea appears on the face, usually on the cheeks and nose, sometimes on the chin or forehead, while acne can be found on the face, back, chest, and shoulders. Both acne and rosacea show up as bumps and pimples which is often what causes confusion between the two.
Whiteheads, blackheads, swelling, bumps and pimples, and deep, hard nodules are characteristics of acne. Large affected areas of redness, smaller bumps, pimples, thickening of skin, eye irritation, itchiness, and flushing are common symptoms of rosacea. Typically, teenagers, young adults, and those who are pregnant experience acne whereas those over the age of 30 are affected by rosacea. One of the biggest differences between acne and rosacea is in the comedones, the skin-colored bumps that are either open blackheads or closed whiteheads in the pores of the skin or hair follicle that become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, or bacteria. Comedones are specific to acne and can help you determine if the inflammation on your skin is acne or rosacea. Inflamed bumps can be a little trickier to classify as acne or rosacea because papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts can be related to both. Knowing what is triggering the changes to your skin will help you narrow down which skin condition you are experiencing. Acne is often brought on by hormonal fluctuations which is why it commonly presents during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and even menopause. Rosacea is more commonly triggered by environmental factors such as sunlight, heat, cold, and stress, certain drinks or foods, and harsh skin care products.
Although there may be a difference between acne and rosacea, treatment options might be the same. It is not uncommon for a dermatologist to recommend prescriptions that may be beneficial for both conditions. For example, antibiotics are great for reducing inflammation and may be recommended in either case. Common acne treatments include topical treatments, oral antibiotics, hormonal treatments, isotretinoin, laser therapy, and fillers. Common rosacea treatments include topical anti-inflammatory treatments, oral medications to decrease inflammation, topical medication for flushing and redness, and laser treatment.