Rosacea and acne are two common skin conditions in the world today. An estimated 14 million Americans suffer from rosacea, while up to 50 million suffer from acne, the most common skin condition in the country.
Despite how many people deal with these issues, the differences between the two can be very difficult to distinguish. However, because they require their own unique treatments, it’s important to understand which skin issue you’re experiencing.
We’re going to help you distinguish between acne vs. rosacea on your own, but for the most accurate diagnosis, consult a dermatologist, who can also help you come up with a personalized treatment plan.
How to Tell Acne and Rosacea Apart
Rosacea, sometimes confusingly called “acne rosacea,” and acne, also known as “acne vulgaris,” both cause similar symptoms; however, they do have some key differentiating features to help you tell them apart.
Acne Vulgaris vs. Acne Rosacea Signs and Symptoms
Let’s start with acne vulgaris. Acne can appear on the skin as whiteheads, blackheads, and hard, cystic lumps. Acne may cause redness around the whiteheads and cystic lumps as a result of inflammation, but it doesn’t often cause widespread redness.
Acne lumps and pimples show up most often on the face but can also appear on the chest, back, shoulders, and butt.
On the other hand, rosacea appears exclusively on the face — specifically the center of the face, including the nose, forehead, chin, and inner portion of the cheeks.
Rosacea is most well-known for causing redness. The facial redness caused by rosacea typically spans a larger area of the face than redness from acne vulgaris, which occurs solely around active pimples.
However, rosacea can also cause bumps on the skin, which is why it can be hard to tell the two apart. Rosacea bumps, though, won’t include whiteheads or blackheads. These bumps instead are often smaller red pimples.
Rosacea, more than acne, causes stinging. Acne typically doesn’t sting, but may cause pain around the area of breakout.
So while these two skin conditions can look and feel different, there is also overlap in the symptoms of rosacea and acne. Overall, you can tell the difference between the two skin issues from:
- Hard lumps
- Redness around acne blemishes
- Pain around acne blemishes
- Can be located on the chest, back, butt, but most commonly, the face
- Large areas of redness
- Small pimples
- Located on the cheeks, nose, forehead, or chin
- Flares up from spicy foods, alcohol, and sun exposure
Is it Possible to Have Both Acne and Rosacea?
Unfortunately, you can experience both acne and rosacea at the same time. However, there are some notable differences in the typical age ranges of those who suffer from each condition.
Rosacea is most common in adults over 30 years old, while more teens and younger adults suffer from acne. Though, adults over 30 can also deal with pesky acne symptoms.
Often both skin conditions are associated with hormonal shifts, like those involved in pregnancy, menopause, or taking hormones, like testosterone or estrogen. These hormonal changes can increase your odds of experiencing both rosacea and acne at the same time.
How Treatments Differ
When treating rosacea and acne, doctors often prescribe very different treatment options depending on which skin condition you have.
For rosacea, possible treatment options include:
- Topical creams that reduce blood flow by constricting blood vessels
- Topical ivermectin, a parasitic cream that targets Demodex mites that carry a bacteria researchers believe causes rosacea
- Topical corticosteroids (Note: If your doctor prescribes a topical steroid cream, be careful of topical steroid withdrawal, which can cause hypersensitivity and increased redness when you stop the use of the steroid.)
- Laser treatment
- Oral or topical antibiotics
For acne, doctors may prescribe:
- Topical benzoyl peroxide, which is a topical antiseptic that works to kill the bacteria that causes acne
- Salicylic acid that exfoliates the skin and helps remove dead skin cells
- A topical retinoid, which helps to remove dead skin cells and prevent clogged pores
- Birth control pills to help manage hormone fluctuations and alleviate hormonal acne
- Oral or topical antibiotics
Doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics (oral or topical) for both skin conditions because the causes of acne and rosacea are often rooted in an imbalance of the skin microbiome, the ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms — including fungi, viruses, and bacteria — that live on the outer layer of your skin.
When bad bacteria in the skin microbiome outweighs the good, these bad bacteria contribute to conditions like acne and rosacea.
Unfortunately, antibiotics can’t target and kill only the bad bacteria. Antibiotics simply destroy all bacteria, including the good needed to help protect your body from foreign invaders.
In the long run, this is actually harmful to the health of your skin. So, it’s important to balance your skin microbiome in a way that protects your good bacteria and only gets rid of the bad.
One way to do that is with a balancing skincare routine that’s hypoallergenic and preservative-free. Looking for a gentle way to support your microbiome while cleansing the skin? Try Gladskin’s Face Wash and Makeup Remover to support your skin microbiome. After cleansing, follow up with the Redness Relief Cream for rosacea-prone skin.
How to Prevent Future Acne and Rosacea Flare-Ups
The best part about balancing your skin microbiome? One you’ve gotten flare-ups under control, a balanced skin microbiome will help prevent and diminish future flare-ups of rosacea and acne.
By nurturing the good bacteria on your skin, you’re strengthening your body’s first line of defense against foreign invaders and other bad bacteria. This in turn helps to keep inflammation down.
Lower inflammation and a reduction in bad bacteria tame both rosacea and acne. To support your skin microbiome, choose a gentle skincare routine free of preservatives, fragrances, and other harsh additives.
You can also adapt microbiome-friendly lifestyle habits, such as lowering your stress levels and taking care of your gut health.
If you’re having trouble differentiating between rosacea vs. acne based on signs and symptoms alone, be sure to consult with a board certified dermatologist. With their expertise, you’ll be able to better find a treatment plan that works for your unique skin condition.
Depending on the severity of your rosacea or acne, treatment plans can look quite different between the two. To more quickly experience glad skin again, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing the best treatments for your skin — without exacerbating the skin condition further.
Try implementing microbiome-friendly lifestyle habits into your daily life… and work with your body, instead of against it, to bring balance to your skin microbiome with Gladskin’s Redness Relief Cream for rosacea-prone skin