There are two skin conditions that look very similar – acne and rosacea. This article aims to describe and detail the differences in order to help find an effective treatment.
Is It Acne Or Rosacea? How To Find Out Whats Effecting Your Skin.
Two of the most common skin conditions out there are Acne and Rosacea, they are also two of the most difficult to treat, in particularly when they are mistaken for each other.
Before you are able to treat your skin condition, you need to determine what you are treating.
If you are not 100% sure what those red lumps and marks on your skin are, its really important to find out what you are dealing with before starting to treat them.
If you have any doubts as to whether those red lumps, bumps and marks are Acne or Rosacea, heres a few hints and tips to help you find out:
Study Your Red Marks And Bumps
Rosacea is commonly thought to be associated with a red flushing on the skin.
It can also cause red bumps on the skin.
This is the most common type of Rosacea, called papulopustular or type 2 rosacea (1) its often the most uncomfortable form, with painful red bumps that resemble acne.
So How Can You Tell The Difference Between Acne and Rosacea?
The main difference between Acne and Rosacea is the presence of Comedones, a classic sign of acne.
Comedones can be both closed or open, they are in effect blocked pores that are not inflamed, painful or swollen.
Open comedones are in effect blackheads, namely open pores that are filled with a black residue.
Closed comedones on the other hand are blocked pores, filled with a white residue (AKA whiteheads).
If you have lots of comedones, it’s very likely that you are dealing with Acne.
It gets harder to determine when you have inflamed bumps on your skin, commonly called pustules, nodules, cysts or papules, they can both be a feature of Acne and Rosacea.
Inflammatory Acne is a classic example, excess bacteria trapped in the comedones can cause them to swell, turning them into a larger red, pus filled cysts.
With Rosacea, the ever present inflammatory response commonly linked to the condition can generate swollen red lumps that can easily be confused for Acne.
What Causes Your Breakouts?
If after looking at your lumps and bumps are still confused, another way to try and determine other its rosacea or acne is by identifying the triggers that set of your breakouts.
So – When and where do your bumps appear?
Rosacea for instance varies from person to person, but its is usually set of by exposure to sunlight, cold, heat, stress, anxiety, spicy foods, hot drinks and alcohol (2).
Rosacea can also accompany sensitive skin, and as such can be brought on by using harsh skin treatments such as strong acne treatments, certain retinoids and acids.
Acne is usually triggered by hormonal fluctuations.
This is the main reason why ( especially in women) that it usually rears its head during times such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and believe it or not the menopause.
Acne and Medications
It can also be attributed to certain medications, this can include birth control pills, IUD’s, certain steroids and also certain medications, in particular those used to treat bipolar disorders.
This is the strange thing about Acne as some people find that it gets better with hormonal treatments such as the birth control pill in women and testosterone treatments in men.
Age can play a huge part too. Acne usually occurs in puberty and through early adulthood, where as Rosacea doesn’t usually appear until we are in our 30’s.
The position of our breakouts can also help identify the problem.
Acne can appear virtually anywhere on your face or body, where as Rosacea tends to be seen mainly on the central parts of your face.
The nose in particular, but also your cheeks, chin and forehead
One easy guide to remember is this – Rosacea is usually brought on my external sources, where as Acne is usually caused by internal health issues.
If you develop red patches and lumps after being outside in the cold or windy weather or maybe after taking a hot bath or drinking a hot drink, then its probably rosacea.
If the breakout occurs at certain times of the month or during periods of stress, then it’s more than likely to be Acne.
Obviously no guide is 100% accurate and if you have any doubts, its always best to consult your doctor, who might suggest a visit to a dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis of your problem.
Some Treatments Can Be Used To Treat Both Acne and Rocasea
It’s not uncommon to have symptoms of both problems that can make choosing an effective treatment harder.
Many dermatologists will suggest using treatments that can easily be used for either, so do not be surprised of your doctor gives you an acne treatment when you are sure you have Rosacea.
One example is Azelaic acid, its commonly found in both prescription and OTC treatments, despite it being an acid, its pretty gentle, and doesn’t cause too much irritation to the skin.
Some people find that retinoids and benzoyl peroxide work well, while others find that these can be irritating and can (especially at first) cause symptoms to become worse.
Antibiotics are also commonly used to treat both, largely because they not only kill the bacteria that causes acne, they can also reduce the inflammation linked to rosacea.
Most common types of antibiotics include:
The first two are usually given in topical forms, where as the latter is taken orally. Sufferers of both acne and rosacea can also benefit from using treatments that include sodium sulfacetamide or sulfer (3)
The other way to try and treat the problems is to manage your flare ups by making changes in your behaviour to minimise exposure to the triggers that set them off.
A dermatologist can help you asses these triggers and can usually offer some guidance into minimising their effects.
They can often recommend gentle skin care products that are far less likely to cause any irritation to the skin.
There is a wide range of products out there that can treat both products, some are natural over the counter treatments and others are drug based prescription products.
Its recommended that you work with your doctor or dermatologist to ensure a correct diagnosis and prepare the best treatment plan for you.
Remember It Takes Time So You Need To Be Patient
One thing to be aware of is that there is no overnight cure to either of these conditions, some treatments will appear to make the problem worse before it gets better.
The main culprits of this are topic retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, they are really effective, but do usually make the flare ups worse before they improve.
Always stick with a treatment for at least 12 weeks to give them time to have effect, naturally if your skin becomes worse, then discuss with your doctor before making any changes.
To sum up, it’s largely about identifying what your problem is and if possible the triggers responsible for the flare ups.
Once you have identified the problem (4) and decided on a course of treatment, stick with it, be positive and keep an open mind.
Acne or Rosacea Summary