Is It Acne Or Rosacea?

(Last Updated On: July 7, 2020)

Do I Have Acne Or Rosacea? – Discover How To Identify What’s Affecting Your Skin

do i have acne or rosacea

Two of the most common skin ailments here in Australia are Rosacea and Acne. They can also be the hardest to treat, especially when it’s really easy to confuse one for the other.

This article looks at the subtle differences between the two conditions.

Once you can recognise the signs, and recognise exactly what you are actually suffering from, it’s a whole lot easier to determine what treatment you actually need.

Look At Your Red Marks And Bumps Closely

Rosacea is usually associated with a red, flushing type effect on the skin.

however the reason why it can easily be mistaken for acne is that it can cause red bumps too.

rosacea on cheek

In fact these red bumps are the result of type 2 Rosacea – official name Papulopustular Rosacea.

It is also the most uncomfortable type, with the appearance of sore, painful red lumps and bumps that look very similar to acne .

Identifying The Difference

The single main difference between Rosacea and Acne is the presence of Comedones – these are a classic sign that you are suffering from Acne and not Rosacea.

These comedones can be either closed or open, they are by nature, a pore that is blocked but is not inflamed or swollen in any way.

Open Comedones – AKA Blackheads to you and me. These are open pores that are filled with a black or dark brown residue.

Closed Comedones ( aka Whiteheads) are blocked pores that are filled with a white puss type residue.

If you have a number of comedones on your face its very likely that you are suffering with acne.

acne cysts on face

When it gets harder to identify the problem is when you develop inflamed bumps on your skin are called pustules, cysts, nodules and papules.

These can be associated with BOTH acne and rosacea.

These are a sign of inflammatory acne, where bacteria gets trapped in pores, causing them to swell and become inflamed – leading to larger pus filed cysts that are very red in appearance.

If you have Rosacea, the ever present inflammatory response commonly found are very similar to the types present when you have acne.

Causes Of Your Breakouts

If after taking a good look at your lumps and bumps you are still confused, another way of determining what you actually have is by identifying what actually triggers your breakouts.

Ask Yourself – When and Where Do My Spots Appear?

The triggers for Rosacea can and do vary, but it usually brought on by external sources that can include (but not limited too) exposure to heat and cold, the sun, stress, anxiety, hot drinks, alcohol and even spicy foods.

Rosacea can also be present in those with sensitive skin and it can also be triggered by using certain skin treatments that contain harsh ingredients such as retinoids and some acids.

Acne on the other hand is triggered by hormonal fluctuations, a common reason why it can become worse at certain times such as puberty, menstruation, while pregnant and even when you are going through the menopause.

It can also be caused by certain medications that can include birth control medications, some steroids, IUD’s as even other medication, in particular those used to treat bipolar disease.

This fact can however be somewhat confusing as some women find that the birth control pill can actually make acne breakouts better, and the same can be said for men who use testosterone replacement therapy, so what will work for one may not work for another.

Age is another factor, while acne tends to be more prevalent during puberty and early adulthood, Rosacea tends to appear as we stet to get a little bit older – usually in our 30’s.

Where the breakouts actually appear is another identifying factor. Acne does not just appear on your face, but breakouts can also be seen on your back, chest and in fact any part of your body.

Rosacea in the other hand is more likely to appear on your face – initially on the central oats of the face, the nose, chin, cheeks and forehead.

“Remember This – Rosacea is caused by external sources, Acne tends to be caused by internal hormonal or Internal health issues”

If your skin goes red and patchy after being outside on a cold windy day, or maybe after eating a hot spicy meal, then your problem is most lily to be Rosacea.

If your redness, lumps and bumps appear at certain types of the month, or when you are feeling anxious or depressed, then is almost certainly acne.

There is no precise guide to determining the two, but this is a great way to try and determine what you are experiencing.

As ever, If you have any doubts, its always best to have word with your doctor, or dermatologist to get a firm diagnosis

Treatments Can Overlap

There are some similarities with the tow problems and in fact some treatments offered can also be used for both. So if you do see a specialist, it’s quite possible that they might suggest an acne treatment when you actually have rosacea.

One key example is Azelaic acid, its found in many over the counter products and some prescription treatments too. Its a gentle treatment that doesn’t tend to cause any skin irritation.

Some sufferers find that benzoyl peroxide and retinoids work well, while other suffers do find these to be a bit harsh and irritating, sometimes making the problem worse at first.

Antibiotics such as metronidazole, doxycycline and clindamycin are commonly used to treat acne and rosacea, they can kill the bacteria responsible for acne, and can also reduce the inflammation that leads to rosacea.

Some can be used in topical form ( applied to the skin) while others need to be taken orally.

Those suffering from both rosacea and acne can also benefit from taking treatments including sulphur and sodium sulfacetamide

Naturally you can also reduce the chance of flareups by looking at your lifestyle and making changed to minimise the risk of the triggers that set them off.

A dermatologist can help determine your triggers and will usually provide some information and guidance on how to reduce the risk of these triggers making your problem worse. 

The treatments that they may offer may take the form of either natural or prescription drug based products, so be prepared to work with your health professional to get that correct diagnosis and the right treatment for your problem.


What ever you do, treating acne or rosacea will take time.

Your body works on a regular skin renewal cycle which occurs usually about every 28 days or so, this is where dead skin cells are pushed to the surface after being replaced with new skin cells and are sloughed away.

The majority of skin care products take around 3 skin cycles to fully work so be prepared to give your problem up to 3 months to be treated.

Naturally if your problem gets worse in the mean time then get back to your dermatologist, just in case something in the formula is affecting your skin.

Bottom line – once you identify the problem, and choose your treatment, stick with it, remain positive and also keep an open mind!




The information in this website is for advice and guidance only. It is based on my own intensive research and personal experiences, and is not intended in any way to replace professional medical advice, or to diagnose or treat any health conditions. All rights reserved.