top of page

Rosacea vs. Acne: What is the difference?

Rosacea St. Louis
Rosacea St. Louis

"Skincare is self-care."

Dealing with dermatology conditions in St. Louis can be a challenging journey, both physically and emotionally. Whether it's rosacea or regular acne, these common skin issues affect countless individuals worldwide. Understanding the differences between the two is crucial for effective management and finding the right skincare routine that works for you.

Rosacea and acne are both inflammatory skin conditions that can cause whiteheads, redness, and discomfort on the face. However, they have distinct characteristics and require different approaches to treatment. While acne is often associated with hormonal changes in teenagers, rosacea can affect people of all ages.

To navigate through this complex topic of adult acne and rosacea, it's essential to seek guidance from dermatologists or skin care experts who specialize in treating these conditions. The National Rosacea Society is a valuable resource for people seeking information and support regarding rosacea. At Mid-County Dermatology in St. Louis, MO, we regularly treat patients who have acne and rosacea. In this article, our St. Louis dermatologists provide valuable information to help you better understand the differences between acne and rosacea and how that impacts treatment.

Understanding the Difference: Rosacea vs. Acne

Rosacea and acne may share some similarities, but they are two distinct skin conditions with different underlying causes and triggers. It is important to understand their differences in order to seek appropriate treatment. Here's what you need to know:

  • Different underlying causes and triggers: Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the face, resulting from an overactive immune system response. On the other hand, acne is caused by clogged pores due to excess oil production, dead skin cells, and bacteria. While dermatology conditions like rosacea can be triggered by factors such as sun exposure, hot beverages, alcohol, and stress; acne can be worsened by hormonal changes during puberty or certain medications.

  • Distinguishable by distinct symptoms and characteristics: Rosacea typically presents as persistent redness on the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead. It may also involve visible blood vessels (telangiectasia), bumps resembling acne (papules), or thickened skin (rhinophyma), according to the National Rosacea Society. In contrast, acne commonly manifests as whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, or cysts that appear mainly on the face but can also occur on the chest and back.

  • Diagnosis by a healthcare professional is crucial: While it may seem straightforward to differentiate between rosacea and acne based on their symptoms alone, a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional is essential. They will consider your medical history, examine your skin closely, and possibly perform additional tests to accurately identify which condition you have.

Understanding the difference between rosacea and acne allows for targeted treatment options tailored specifically to each condition's unique characteristics. Consulting with a healthcare professional will ensure an accurate diagnosis and help determine the most effective course of action for managing either rosacea or acne.

Remember that seeking professional advice from dermatologists in St. Louis is always recommended when dealing with any skin concerns.

Symptoms and Characteristics of Rosacea

  • Persistent facial redness, is often mistaken for blushing or sunburn.

  • Visible blood vessels (telangiectasia) on the face.

  • Potential development of papules and pustules resembling acne.

Rosacea is a skin condition characterized by persistent redness on the face. This redness is often mistaken for blushing or sunburn, but it is a distinct symptom of rosacea. Another common characteristic of rosacea is the presence of visible blood vessels, known as telangiectasia, which can give the skin a flushed appearance. In some cases, individuals with rosacea may also develop papules and pustules that resemble acne.

The persistent redness associated with rosacea sets it apart from other skin conditions. Unlike temporary flushing caused by embarrassment or exposure to heat, the redness in rosacea tends to persist over time. This chronic discoloration can be frustrating for those affected by the condition.

In addition to redness, visible blood vessels are another hallmark sign of rosacea. These tiny blood vessels become dilated and appear prominently on the face, contributing to the overall appearance of flushing. The presence of these visible blood vessels can further differentiate rosacea from other skin conditions like acne.

Furthermore, some individuals with rosacea may experience papules and pustules on their skin that resemble acne breakouts. This subtype of rosacea, known as ocular rosacea, can cause small bumps similar to pimples to develop on the face. It's important to note that while these bumps may look like acne lesions, they require different treatment approaches.

Symptoms and Characteristics of Acne

Acne, a common skin condition, is characterized by the formation of comedones (whiteheads/blackheads), pimples, or cysts. These breakouts often occur during adolescence as a result of hormonal changes in the body. If left untreated, acne can leave behind scars or hyperpigmentation on the skin.

Symptoms of acne include:

  • Formation of comedones: Acne vulgaris typically manifests as whiteheads or blackheads on the skin. These are caused by clogged hair follicles and can appear as small bumps or dark spots.

  • Pimples and pustules: In addition to comedones, acne breakouts may also result in red, inflamed pimples filled with pus. These pustules can be painful and tender to touch.

  • Cystic acne: In more severe cases, large and painful cysts may develop beneath the surface of the skin. This type of acne can lead to deep scarring if not properly treated.

It's worth noting that while acne predominantly affects teenagers, it can also persist into adulthood. Adult acne is a chronic skin condition that requires ongoing management.

Common Areas Affected by Rosacea and Acne

Rosacea and acne are both common skin conditions that can cause discomfort in affected areas. While rosacea primarily affects the central face, including the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead, acne commonly appears on the face but can also affect the chest, back, shoulders, and upper arms. Here's a breakdown of the areas commonly affected by each condition:

  • Rosacea:

    • Cheeks: Rosacea often causes redness and flushing on the cheeks.

    • Nose: The nose may become swollen and develop visible blood vessels (telangiectasia) due to rosacea.

    • Chin: Some people with rosacea may experience redness or small bumps on their chin.

    • Forehead: Rosacea can also affect the forehead, leading to redness or thickening of the skin.

  • Acne:

    • Face: Acne is most commonly found on the face, with pimples appearing on various parts such as the forehead, cheeks, chin, and jawline.

    • Chest: It is not uncommon for acne to extend onto the chest area. Pimples may appear as whiteheads or blackheads.

    • Back: Acne can also affect the back, resulting in pimples or even cysts in severe cases.

    • Shoulders and Upper Arms: Some individuals may experience breakouts on their shoulders and upper arms.

It's important to note that both rosacea and acne can be aggravated by factors like sun exposure. While everyone's experience with acne and rosacea treatment in St. Louis may differ slightly, many people find relief through proper skincare routines tailored to their specific needs.

Differentiating and Treating Rosacea vs. Acne

Topical medications like metronidazole are commonly prescribed for rosacea treatment. These medications help reduce redness, inflammation, and bumps associated with rosacea. However, they are not effective for treating acne.

Antibiotics may be used to control bacterial overgrowth in both rosacea and acne cases. For acne, antibiotics such as tetracycline or erythromycin can help reduce the number of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. In rosacea, antibiotics like doxycycline or minocycline can also be used to manage symptoms by targeting bacteria.

Isotretinoin is an effective oral medication for severe acne but not suitable for rosacea treatment. This powerful medication reduces oil production in the skin and helps prevent clogged pores that lead to severe acne breakouts. However, isotretinoin does not address the underlying causes of rosacea and may even worsen its symptoms


It's important to understand that these are separate conditions with distinct characteristics:

  • Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by facial redness, flushing, visible blood vessels (telangiectasia), and sometimes small pimples or pustules.

  • Acne is a common skin disorder caused by clogged hair follicles resulting in whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, or cysts on the face, chest, back, or other areas.

To effectively treat each condition while avoiding any potential complications:

  1. Consult a dermatologist: Seeking professional advice ensures accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans tailored to your specific needs.

  2. Follow prescribed topical treatments: For rosacea management, apply metronidazole cream or gel as directed by your healthcare provider.

  3. Take oral medications if necessary: Antibiotics might be recommended for both conditions but remember that isotretinoin is only suitable for severe acne.

  4. Practice good skincare habits: Gentle cleansing, avoiding harsh products, and using non-comedogenic moisturizers can help manage both conditions.

  5. Protect your skin from triggers: Identify and avoid factors that worsen symptoms like spicy foods, alcohol, extreme temperatures, or sun exposure.

By understanding the differences between rosacea and acne and following appropriate treatment approaches, you can effectively manage these separate conditions and achieve healthier skin.

Treating Rosacea and Acne: Similarities and Differences

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between rosacea and acne, it's essential to know how they can be treated. While there are some similarities in treatment approaches, it's crucial to address each condition individually to achieve the best results.

A good skincare routine is essential. This includes gentle cleansing, avoiding harsh products, and using non-comedogenic moisturizers. Both conditions can benefit from topical treatments such as creams or gels containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid. However, for severe cases or when over-the-counter options aren't effective enough, it's recommended to consult with a dermatologist who can prescribe stronger medications or suggest other treatment options tailored to your specific needs.

In conclusion, while rosacea and acne may share some similarities in terms of symptoms and affected areas, they are distinct conditions that require different approaches for effective management.

By understanding the characteristics of each condition and following appropriate treatment strategies, you can take control of your skin health. If you have acne or rosacea and are looking for dermatological care in St. Louis, schedule your appointment online or call us at 314-994-0200.


Can stress worsen rosacea or acne?

Stress can indeed exacerbate both rosacea and acne. When you're stressed, your body releases hormones that can trigger inflammation in the skin. This inflammation can lead to flare-ups of both conditions. It's important to manage stress through relaxation techniques like meditation or exercise to help reduce the impact on your skin.

Are there any lifestyle factors that contribute to rosacea or acne?

Certain lifestyle factors can contribute to the development or worsening of rosacea and acne. These include exposure to extreme temperatures (hot weather or cold wind), consuming spicy foods or alcohol (which are known triggers for rosacea), excessive sun exposure without protection (which can worsen both conditions), poor diet choices (such as high sugar intake), smoking cigarettes (known to worsen acne), and using harsh skincare products. It's advisable to make healthier lifestyle choices to support the management of these conditions.

Can rosacea or acne be cured completely?

While there is no known cure for rosacea or acne, both conditions can be effectively managed with appropriate treatment and lifestyle changes. With the right approach, you can minimize symptoms, reduce flare-ups, and achieve clearer skin. It's important to work closely with a dermatologist who can develop a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs.

How long does it take for treatments to show results?

The timeline for seeing results from treatments will vary depending on the severity of your condition and the specific treatment being used. In general, it may take several weeks or even months before noticeable improvements occur. Consistency in following your treatment plan is key, as some medications or therapies require time to take effect and regulate the underlying causes of rosacea or acne.

Can I use natural remedies to treat rosacea or acne?

While some natural remedies may provide temporary relief or help soothe symptoms, they are generally not considered as effective as medical treatments for managing rosacea or acne. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional or dermatologist before trying any alternative remedies to ensure they are safe and suitable for your particular condition.

14 views0 comments


bottom of page