Acne vs. Rosacea: What’s The Difference?

Acne vs. Rosacea: What’s The Difference?

It can be hard to look and feel your best when dealing with chronic acne, especially as an adult. The good news is there are a lot of effective treatment options that can improve acne. The first step in the journey to a clear complexion is identifying the kind of acne you’re dealing with; that way, you can treat the source of the breakouts. 

Surprisingly, sometimes acne is actually rosacea. At first glance, acne and rosacea can look very similar, but each requires different treatments to ease symptoms. 

What is The Difference Between Acne vs. Rosacea?

While both skin conditions have a lot of similarities, there are some differences between them. The main distinguishing factor between acne vs. rosacea is rosacea involves persistent blushing or flushing and redness. 

This redness is usually most visible in the “butterfly” area of the face, which is around and above the nose and below the eyes. Another differentiator between acne vs. rosacea is rosacea can cause the blood vessels under the skin on your face to be more noticeable, giving what’s called a ‘ruddy’ complexion. 

What is Acne?

Acne, also called acne vulgaris, is a common skin condition that causes bumps or pimples on the skin and blackheads. These breakouts are caused by clogged hair follicles that get inflamed. 

Breakouts can be triggered by genetics, hormones, bacterial growth, and other causes. This is one of the reasons acne can be frustrating: identifying the underlying cause is not always a fast and easy process.

What is Rosacea?

Rosacea, also called acne rosacea, can be misleading because Rosacea is not caused by the same factors as acne vulgaris. It is a chronic skin disorder in its own right. While rosacea does not have a cure, there are treatment options to ease symptoms.

Clinically speaking, rosacea is a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit or what is more commonly called a pore. It can cause tiny pimples, just like acne, so to the untrained eye it can be hard to see the difference between acne vs. rosacea. 

Rosacea often begins with redness or flushing (blushing) of the face. It can also cause small, pimple-like bumps on the face that look like acne. The main difference between these bumps is with rosacea there are no blackheads or comedones. 

Comedones are either open (blackhead) or closed (whitehead) bumps. This is simply a clogged skin pore or hair follicle. Things like oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria can cause comedones. Identifying the bumps is one of the ways trained medical professionals can determine acne vs. rosacea as the diagnosis.

Contrasting Acne vs. Rosacea

Acne Vulgaris

  • First develops during the teenage years when hormonal shifts begin
  • Acne can show up anywhere on the face, neck, back, upper arms, and shoulders
  • Inflamed acne may cause redness, but it does not cause flushing of the face
  • Acne does not cause visible blood vessels
  • Acne may be swollen at the site of a pimple or breakout, but it does not cause noticeable thickening of the skin


  • Develops later in life, typically after the age of 30
  • Confined to the center of the face, including the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead
  • Frequent redness or flushing across the forehead, cheeks, nose, chin, and neck
  • Visible capillaries (blood vessels) under the skin on the face
  • It may cause slightly thickened skin or lumpiness, especially on the nose

When Acne vs. Rosacea Gets Confusing

Based on the specific differences listed above, it may seem like it should be easy to tell if you have acne or rosacea. Since acne and rosacea differ for each individual, it is possible to have symptoms that are so similar, it can be very confusing to tell what’s what.

For example, if you get inflamed, swollen, and red bumps, it gets a little tricky. Papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts can be a feature of both acne and rosacea. The swelling in acne resulting from inflammation can be due to an overgrowth of bacteria. This is why comedones swell up, leading to a large, painful, pus-filled cyst. This acne is also called cystic acne and can cause lumps on the face during a breakout. This is when symptoms of acne mimic rosacea. Rosacea’s Inflammatory response can cause irritation, leading to swollen red bumps.

Consider Potential Triggers of Rosacea

Another way to tell the difference between acne vs. rosacea is to think about potential triggers. For example, if symptoms worsen when eating spicy food, drinking alcoholic or hot beverages or after spending time in the sun, it could be rosacea. Other triggers of rosacea include emotional stress and exposure to extremely hot to cold weather. These factors do not typically trigger acne.

When it comes to acne, certain types of food can trigger it for some individuals. Foods high in gluten, sugar and dairy may cause a breakout if consumed in large amounts. “Junk” food that contains a lot of grease or oil may worsen acne. 

Acne is triggered by overactive sebaceous glands, which results in too much oil and clogged pores. Some people have more acne-prone skin because of the way their skin sheds and exfoliates itself. Acne can also be triggered by hormonal changes in the body that accrue during puberty or pregnancy. Plus, acne can be genetic. There are many acne triggers, so determining what causes your breakouts is helpful when considering acne vs. rosacea.

Get an Expert Opinion

The only way to know the difference between acne vs. rosacea is to visit a trained medical professional. Although there is no lab test for either skin condition, a dermatologist or one of our medical professionals can do a simple visual evaluation and make a diagnosis. Then your path to more radiant skin is clear, and you can explore the best treatments for your skin.

Charette Cosmetics’ Acne Solutions

If you are struggling with acne, Charette Cosmetics offers a line of natural, medical-grade products to help you achieve the clear complexion you desire. From gentle cleansers and moisturizers to an all-in-one Acne-Prone Pack, we invite you to explore our online shop or connect with us on socials to see true skin transformation from real customers.  

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