Skip to main content

Rosacea vs Acne

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMarch 2, 2024

Rosacea and acne are two skin conditions that can cause redness, swelling, and bumps on your skin. Understanding the difference between them can help you find the right treatment and prevent flare-ups.

In this article, we will explore the symptoms, causes, similarities, and differences between rosacea and acne. We will also discuss the treatment options for each condition, and the best ways to prevent them.

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that primarily affects the face. It causes persistent redness, flushing, and inflammation.

It can lead to visible blood vessels, swelling, and with time, thickened skin texture. Common triggers like sun exposure, certain foods, stress, and hot beverages can exacerbate symptoms.

Certain skin types, including sensitive and oily skin, are prone to rosacea. Following a gentle skincare routine can help manage the condition effectively.

What Are the Symptoms of Rosacea?

The symptoms of rosacea include skin inflammation, redness, heightened sensitivity, and skin eruptions, like papules and pustules. It can cause a range of skin lesions, from small red bumps to larger cysts.

What Is Acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that causes pimples, pustules, papules, and varying degrees of redness and skin inflammation.

Acne typically includes blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts on the face, neck, chest, and back. These can range from small, minor pimples to larger, more inflamed nodules.

Various factors can trigger acne breakouts, such as hormonal changes, genetics, diet, stress, and certain medications.

Effective skin care practices, including gentle cleansing, exfoliation, and moisturizing, can help manage acne.

What Are the Causes of Acne?

Acne is caused by excess oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells that clog pores, leading to pimples and other acne lesions.

Acne can have various triggers, including hormonal fluctuations, genetics, lifestyle factors, and certain skin care products.

Hormonal changes play a significant role in acne, with shifts in androgen levels often triggering increased sebum (oil) production. Genetics can make some people more prone to developing acne.

Lifestyle factors such as diet, stress, and lack of proper skincare routines can exacerbate acne. Certain skincare products containing comedogenic ingredients can clog pores and lead to breakouts.

What Are the Similarities Between Rosacea and Acne?

Rosacea and acne share several symptoms, including facial redness, the presence of pustules and papules, and the underlying inflammation.

This may lead to confusion between the two conditions. Both rosacea and acne can cause similar patterns of redness and inflammation on the face. The triggers for flare-ups in rosacea and acne can be similar, such as stress, certain foods, and environmental factors.

Both Affect the Face

Both rosacea and acne are inflammatory skin conditions that can cause persistent redness, visible blood vessels, bumps, and sometimes pus-filled pimples on the face.

People with rosacea and acne may struggle to find skincare products that do not worsen the conditions. These conditions can affect your confidence and self-esteem, making it important to see a dermatologist and get effective treatment.

Both Can Cause Redness

One common symptom of rosacea and acne is a tendency to cause redness on the skin, which is often accompanied by inflammation, giving the skin a flushed or blotchy appearance. It can also cause skin sensitivity.

Various factors, such as hormonal changes, environmental triggers, and skincare products, can trigger redness. Understanding these triggers can help you manage flare-ups and maintain skin health.

Both Can Cause Swelling

Both rosacea and acne can cause skin inflammation, eruptions, and heightened sensitivity.

These inflammatory responses trigger the skin to become red, tender, and swollen in both rosacea and acne. Skin eruptions, such as pustules and papules, are also common symptoms of these conditions.

Both Can Cause Bumps and Pustules

Both rosacea and acne can cause bumps, pustules, and papules. Bumps, which are raised areas on the skin, can occur due to the dilation of blood vessels and inflammation in rosacea.

Pustules, characterized by pus-filled lesions, are common in acne, caused by the blockage of hair follicles. Papules, small red bumps, are also common in both conditions, caused by underlying inflammation.

Increased skin sensitivity can make these skin conditions worse, leading to ongoing blemishes and discomfort.

What Are the Differences Between Rosacea and Acne?

While rosacea and acne share some similarities, they differ significantly in terms of causes, age of onset, location on the face, types of lesions, and triggering factors.

Rosacea is primarily driven by factors like genetics, abnormal blood vessels, and immune system reactions, whereas acne is often linked to excess oil production, hormonal fluctuations, and bacterial growth.

Rosacea tends to develop in people over the age of 30, while acne mainly emerges during adolescence but can affect all age groups.

Rosacea tends to affect the central facial region, particularly the cheeks and nose, whereas acne typically appears on the forehead, chin, and jawline.

Papules, pustules, and telangiectasia are characteristic skin lesions seen in rosacea, while comedones, pustules, and nodules are typical of acne.

Triggers like UV exposure, spicy foods, alcohol, and stress can exacerbate rosacea symptoms, while factors such as hormones, diet, and skincare products can worsen acne.


Rosacea is often linked to genetic predispositions, environmental triggers, and certain lifestyle factors, while acne is influenced by hormonal changes, bacterial infections, and skin care practices.

When it comes to rosacea, genetic factors play a significant role in determining your likelihood of getting it. Research has shown that certain genetic markers can increase the chance of developing rosacea. Environmental triggers such as exposure to sunlight, extreme temperatures, spicy foods, and alcohol consumption can exacerbate rosacea symptoms.

On the other hand, acne is primarily driven by hormonal fluctuations, particularly during adolescence when an increase in androgen levels stimulates sebum production, leading to clogged pores and acne formation. The presence of bacteria on the skin also contributes to acne. Improper skin care practices, such as using harsh products that strip the skin of its natural oils, can aggravate acne.

Age of Onset

Another key difference between rosacea and acne is the age of onset, as rosacea tends to affect adults, particularly in their 30s and beyond, while acne commonly begins during adolescence or early adulthood.

This age-related disparity in the development of these skin conditions can be attributed to various factors. Rosacea is known for its chronic nature, often worsening over time if left untreated, leading to persistent redness, visible blood vessels, and sometimes even thickened skin.

On the other hand, acne, which is prevalent during different life stages, is caused by hormonal changes and skin type.

Location on the Face

Rosacea and acne differ in their typical locations on the face, with rosacea mainly affecting the cheeks, nose, and chin, whereas acne arising in areas with high sebaceous gland activity such as the forehead, nose, and chin.

Types of Lesions

Rosacea and acne have different types of skin lesions, with rosacea causing persistent redness, visible blood vessels, and occasional pimples, while acne causes pimples, blackheads and whiteheads, pustules, cysts, and nodules.

These variations are caused by the underlying factors affecting each condition. Rosacea tends to result in skin sensitivity, making the affected areas susceptible to irritants.

On the other hand, acne eruptions, which are predominantly inflammatory, can lead to increased sebum production, clogged pores, and subsequent bacterial growth, further exacerbating the skin condition.


Triggers for rosacea and acne vary, with rosacea flare-ups often triggered by sun exposure, hot beverages, spicy foods, and stress, while acne can be triggered by hormonal changes, dietary factors, certain medications, and improper skincare routines.

Hormonal fluctuations, especially during puberty or menopause, can significantly impact the severity of acne breakouts. Dietary influences, such as a high glycemic index diet or dairy consumption, have been known to worsen acne symptoms.

Improper skincare practices like using harsh chemicals or over-exfoliating can aggravate both rosacea and acne-prone skin.

How Are Rosacea and Acne Treated?

The management of rosacea and acne includes a range of treatment options, such as specific skincare routines, medications, dermatological procedures, and lifestyle modifications.

Skincare routines include incorporating gentle cleansers, non-comedogenic products, and sun protection.

Medical therapies such as topical or oral medications can help reduce inflammation and bacterial growth, leading to clearer skin.

Dermatological interventions like chemical peels, laser therapy, or microdermabrasion target specific concerns like redness, scarring, or uneven texture.

Lifestyle adjustments focusing on stress management, diet, and avoiding triggers may help reduce symptoms.

Rosacea Treatment Options

Treatments for rosacea include topical medications, oral antibiotics, laser therapy, gentle skincare products, and lifestyle modifications to manage symptoms and improve skin condition.

  1. Topical medications, such as azelaic acid and metronidazole, are commonly used to reduce redness and inflammation associated with rosacea.
  2. Oral antibiotics like doxycycline and minocycline are prescribed for their anti-inflammatory effects.
  3. Laser therapies, including intense pulsed light (IPL) and vascular laser treatments, can target visible blood vessels and redness.
  4. Specialized skincare products formulated to soothe sensitive skin can help relieve irritation.
  5. Lifestyle changes like avoiding triggers such as hot beverages and spicy foods, reducing stress levels, and practicing sun protection can help reduce symptoms.

Acne Treatment Options

Acne treatment options include topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, oral medications, light therapy, medical procedures, consistent skincare routines, and stress management.

Topical agents like retinoids and benzoyl peroxide are commonly used to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and regulate skin cell turnover. Oral medications may be prescribed for severe cases of acne.

Light-based treatments, like laser therapy and photodynamic therapy, help target acne-causing bacteria and reduce oil production in more severe cases. Professional interventions, including facials and chemical peels, can provide deep cleansing and exfoliation.

Consistent skin care practices, such as gentle cleansing and moisturizing, play a key role in maintaining healthy skin and preventing acne flare-ups.

What Are the Best Ways To Prevent Rosacea and Acne?

Preventing rosacea and acne involves adopting a comprehensive skin care regimen, identifying individual triggers, and using appropriate medications.

A skincare routine based on your skin type and condition can help manage symptoms of rosacea and acne effectively. Understanding personal triggers, such as stress, diet, or specific products can help control flare-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between rosacea and acne?

Rosacea is a chronic skin disorder characterized by facial redness, visible blood vessels, and swelling. Acne, on the other hand, is a common skin condition that causes clogged pores, pimples, and blackheads.

How can I tell if I have rosacea or acne?

If you have redness and bumps on your face, it can be difficult to determine whether you have rosacea or acne. However, you can look for other symptoms that are specific to each condition. For example, rosacea may also involve thickening of the skin, eye irritation, and flushing. Acne, on the other hand, may have different types of lesions such as whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts.

Can rosacea and acne occur at the same time?

Yes, it is possible to have both rosacea and acne at the same time. In some cases, they can even overlap and make the diagnosis more challenging. It is important to consult with a dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment for both conditions.

What causes rosacea and acne?

The exact cause of rosacea and acne is not fully understood, but both conditions are thought to be influenced by various factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Rosacea may be triggered by sun exposure, hot or spicy foods, and alcohol. Acne, on the other hand, may be caused by hormonal changes, bacteria, and excessive oil production.

Can rosacea and acne be cured?

Rosacea and acne are both chronic conditions, meaning they cannot be cured completely. However, they can be managed with proper treatment and lifestyle changes. With the right approach, the symptoms of both conditions can be reduced and controlled.

Is there any treatment that works for both rosacea and acne?

Some treatments may be effective for both rosacea and acne, while others may only work for one condition. Some common treatments for both conditions may include topical creams, oral medications, and laser therapy. It is best to see a dermatologist to determine the best treatment plan for your specific case.