7 ways to tell the difference between acne and rosacea

Breakouts are a fact of life. Many of us regularly find clusters of small red bumps on our cheeks, nose, jawline, and forehead, and sometimes these can come to a head or manifest into cystic nodules. We often try lots of therapies to clear up our skin, including different topical skincare, face washes, and even some LED light therapy at the skin clinic. But it doesn’t always work. And that might be because we’re not actually dealing with acne breakouts, but rosacea.

So, what’s the difference between acne and rosacea?


1. Acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged with dead skin and oils resulting in inflammation, which appears as comedones, papules, or pastules on the skin. Acne is caused by genetics, hormones, bacteria, and environmental factors.

On the other hand, rosacea is characterised by redness, papules, pustules, or swelling. Commonly mistaken for acne in its early stages, rosacea is a relapsing condition which can be exacerbated by sun exposure, heat, alcohol, strong emotions, caffeine, and spicy foods. Rosacea is often identified by an intense reddening of the skin. Unlike acne, rosacea does not present with comedones and is typically localised over the central face (cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin).


2. Acne is most common in people aged 11 to 40. Generally, rosacea affects people in the 30 to 70 age range. If you are aged over 30 and tackling breakouts of red lumps or a semi-permanent red “flush” to on your skin, then you might be dealing with rosacea rather than acne. This is treated differently and you need to see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan.


3. Acne usually has different appearances in the same person. For example, you might see blackheads, whiteheads, red bumps, and nodules which might all exist at the same time. Rosacea usually looks more uniform with red bumps and pustules, and a red “flush” to the skin.


4. Acne typically doesn’t have any dietary triggers. (It’s a myth that chocolate causes acne!) Rosacea, on the other hand, can be triggered by alcohol, coffee, hot drinks, spices, and other foods.


5. People with rosacea generally have a history of flushing or easily blushing, and tend to feel a hot flush in their face. With acne, this doesn’t occur.


6. Rosacea has a strong link to Celtic genes, which means people with an Anglo-Celtic background are more susceptible to it. Conversely, acne affects all ethnicities.


7. Acne can leave permanent scarring, but this is rare with rosacea.


Learn more about managing your rosacea.


If rosacea is getting between you and a healthy complexion, speak to a Doctor or Skin Therapist about your concerns. Call us or book your appointment online.