Acne versus Rosacea: Understanding both and identifying the differences

Acne and rosacea are well-known terms and both are disorders of epidermal appendages (skin-associated structures that serve a particular function) such as hair follicles, sebaceous glands and sweat glands. But what is the difference when you look at rosacea vs acne?

Identifying acne

Acne tends to appear over face, back, chest and shoulders.  Typical features of acne include papules, pustules, nodules, cysts and redness.  These can be common in rosacea, but the main difference between acne and rosacea is the presence of comedones (otherwise known as blackheads or whiteheads).  These only occur in acne – they are completely absent in rosacea. This is one of differences between rosacea vs acne.

Identifying rosacea

Rosacea breakouts typically occur over the central face and can be exacerbated by extremes of temperature, alcohol or stress.  It is most commonly found in people from the age of 30 years (though this is not exclusive). How is a rosacea bump distinguished from an acne bump?  Put simply, by skin redness.  Rosacea presents with facial flushing that can convert into persistent erythema if left untreated.


If a person has inflammatory bumps, it can be difficult to determine exactly what condition the person is dealing with. An examination and understanding of the person’s history, will help identify the cause. For example, acne breakouts can be cystic, commonly painful, tender and often caused by hormonal imbalances (puberty, teenagers).  Adult acne can appear in adulthood and can be related to stress and hormonal fluctuations in aging process. 


Although the features of both acne and rosacea overlap, their causes, treatment and outcomes differ from each other. But what are the rosacea vs acne treatments?

Acne Treatment

The principle of acne treatment is to prevent the breakouts, diminish the existing bumps and to avoid scarring or make the scar less noticeable. The treatment depends on the severity and duration of the acne and may take into account the patient’s hormonal status. 

Topical retinoids could be used for comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and skin remodelling, to avoid acne scars and to minimise the sebum production. Other topical treatments include benzoyl peroxide (reduces the bacteria on the skin without being an antibiotic) and antibiotics. Topical treatment alone may be sufficient for mild acne, though if moderate they should be combined with oral antibiotics. Hormonal imbalances should be addressed, if any, and certain contraceptive pills can be useful in women. For persistent and severe cases oral isotretinoin (prescribed by a dermatologist) can be very effective. N.B. Oral and topical retinoids, mainly used for cystic acne, should not be used in women who are planning a pregnancy they are highly teratogenic (can damage foetus development). In addition, laser treatments and chemical peels can be used, depending on the type and severity of acne.

Rosacea Treatment

The principle of rosacea treatment is to clear up breakouts, reduce inflammation and avoid triggers. Regular use of broad-spectrum sunscreen is recommended to provide protection against UV rays and break the cycle of flushing and redness. Oral and topical antibiotics are used to reduce the rosacea bumps and facial redness.  Oral and topical alpha and beta blockers can help with severe flushing.  Laser treatments can be effective to reduce redness.

Sticking to a treatment plan and avoiding all triggers can really help control and treat rosacea and acne outbreaks effectively 

Using Altruist Anti-Redness and Pigmentation SPF50 Cream to help treat, heal and conceal

Consultant Dermatologist Dr Andrew Birnie, developed Altruist Anti Redness and Pigmentation Cream SPF50 to help conceal, treat, and offer long term protection for red and sensitive skins. 

It is a tinted (foundation like) cream that delivers 5 Star, broad-spectrum SPF50 UV and light protection.  This helps to reduce redness and even out uneven skin pigmentation.
Its micro-encapsulated formula is designed to treat sensitive and red skin over an 8 week period, using active phyto-complex, plant-based technology with anti-inflammatory, blood vessel calming and healing properties.  Iron oxides are included to prevent worsening of hormonally induced pigmentation (e.g. melasma). 

Altruist Dermatologist Anti Redness and Pigmentation SPF50 Cream is fragrance free, non-comedogenic, vegan friendly and suitable for all skin types.  With its beige tint, it works very effectively as a cosmetic daily foundation too. 

A healthy skin solution for all.

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