Many conditions can cause our skin to become reddened and inflamed -- acne and rosacea happen to be two of the most common. Acne and rosacea are two distinct skin conditions, but the average person can sometimes have a hard time telling them apart. Properly identifying what’s wrong with your skin is the first step to treating it, so it helps to know what you’re looking for and what to do about it. Let’s go over the differences between acne and rosacea and how to combat them both.
Acne and rosacea differ in their causes, symptoms, and treatments. People break out with acne when their sebaceous glands produce too much oil and clog the pores -- this often happens when hormone levels spike from stress, puberty, pregnancy, etc. As for rosacea, this condition seems to be primarily genetic in origin; those with fair skin who are prone to blushing seem to be at the greatest risk.
Acne can present itself in different ways, in the form of red pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, and deep cysts. For the most part, redness caused by acne is solely found around the pimples in question and doesn’t spread further. Severe acne can also leave behind scars and enlarged pores after the breakout has gone away. Rosacea can cause acne-like breakouts, exacerbate existing acne (no blackheads, though), and enlarge pores. Unlike acne, however, the redness from rosacea tends to flare up in large zones (usually the cheeks, forehead, and nose) and can even affect the blood vessels in one’s eyes. Other rosacea symptoms include thickening of the skin, visible blood vessels, and general irritation and sensitivity.
Now that we’ve gone over the differences between these two conditions, we can discuss how to treat them properly.
As previously mentioned, oily skin, clogged pores, and hormonal imbalances are primarily to blame for acne outbreaks. The best methods for fighting acne, then, are those that address these factors to the degree to which they’re relevant. Gently washing your face twice a day with mild soap will help you keep dirt from clogging your pores. Regular exfoliation can also help, but be careful to not rub your face too aggressively. Make sure any skincare products you use (such as moisturizers and serums) are non-comedogenic (i.e., won’t clog pores). Also, resist the urge to touch, squeeze, pick at, or pop pimples, as this can lead to infection, increased inflammation, and/or scarring.
If the above methods alone don’t get rid of acne over time, consider more targeted treatments. Over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can fight breakouts when properly applied, though they can cause allergic reactions and irritation for some. Those with more severe acne might seek professional cosmetic services such as facials, chemical peels, or light/laser treatments to exfoliate the skin and produce a more even tone. Other acne treatments include retinoids, antibiotics (to fight bacterial infections), and oral medications meant to control hormones (such as anti-androgens, contraceptives, etc.).
Generally speaking, rosacea is trickier to treat than acne, mostly because its origins are still somewhat mysterious and its behavior can be erratic. That said, some medical therapies can be effective at controlling and limiting the progression of rosacea, as well as improving the skin’s overall appearance. Topical steroid creams can keep rosacea at bay for a time, but continued use often results in diminishing returns. Antibiotics are also sometimes used to control rosacea and combat infection, but they’re not meant for long-term use. Antihistamines are another treatment option for rosacea, reducing itchiness and irritation. Unfortunately, antihistamines themselves don’t treat the skin and can leave you feeling sluggish. Cosmetic skin treatments such as laser therapy can be promising for some patients, too.
Ultimately, the best way to keep rosacea from rearing its red head is to avoid your personal rosacea triggers, which could be anything from excessive sun exposure to alcohol consumption. Other common triggers include extreme temperatures, harsh winds, stress, exercise, certain foods, and more. Your dermatologist can help you discover what factors trigger your rosacea so you can avoid them whenever possible.
Both acne and rosacea affect millions of people each year. While there’s no cure for either skin condition, the list of effective treatments and reduction methods for both acne and rosacea are growing all the time. As is the case with any condition, understanding root causes and triggers will help you steer clear of symptoms, and seeking professional help will allow you to treat your skin in the best way possible. At Premier Dermatology Partners, we’re committed to helping you find the right strategies and treatments for your skin concerns so you feel confident each and every day.
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