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Red In The Face? The Difference Between Acne And Rosacea


Red in the face? You’re not embarrassed. You didn’t just sit on the beach. Yet your cheeks constantly looks like they’re sunburned. What gives?

If you blush more than most people and have a persistently red nose and cheeks, there’s a chance you could be suffering from rosacea, a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is sometimes confused with acne. Because of pimple-like bumps “the papular form of rosacea can mimic acne,” says Dr. Kally Papantoniou, a dermatologist in New York, explained. “That can cause problems because some treatments for acne can exacerbate rosacea,” making it worse.

So how do I tell them apart?
Acne usually strikes younger age groups and produces whiteheads and blackheads that include the jaw and neck area. Rosacea, on the other hand, typically occurs after age 30, explains Dr. Papantoniou. The telltale signs include butterfly flushing across the center of the face, spidery broken blood vessels, bumps under the skin and thickening of the skin. If left untreated the nose may grow swollen and bumpy.

Why do I have rosacea?
Unlike acne, which stems from oil, clogged pores, bacterial growth and hormones, rosacea is often more connected to the blood vessels. Dr. Papantoniou notes that sunlight, stress, spicy foods, alcohol, cold or hot weather, hot beverages and, for some, gluten can trigger flare-ups.

Can I solve the problem?
One thing doctors are sure of: Rosacea can get worse if you ignore it and do nothing. It’s important you receive treatment that is tailored to your skin, says Dr. Papantoniou. In general, acne breakouts respond well to benzoyl peroxide, retinoids or prescriptions. Rosacea is handled differently. Antibiotics, oral zinc, laser therapy and avoiding triggers can be effective.

Over-the-counter products containing sulfur and niacinamide can also calm down the redness. “Treating rosacea is not as simple as targeting bacteria or inflammation alone,” says Dr. Papantoniou. But with the right regimen a doctor can help reduce that redness quickly and effectively.