Rosacea and Acne

Rosacea is one of the most common skin conditions that people face, but its cause and treatment can be confusing. That’s why we’re here to help answer your questions and make managing rosacea as easy as possible.

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects an estimated 15 million people in the U.S. alone. It causes redness and inflammation on the face, neck, and chest and while the exact cause is still a mystery, we know genetics play a significant role in determining whether someone will have rosacea. In general, women tend to have rosacea more often than men, usually beginning in their 30s. Those with lighter complexions are also more prone to getting rosacea.

Based on some of the symptoms, such as pimple-like bumps, many people wonder if rosacea is a type of acne. Unlike acne, rosacea isn’t caused by oil overproduction or clogged pores. That said, some people can experience both rosacea and acne at the same time.

How to know if you have rosacea

What does rosacea look like? Usually, rosacea resembles a red rash. Signs of rosacea include bumps, inflammation, swelling, and/or a burning sensation. In rare cases, the skin on the nose thickens, causing it to appear bulbous. Some people with rosacea may also experience red, swollen eyelids or fine, red vascular lines.

There are four different types of rosacea skin, each with its own distinct characteristics:

  • Papulopustular Rosacea: This type of rosacea is the one that’s frequently mistaken for acne because symptoms include inflamed nodules, pus-filled blemishes, and redness. It can appear on the face, chest, neck, and scalp.
  • Erythematotelangiectatic Rosacea: Chronic flushing and visible, enlarged blood vessels are common with this type of rosacea. The condition is prone to flare ups, and can worsen during one of these episodes.
  • Ocular Rosacea: This rosacea affects the eyes, causing them to look watery and bloodshot. Other symptoms include dryness, sensitivity, burning, and, in some cases, eyelid cysts.
  • Phymatous Rosacea: Though rare, this form of rosacea appears as thickened, puffy skin that’s discolored, bumpy, and prone to scarring. It mainly affects the nose, especially in men.

What is the main cause of rosacea?

We all have tiny blood vessels under our skin’s surface that are part of our vascular system. With rosacea, the blood vessels overcompensate when reacting to different triggers, which can vary from cold weather or sun exposure to spicy food or one too many cocktails at happy hour. These triggers cause excess flushing and a rosacea breakout.

What is the best rosacea treatment?

Like acne, rosacea has no cure and, as a result, can be frustrating. But getting a diagnosis and an effective treatment from a dermatologist can go a long way toward controlling the condition and providing a sense of relief.

Avoiding triggers like the sun, spicy foods, and alcohol is one of the best ways to help with flare-ups. What triggers one person might not trigger another, so it can take a bit of trial and error to discover what’s causing your rosacea and how best to manage the condition.

Luckily, some general rosacea skincare tips can help you manage your condition:

  • Products to help rosacea: Gently cleanse your face with a mild, soap-free cleanser. Rinse with tepid (not hot or cold water, which can provoke blood vessels) and gently pat (not rub) your face dry. No matter your skin type, moisturize morning and night to reduce irritation. Since sun exposure and heat can trigger a rosacea flare-up, daily sun protection is a must. When choosing products, be sure to avoid formulas with alcohol, fragrance menthol, urea, lactic acid, glycolic acid, and sodium lauryl sulfate, as they will only cause more irritation.
  • How to treat rosacea with the help of a dermatologist: Depending on the severity of your rosacea, a dermatologist might recommend prescription-strength brimonidine and oxymetazoline to constrict blood vessels and reduce redness. If you’re wondering how to treat rosacea acne, then your doctor may prescribe isotretinoin (Accutane, Claravis, etc.), an extremely potent oral acne drug.
  • Cosmetic procedures: Again, you’ll want to consult a doctor here, but laser and light-based treatments (think Co2 lasers, Erbium Yag, IPS) can help reduce the redness associated with rosacea. Keep in mind you’ll have to repeat these procedures regularly to maintain results.