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Rosacea vs. Acne: How To Spot the Difference

Rosacea vs. Acne: How To Spot the Difference

Having confidence in yourself is essential for leading a life of success. A big part of any man’s confidence stems from his appearance. MadeMan is devoted to mentoring men as they find confidence in caring for their skin and how they look.

If you find yourself struggling with bumps and redness, there is a high possibility that your problem is either acne or rosacea. Both conditions share many of the same symptoms and are frequently confused for one another. 

You must know the difference between the two to properly treat your skin back to health and regain the confidence you deserve. For this reason, we will be going into depth explaining both acne and rosacea so that you can recognize the differences between the two and get the assistance that you need.


Acne is a skin condition that can occur on any skin area with sebaceous glands—one area of the body with the most sebaceous glands in the face. Sebaceous glands are small oil-producing glands located in the skin. These glands are typically attached to hair follicles and release sebum into the duct and up to the skin’s surface.

On occasion, however, sebum — sometimes in combination with other substances — will become clogged in these pores. When acne bacteria feed on the clogged follicles, they can multiply and irritate the skin. The result of this swelling is acne.

There are different types of acne, as well as varying levels of severity. The most severe form is called cystic acne. Cystic acne develops when the substances trapped in your follicles, like oil, dead skin cells, and dirt, form a cyst deep beneath your skin. These cystic lesions are typically tender and contain pus. 

If the wall of the blocked-up follicle bulges but the pore remains closed, the result is typically a type of acne called a whitehead. If the follicle wall bulges but the pore is open to the surface, the spot may darken, causing a blackhead. 

If the result of your clogged pores is small red bumps on the skin, then you have developed acne called papules. If you find yourself with papule-like spots with puss on their tips, you are dealing with pustules.

You are more at risk of developing acne if you are experiencing hormonal changes or it runs in your family, but several different potential triggers exist. The following are three of the most common triggers and advice for avoiding and treating them.


One of the most common triggers for breakouts is issues with one’s diet. Some studies suggest that the overconsumption of harsh foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates or dairy products may show acne complications.

While there is not enough research to confirm that altering a person’s diet can heal blemishes and stop acne production, it is proven that maintaining a healthy diet with lots of vitamins and nutrients can support your skin’s overall wellness. 

Therefore, remembering to incorporate healthy ingredients into your meals can make a valuable difference in your skin’s strength and ability to ward off unwanted skin conditions. Countering the unhealthy effects of processed foods with antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids can create positive change. 

While you can consume all of these in supplements, there are also some common foods rich in these nutrients that you can choose to eat more often. 

  • Foods rich in antioxidants are blueberries, artichokes, and red beans. 
  • Foods rich in vitamin A are milk, eggs, and live. 
  • Foods rich in vitamin C are peppers, strawberries, and potatoes.
  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts.


Another common trigger for acne is hormonal changes. In men, the increased production of a hormone called androgen can sometimes cause unexpected breakouts. Androgens are hormones that contribute to growth in men. These hormones first increase during puberty. 

One of the effects of the increase of androgen is that it prompts the sebaceous glands to enlarge and the rate of sebum production. An excess amount of sebum increases the chances of clogging and can lead to acne.

Hormonal acne typically requires prescription medication to treat properly. The right medicine for you can be determined and prescribed by your dermatologist or physician. 

To support the healing process, you can be sure to use a good cleanser and moisturizer every day. Make sure that while it offers you a deep cleaning, it is also gentle on your healing skin.


Another trigger that is known to worsen acne is stress. Consistently experiencing high levels of stress can increase the level of stress-related hormones released into your body. 

One of these hormones is called CRH, or corticotropin-releasing hormone. When produced, CHR can bind to receptors in the sebaceous glands. This will, in turn, drive up the skin’s oil production and cause the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum faster. Just like with androgen, this sebum then has the potential to become clogged, mix with dead skin cells, and form acne.

One of the best ways to handle this trigger is to get enough sleep at night. Sleep offers you an escape from the stresses of daily life. Rest is necessary to allow your skin the time to heal. 

Additionally, the blood flow in your skin increases when you sleep, which contributes to your skin’s ability to heal damage. While the necessary amount of hours of rest can vary from person to person, the general belief is that eight hours are needed to properly rejuvenate your skin.


Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness, small blood vessels, and swollen, pus-filled, red bumps to appear on the face. Symptoms of rosacea can experience flare-ups for weeks to months before going away. 


One of these symptoms includes flushing. Flushing, perhaps more easily understood as facial blushing, can cause the appearance of persistent blushing in the central part of your face. Those with lighter skin may have their flushing present itself as a pink color, while those with darker skin may face a darker patch of discoloration.


Another typical symptom of rosacea is swelling. A person afflicted with rosacea may develop swollen bumps on their face. These bumps can be pimples that very closely resemble acne. Sometimes they even contain pus. 

In addition to swollen bumps, you may also find yourself with swollen facial features. Men with rosacea may experience an increase in the size of their nose. Rosacea can thicken the skin on the nose, causing it to appear enlarged.

Feeling of Burning 

Another common sensation is the feeling of burning and irritation. Areas of the skin affected by rosacea tend to feel hot and tender. This symptom may also be accompanied by ocular rosacea, which prompts the eyes and eyelids to experience dryness, irritation, and swelling. The symptoms of ocular rosacea may begin to affect a person before the skin symptoms appear.

It is believed that rosacea can be caused by an overactive immune system, environmental factors, or heredity. The exact cause remains unknown, but we do know some of the most common triggers for flare-ups.


A flare-up of rosacea can be triggered by numerous changes to the environment, both indoors and outdoors. The most agreed-upon environmental trigger for rosacea is unprotected exposure to the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun’s rays can cause oxidative stress that damages skin cells. 

The wintertime may also trigger your rosacea. The dry, cold air can cause flushing and act as a catalyst for other symptoms. Harsh winds also tend to exacerbate these symptoms and further irritate the skin. To combat the colds, most individuals will turn to indoor heat during the wintertime to stay warm. Unfortunately, the warmth of indoor heating can aggravate or worsen the symptoms of rosacea.

Avoiding environmental triggers can be very simple. When it comes to the sun, be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every morning, even when it is overcast, or you are staying indoors. You can also try to avoid peak hours for ultraviolet radiation or to wear protective clothing.

Protective clothing can also be helpful in defending yourself against the cold weather. You can use your scarf or jacket collar to protect your face from the frigid air and harsh winds while outdoors. When indoors with the heat on, try to moderate your body temperature by cold drinks or taking breaks to feel the fresh air.


Eating spicy food or drinking hot drinks with rosacea can trigger an outbreak and leave your skin looking red. Most spicy foods contain an ingredient called capsaicin. Capsaicin is the component in different hot peppers that makes the food taste spicy. Often, the skin will be left feeling warm, adversely affecting your rosacea. 

Drinking alcohol can also trigger rosacea. While drinking, your blood vessels may enlarge, produce more blood flow, and be responsible for more facial redness. 

One study reported that alcohol was a definite trigger for 76% of surveyed rosacea patients. The best way to avoid this trigger is by limiting your consumption of these foods and beverages. 

Removing them entirely from your diet would ensure that they never caused a rosacea flare-up. Still, if you enjoy ordering spicy foods at restaurants or hitting the bar with your friends after work, we recommend indulging in these items in moderation.


While exercising is extremely important for maintaining one’s health, high-intensity workouts can trigger a rosacea flare-up. These sorts of activities increase blood flow, your core body temperature, and your heart rate. These effects may result in flushing and the appearance of reddened skin. On top of this, sweat can contribute to the development of heat rash, which can directly aggravate your rosacea. 

The solution to avoiding this trigger should never be to remove exercise from your daily routine. Exercise is essential for looking and feeling your best. Good skin starts in the gym. What you can do, however, is to stick with low to medium-intensity exercises.  


Without understanding the differences between acne and rosacea, the two can be challenging to differentiate between. Now that you are aware of the symptoms that accompany each skin condition, as well as how to avoid or treat their triggers, we hope that you can begin your healing journey and get one step closer to reclaiming your confidence.



Rosacea | PubMed

Red Wine Named Top Alcohol Trigger |

Acne vulgaris: pathogenesis, treatment, and needs assessment | PubMed

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