Navigating the complex world of skin conditions can often feel daunting. Among them, acne and rosacea stand out for their prevalence and the confusion they frequently cause due to their similar appearances. However, understanding the differences between these conditions is more than a matter of names; it’s crucial for effective treatment and long-term management, and is critical for anyone looking to address their skin concerns adequately.  

At The London Scar Clinic, we understand the challenges our patients face when dealing with skin conditions. That’s why our blog aims to demystify the “rosacea vs acne” debate, providing clarity and understanding for those affected. If you’re looking for specialised treatment in London, The London Scar Clinic offers advanced solutions, including services for Acne Scarring and Rhinophyma, a severe form of rosacea. Additionally, our Types of Lasers treatment page outlines the latest technological advancements available for managing these conditions.  

Whether you’re struggling with the persistent redness of rosacea or the frustrating breakouts of acne, understanding your condition is the first step towards recovery. In this guide, we will thoroughly explain rosacea and acne, highlighting their distinctions, overlaps, and treatment options.  

In providing this knowledge, we hope to empower our readers to make informed decisions about their skin health, leading them toward clearer, healthier skin. 

Understanding acne 

Acne is not just a common skin condition, but rather a complex phenomenon affecting millions worldwide. Acne occurs when hair follicles become blocked with oil and dead skin cells, leading to a range of reactions from pimples and blackheads to more severe forms like cystic acne. Although this skin condition is most prevalent during teenage years due to hormonal fluctuations, it can affect individuals of all ages.  

The battle against acne often occurs on the face, chest, shoulders, and back, areas rich in sebaceous (oil) glands. When these glands go into overdrive, they can create an environment ripe for acne. Symptoms range from non-inflammatory blackheads and whiteheads to inflammatory pimples and in more severe cases, cysts and nodules that sit deep under the skin.  

There are three types of acne, the distinction between which is crucial for understanding and treating acne effectively. These are: 

  • Blackheads (open comedones) reveal themselves as small, dark spots on the skin’s surface, resulting from an open, clogged pore. 
  • Whiteheads (closed comedones), on the other hand, are formed when pores clog and close, appearing as tiny, flesh-coloured bumps. 
  • Cystic acne represents the more daunting face of the condition, with large, painful, and red lesions that lurk beneath the skin, often leading to scarring if left untreated. 

Recognising the types of acne and their specific characteristics is essential for anyone looking to improve their skin health and overcome the impact of this condition. 

Exploring rosacea 

Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that primarily affects the face. It can occur with the following symptoms, which make it easy to confuse with acne:  

  • Persistent redness: One of the primary signs of rosacea is a constant flush or blush across the nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin.  
  • Visible blood vessels: Also known as telangiectasia, small blood vessels become visible on the skin’s surface, particularly on the face.  
  • Papules and pustules: Rosacea can also cause red bumps (papules) and pus-filled lesions (pustules), resembling acne breakouts but without blackheads. 

However, rosacea is distinguished by its unique triggers, symptoms, and affected areas. This condition is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged women with fair skin, but it can affect individuals of any skin type and age. 


The symptoms of rosacea can be exacerbated by external and internal factors, meaning that it can often be difficult to manage. 

Common triggers include:  

  • Sun exposure: UV radiation is a well-documented aggravator of rosacea, often worsening symptoms.  
  • Extreme temperatures: Both hot and cold weather can cause flare-ups.  
  • Spicy foods and hot drinks: These can increase facial redness and flushing.  
  • Stress and emotional changes: Emotional stress is a known factor that can intensify rosacea symptoms. 
  • Cosmetic products: Certain skincare and makeup products can irritate sensitive rosacea-affected skin. 

The symptoms of rosacea extend beyond its visible signs, with many experiencing burning or stinging sensations, especially when applying water or skincare products. In more advanced stages, some individuals can develop rhinophyma, a condition characterised by the thickening of the skin on the nose, giving it a bulbous appearance. 

Areas affected by rosacea: 

While rosacea predominantly affects the central face – nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin – it can also spread to the ears, chest, and back in more severe cases. Another aspect of rosacea, ocular rosacea, impacts the eyes, leading to irritation, dryness, and a gritty feeling in the eyes.  

Understanding rosacea is the first step in managing this complex condition. Identifying and avoiding personal triggers and seeking appropriate medical treatment can significantly improve the quality of life for those affected. 

Key differences between rosacea and acne

Both rosacea and acne can cause facial redness and / or a bump on the skin and an uneven skin surface. However, several key differences help distinguish them. Understanding these distinctions is required for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Acne primarily manifests as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts, and nodules, affecting areas with a high concentration of oil glands, such as the face, chest, back, and shoulders. The lesions can vary from surface-level to deep, painful cystic acne.

Rosacea, however, is characterised by persistent facial redness, visible blood vessels (telangiectasia), and sometimes papules and pustules. Unlike acne, rosacea does not include blackheads and typically concentrates on the central face, including the cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead.

Differences In primary symptoms

Key acne symptoms include visible pores, oily skin, and a variety of lesions. It can lead to scarring and skin discolouration if not appropriately treated.

In comparison, symptoms of rosacea extend beyond skin lesions to include eye irritation, skin sensitivity, and, in severe cases, rhinophyma, a thickening of the nose’s skin. Rosacea sufferers might also experience flushing and sensitivity to skincare products and environmental factors.

Acne is primarily driven by hormonal changes that increase oil production, clogged pores, bacteria, and inflammation. Rosacea’s triggers are more varied and can include environmental factors such as sun exposure, hot or cold weather, emotional stress, spicy foods, alcohol, and certain cosmetic products. The exact cause of rosacea is still not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of hereditary and environmental factors.

How to tell the difference between acne and rosacea

In order to discern between acne and rosacea, it’s important to closely examine the type of lesions that occur, their location, and the presence of other symptoms, such as skin redness, flushing or having blood vessels be visible to the eye, which are more indicative of rosacea. Acne lesions are more diverse (including blackheads and cysts) and can occur beyond the face. In contrast, rosacea is primarily facial with a distinct pattern of redness and may involve the eyes.

Understanding these key differences enables individuals to seek the most appropriate treatments, whether that involves managing acne’s varied lesions or addressing rosacea’s unique triggers and symptoms. With the proper knowledge and care, both conditions can be managed effectively, improving skin health and confidence.

Diagnosis and medical assessment 

Consulting a dermatologist is essential for anyone experiencing skin issues, as it ensures an accurate diagnosis and the most effective treatment plan. Dermatologists can differentiate between conditions like rosacea and acne by identifying specific symptoms and considering the patient’s medical history. 

A thorough assessment at The London Scar Clinic involves evaluating the type and location of skin lesions, triggers’ presence, and the patient’s skincare routine. This detailed examination helps pinpoint the exact condition, be it rosacea, characterised by persistent redness and visible blood vessels, or acne, with its diverse range of breakouts.  

The role of a dermatologist in diagnosing skin conditions highlights the importance of professional insight into achieving clearer, healthier skin. A dermatologists will be able to tailor treatments to address specific symptoms and underlying causes through a personalised approach, offering the best path forward for each individual. 

Visual comparison 

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when comparing rosacea and acne. Visual aids can help readers understand the key differences in appearance between these two common skin conditions.  

When examining images side by side, it is much easier to notice the distinct characteristics that set them apart. Rosacea typically presents with a noticeable flush or persistent redness across the central parts of the face, especially the cheeks, nose, and forehead. This condition may also feature visible blood vessels, a characteristic not typical of acne.  

In some cases, rosacea can cause small, red, pus-filled bumps, but unlike acne, blackheads are absent. Additionally, the skin affected by rosacea may appear thicker, especially around the nose, a condition known as rhinophyma. 

Acne, conversely, is characterised by a wider variety of lesions, including blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, cysts, and nodules. These can occur not only on the face but also on the chest, back, and shoulders. Acne lesions are often more varied in appearance and can include closed comedones (whiteheads) or open comedones (blackheads), which are not features of rosacea.  

Understanding these visual differences can help and empower individuals when communicating their symptoms to dermatologists, leading to more accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans. 

Treatment options

It is important for those suffering from acne and / or rosacea to understand the treatment options available, as each condition requires a tailored approach to manage effectively. Advances in dermatology have led to various treatments that can significantly improve symptoms and quality of life for those affected.

Here, we explore the treatment landscape for both conditions, drawing on insights from leading sources.


For rosacea, treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and preventing flare-ups.

The options to treat rosacea include:

  • Topical medications: Applied directly to the skin to reduce redness and the appearance of bumps and pimples.
  • Oral antibiotics: Often prescribed for their anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce symptoms.
  • Laser therapy: Targets visible blood vessels, reducing redness and improving skin appearance. Laser treatments can also address rhinophyma by reshaping the nose.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Identifying and avoiding triggers such as sun exposure, spicy foods and stress can play a significant role in managing rosacea.

Individuals with rosacea should work closely with their dermatologist to identify the most effective treatments for their specific symptoms and triggers.


Acne treatments aim to reduce oil production, accelerate skin cell turnover, fight bacterial infection, and reduce inflammation to prevent scarring.

Treatment approaches include:

  • Topical treatments: Such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids, which help to unclog pores and reduce the severity of acne.
  • Oral medications: Including antibiotics to target inflammation and oral contraceptives or anti-androgen agents can help control acne in women.
  • Isotretinoin: A powerful medication for severe acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments.
  • Laser and light therapies: Can reduce oil production and bacteria. Some therapies help to decrease inflammation and improve acne scars.
  • Chemical peels and microdermabrasion: These procedures can manage acne by removing dead skin cells and clearing clogged pores.


Understanding the distinctions between rosacea and acne is pivotal for effective management and treatment. At a glance, rosacea is characterised by facial redness and visible blood vessels, whereas acne presents a variety of lesions, including blackheads and cystic breakouts. Each condition requires a distinct treatment approach, highlighting the importance of an accurate diagnosis.

At The London Scar Clinic, we specialise in tailored treatments for rosacea and acne, utilising the latest dermatological advancements. Our expert team is committed to providing personalised care, ensuring that each patient receives the most effective treatment plan for their needs.

If you’re experiencing the challenges of rosacea or acne, we’re here to support you. We invite you to contact us for a consultation, where we can devise a customised treatment strategy to enhance your skin health and confidence.