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Do I Have Adult Acne or Rosacea?

If you have red bumps and pimples covering your nose and cheeks, you may automatically think of acne. Adult acne is common, and pimples on the nose are a symptom of the skin condition.

However, your red nose and cheeks could indicate rosacea, another common skin condition some people may self-diagnose as acne. 

At Associated Skin Care Specialists, our team of board-certified dermatologists treats both adult acne and rosacea. If you have acne-like bumps on your face and you’re long past puberty, you should consult with one of our skin care experts before applying over-the-counter (OTC) acne cream.

Treatments for rosacea and adult acne differ, and taking the wrong approach may worsen your skin condition.

Do you have adult acne or rosacea? Read on to find out.

Is it acne or rosacea?

The only way to know for sure if your skin condition is acne or rosacea is to have it professionally evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.

But knowing some of the differences between the conditions can help you better understand what’s happening to your skin.

Adult acne

Adult acne is the same type of acne that occurs during puberty. The only difference is age. Acne occurs when dead skin cells and oil get trapped in a hair follicle (skin pore), causing a raised bump. 

When bacteria from the skin falls into the clogged pore and multiplies, the raised bump becomes a pimple. 


Some forms of rosacea also cause red bumps and pimples on the skin, usually on the nose, cheeks, or forehead. But with rosacea, you may also have redness that spreads across the same area of the face, along with broken capillaries.

Some forms of rosacea also cause thickening of the skin on the nose.

Though adult acne may last for months, it’s not a chronic skin condition like rosacea.

What causes acne and rosacea?

Acne typically occurs from an overproduction of oil that weighs down and traps the dead skin cells in the hair follicle. The excess oil usually occurs because of a change in hormone levels. This is why acne is so common during puberty.

Hormones are also the likely cause of excess oil production in adults. Women are more likely to experience adult acne because of hormonal changes that occur during their menstrual cycles. 

Genetics seems to play a major role in the development of rosacea and tends to run in families. It’s also more common in people with fair skin and a history of severe acne. 

The skin changes that occur with rosacea may come and go, and you may notice flare-ups when there’s a change in weather, after eating certain foods, or after getting too much sun. These are called rosacea triggers. 

Getting the right treatment

Though some forms of rosacea cause pimple-like bumps, treatments for adult acne and rosacea are different.

Treatment for adult acne may include acne creams, oral antibiotics, or hormonal therapy that helps clear up the skin. It takes time, but with the right treatment plan you can get rid of adult acne. 

Treatment for rosacea focuses on flare-up prevention. Rosacea makes your skin more sensitive, so treatment may start with a change in your skin-cleaning routine. We recommend using gentle skin cleansers and moisturizers and a tender touch when washing your face.

You’ll want to identify and avoid rosacea triggers to minimize outbreaks. We also advise that you apply sunscreen daily to protect your skin from the sun. Too much sun is a common rosacea trigger. 

The bumps on your nose may look like pimples, but acne cream  may not work and may make things worse. Before self-diagnosing and treating your skin condition, consult with one of our expert dermatologists. 

We provide dermatology care at our offices in Blaine, Maple Grove, Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, Fridley, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Call the office nearest you today to schedule a consultation. 

We also have an office in New Brighton, Minnesota, which houses our dermatopathology department and dermatology research division.

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