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Acne Scars or Rosacea? Here’s How to Tell the Difference

After a recent trip to the dermatologist, I was surprised to discover that what I had always assumed were acne scars from my teenage breakouts weren’t scars at all. Instead, she told me the redness was actually caused by mild rosacea. 

I’ve heard about rosacea before, but always assumed it had to be more severe and noticeable amounts of discoloration to really be the case. As someone who’s still struggling with pimples, blackheads, and other annoying blemishes in my 30s, it never occurred to me that I could (and should) treat my skin for any other type of issue

So, how can you tell the difference between acne and rosacea? According to Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, president of Modern Dermatology and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital, “Acne scars are static, meaning they do not change. While they can be red like rosacea, they typically do not flare or get worse with things that make rosacea worse, like UV exposure, hot and spicy foods, irritating products, and alcohol.” She also explained how rosacea is associated with flushing and persistent redness specifically in the midsection area of the face. 

If you’re still not sure about your symptoms, you should definitely seek out a dermatologist to check for you before attempting any treatments. Some products made for acne can actually make rosacea worse. The good news, though, is that if you are diagnosed with a mild case like I was, it’s easy to finally soothe the redness. There’s a chance you might need a prescription, but my doctor recommended I try Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer ($11.49, Amazon). After using it for just a few weeks, I could tell a difference and even my friends were commenting on how refreshed my face looked. 

That said, if it does turn out to be acne scars, you don’t have to live with those forever either. Dr. Robinson lists options such as topical retinol creams, laser treatments, or dermal fillers for deep scars. Everyone is different, so it’s a good idea to let your own doctor help you decide on the best option. Here’s to achieving happy, clear faces for all! 

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