Not every bump on the skin is a pimple. Redness, rashes, allergic reactions, and skin infections can sometimes mimic the look and feel of acne symptoms, but these conditions are not actually active acne.
If you’re struggling with acne-like symptoms, a board-certified dermatologist can determine whether you’re struggling with acne or another condition. Once your dermatologist makes a diagnosis, they can create a customized treatment plan that helps address your condition and heal your skin.
What Are Visual Indications of Acne?
Acne can occur when dead skin, bacteria, dirt and grime, and oils clog the pores. It may appear in the form of the following acne types and symptoms:
- Pimples: Persistent and recurrent swelling and red spots on the skin that can become inflamed and filled with pus
- Whiteheads: Tiny white bumps under the skin that have no obvious opening
- Blackheads: Dark spots with open pores at the center
- Inflammatory papules: Red swellings or lumps that can be tender
- Inflammatory pustules: Pimples filled with pus, forming clusters of bumps that are slightly larger, red, and sensitive to the touch
- Nodules: Inflamed and fluid-filled lumps under the skin; they are often tender and may become large
- Cysts: Boil-like, fluid-filled nodules
In some cases, what appears to be acne may not be acne at all. Instead, it can be a different skin condition that masquerades as acne. Examples of skin conditions like acne can include:
Folliculitis or Pseudo-folliculitis: A Skin Condition Characterized by Bumps
Folliculitis can be caused by inflammation, irritation, and infection of the hair follicles. This can be commonly experienced on the face, especially around the chin and neck line. It is often chronic in nature for many patients, and the surrounding area can appear red and inflamed. Pseudo-folliculitis is often due to irritation of the hair follicles without any active infection. Shaving can frequently cause this condition to appear worse or flare. Both of these skin conditions can mimic the appearance of acne.
Rosacea: A Skin Condition Characterized by Redness and Bumps
Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory disorder that typically involves redness across the cheeks and nose (flushing). It can be accompanied by broken blood vessels and an over-abundance of small, red or pus-filled bumps that appear to be acne. Those with rosacea may describe feeling a burning, stinging, tight, and dry sensation associated with the bumps. Occasionally, patients experience dryness and irritation of their eyes as well.
Perioral Dermatitis: A Skin Condition Characterized by Bumps and Scaliness
Perioral dermatitis is a common inflammatory condition that can appear as pimple-like bumps, scaliness, and dryness. This skin condition typically affects the area around the mouth, but it can also affect the areas around the eyes. Oftentimes, irritation, burning, and stinging may be present, as well as itching. Patients can be sensitive to many topical products, such as face washes and moisturizers. It is often worsened by topical steroid use in the area.
Eczema Can Cause Dry, Itchy, and Cracked Skin
Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic condition that can cause dry, inflamed patches of skin that can itch intensely. It can be mistaken as acne because of other symptoms, such as swelling, redness, blisters, and bumps that look like pimples. Eczema can appear or flare up anywhere on the body. In babies, the condition typically occurs on the face, arms, and legs. For older kids, teens, and adults, eczema can show up anywhere and everywhere. However, it most commonly appears on the back of the knees, back of the neck, inner elbows, and face.
Psoriasis Leads to Red, Scaly Patches on the Skin
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that is typically characterized by pink or red scaly patches that can occur anywhere on the body, including the face and neck. When the overlying skin cells thicken, they can form white, scaly patches on the skin. There are five types of psoriasis, including pustular psoriasis. This type can appear as pus-filled blisters that may be confused with pimples. Treatments differ compared to those that are typically used for acne.
Questions About Acne or Other Skin Conditions? Schedule a Consultation With a Cosmetic Dermatologist at LSSCPA Today!
If your acne looks like it may actually be a symptom of any of these conditions, seeing a dermatologist can be helpful. A dermatologist can provide a proper diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan that effectively addresses your skin concerns.
At Laser & Skin Surgery Center of Pennsylvania, our board-certified and fellowship-trained dermatologists have extensive cosmetic and medical dermatology experience. Our experts utilize the most advanced research methods to diagnose and treat all types of skin conditions. We provide the highest quality of care by using the most cutting-edge laser and energy-based treatments currently available.
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