7 Skin Conditions That Look Like Acne but Aren’t

Can you spot the pimple imposter?


rosaceaLipowski Milan/Shutterstock

Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory disorder often confused with acne. “While there are multiple types, the two most common include redness of the cheeks (flushing) and an over-abundance of little visible vessels on the cheeks, as well as acne-like bumps generally more in the mid face,” says dermatologist Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD. Unlike acne, rosacea is commonly triggered by histamine-related and spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Treatments usually combines both dietary and lifestyle changes and prescription topicals, and switching to non-irritating skin-care formulas. Follow these skin care tips that dermatologists abide by.


folliculitisOcskay Mark/Shutterstock

Folliculitis (a common summer skin problem) is an inflammation of the hair follicles, characterized by tiny, red pimples, which may be come filled with pus (resembling whiteheads). They can also be itchy or painful, or in more severe cases become crusty sores. They can appear anywhere on the body—particularly areas where friction is common, like the thighs, butt, neck, and armpits. According to dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, folliculitis can be caused by bacteria and comes in several versions. Some examples include bacterial folliculitis, also known as barber’s itch because it tends to affect men’s beard area, and pseudomonas folliculitis, aka hot tub itch because the responsible bacteria is most commonly found in warm contaminated water. Mild cases of folliculitis can be treated with non-prescription benzoyl peroxide- and salicylic acid-based cleansers (like PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide), wipes, and creams. More severe cases may require oral antibiotics. For folliculitis that involves a yeast infection, there are anti-yeast cleansers; often a prescription-strength antifungal medication may be required. Make sure you know these 10 strange skin problems that could be a sign of a serious disease.

Keratosis pilaris


Keratosis pilaris is a chronic skin condition, marked by rough (red, white, or skin colored) bumps—usually on the upper arms and legs—that can feel like sandpaper. According to Dr. Bhanusali, these tiny bumps are caused by an abnormal amount of keratin that blocks hair follicles. While the condition is harmless, it can cause itchiness and dryness—moisturizers can help ease these symptoms. Dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, recommends treating keratosis pilaris with topical retinoids and creams containing salicylic acid and lactic acid, which works to remove dead skin cells and prevent clogged follicles. Don’t miss the 11 things your itchy skin can reveal about your health.

Perioral dermatitis

perioral dermatitisCourtesy American Academy of Dermatology

Perioral dermatitis is an inflammatory facial rash (versus acne, which is bacterial)—typically seen around the mouth. The most common cause is topical steroid use, but it can also be caused by fluoridation in toothpaste, explains dermatologist Bobby Buka, MD. The recommended course of treatment is to discontinue all topical steroids (both prescription and OTC), heavy face creams, and fluorinated toothpaste—instead, opting for mild, non-irritating cleansers and lightweight, non-comedogenic lotions. Oral and topical antibiotics are an effective treatment option. Learn how to identify 14 of the most common skin irritations.

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