Skin Conditions That Are Commonly Mistaken for Acne

Acne: It’s one of the most commons skin conditions in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

And contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a demon of your teenage years. Grown adults also get acne pretty often.

What even is acne?

In case you don’t know, acne are those little red pimples and bumps that appear most commonly on your face, but also on your back, arms, and other places as well. They’re usually swollen, perhaps oily, and just not a fun time at all.

Why some people are more prone to acne might have to do with how oily their skin is. The pores (small holes) in your skin are connected to oil glands under the skin that are responsible for making sebum, which is an oily substance your skin produces.

The pores and glands are connected by what’s called a follicle, which is where oil brings dead skin cells to the surface of your skin.

A thin hair grows through the follicle and surfaces on the skin, and sometimes, all three of these elements (hair, sebum and skin cells) clump together, which can cause swelling. As this starts to break down, herein lies the birth of acne. Ugh!

While it’s not a serious disease, acne can cause dark spots or scarring if it occurs often enough or if you pick at it.

Is it acne—or something else?

The problem is, acne can sometimes resemble other more serious skin conditions. And if you’re prone to acne, you might not realize that those icky red bumps and lumps might not actually be acne at all.

Read on to discover some of these conditions that can mimic the effects of acne:

  1. Steroid rosacea.

    If you’re taking a topical steroid cream and suddenly notice an outbreak of a red, check to see the side effects, because steroid rosacea could be one.

    Steroid rosacea is similar to both rosacea and acne, causing bumps, itchy or burning red areas on the face (especially around your mouth), sensitive skin, and enlarged blood vessels. This most commonly occurs in women, but can also happen to men and children.

  2. Milia.

    These are small clusters of small yellow-y white bumps that look just like a white head. They typically come out on the nose and cheeks and are actually most common in newborns, so it’s many times, mistaken for baby acne—except milia doesn’t cause inflammation or swelling like baby acne does.

    Additionally, babies are born with milia while baby acne is something they can develop after a few weeks. In older children and adults, milia is usually associated with skin or injury blistering, burns, long-term use of steroid creams or sun damage, and more.

  3. Malassezia.

    This is a fungal infection that shows up in a cluster of itchy red bumps—no wonder people always mistake it for acne. Malassezia is caused by yeast already in the skin, it’s just that in some people, the yeast suppresses the body’s expected immune response, causing a skin disorder.

    If you’re prone to sweating, have oily skin, or live in a humid climate, you might be more likely to develop malassezia.

Crazy, huh? Have you ever had any of these skin conditions and mistaken them for acne?

For more acne imposters and more info on the ones above, check out the video below!