Rashes, spots, pimples and bumps: so many skin different conditions look similar! How can you tell if it’s acne or something else?
Rashes come in all sorts of varieties, but are all characterised by areas of inflamed and irritated skin. Some rashes are spotty and consist of pimples or blisters, others are areas of swollen, raised, bumpy or discoloured skin. Rashes can happen as a result of something you’ve touched, eaten or taken, as well as if you’re stressed or poorly, or your skin has got infected. Sometimes it can be really difficult to determine exactly what’s caused a rash!
Is it acne or something else?
Acne is an inflammatory condition caused by an overproduction of sebum, the natural oil that the skin needs to build its defences against the outside world. It’s often triggered by hormonal changes, which is why it’s prevalent in teenagers. When an excess of oils block the follicles that make the sebum, it can cause bumps, pimples and spots. Sometimes the blocked pores can get infected by bacterial or fungal microbes, leading to pus-filled comedones, boils or cysts.
Acne tends to crop up on the face, but can also occur on your shoulders, chest, neck or back. If you’re getting bumpy, inflamed spots or pimples on these areas, it can be hard to tell what’s causing them, but it might not always be acne!
Skin issues that can resemble acne
Allergic reaction: although acne can be aggravated by a reaction to things you've eaten or come into contact with, it’s not the same as an allergic rash. Contact dermatitis allergic rashes tend to come on relatively quickly in response to something, and aren’t necessarily confined to the sebum-producing areas of the face and body that acne is. They’re likely to be intensely itchy, hot, and respond to antihistamines, calamine or cooling packs.
Hives: although hives (also known as urticaria) aren’t comedones and never have blackheads, whiteheads and aren’t fluid- or pus-filled, this type of rash can sometimes feel itchy, bumpy and acne-like when it occurs on your face. Remember that most acne isn’t itchy and will be pustular, rather than just raised areas of skin; also, unlike acne, hives tend to come on suddenly and, like other allergic rashes, respond to antihistamines and cooling creams.
Bacterial infection: impetigo, boils, folliculitis, infected or cystic acne can all look a bit like acne, because they often have characteristic pimples. An infected rash will need treatment: if you’re running a temperature, feeling poorly, or your skin is swollen and hot, get it checked out urgently.
Papulopustular rosacea: this chronic skin condition can mimic characteristics of both acne and rosacea, and looks like a rash of spots and inflammation on the mid-section of the face. For more information about the condition - and how to distinguish it from acne! - see our blog What Does Acne Rosacea Look Like?
If you’re concerned about a rash on your face and don’t know what it is, get a diagnosis from your doctor; given that topical steroid creams are a known trigger for perioral dermatitis and are not recommended for acne, it’s important that you get the right treatment, so don’t just put eczema cream on your face!
For further information about what you can do holistically to manage acne flare-ups, see our blog Best Natural Treatment For Acne And Face Eczema.
Balmonds makes a great collection of gentle, natural skincare to keep sensitive skin healthy and clean, whether it is prone to acne, eczema or perioral dermatitis. None of our products contain soap, SLS, perfumes, paraffin or silicones, so they won’t strip oils from the skin or dry it out. Instead, the natural moisturisers and cleansers work in harmony with the skin’s natural oils, keeping it balanced and healthy.
Balmonds Scalp Oil with tea tree, rosemary & borage (f14.99 for 50ml): a great natural antiseptic rescue oil for anywhere on the body, not just the scalp!
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream with hemp & shea (from £13.99 for 100ml): an unscented, paraffin-free nourishing cream for daily use.
Balmonds Rosehip Scar Oil with rosehip & calendula (£18.99 for 50ml): good for improving the appearance of acne scars and supporting the skin's cycle of regeneration adn repair.
Balmonds Natural Shampoo & Body Wash with nettle and chamomile (£19 for 200ml): an effective, unscented, SLS-free wash for body, face and scalp.
Balmonds Cooling Cream with menthol, aloe & lavender (£19 for 100ml): a calming lotion to take the heat out of itchy skin.
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.