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Things That Look Like Acne But Aren’t

Things That Look Like Acne But Aren’t


Acne is the most common skin issue in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 50 million people are affected. About 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne, but it can occur at any stage in life and can continue into middle age. So it’s easy to assume when your client comes in with inflamed bumps or pustules asking for acne treatment, that you are indeed looking at acne. However, there are a number of skin issues that at first glance, look very similar to acne, but are something else entirely. Let’s take a closer look at some things that look like acne but aren’t.




The small, red or white bumps that characterize this condition can look just like acne. But rather than being triggered by sebum and hyperkeratinization, pityrosporum folliculitis is caused by an overgrowth of yeast, which plugs the follicles.


Unlike acne, which is usually localized to the face, chest, and back, folliculitis can appear anywhere on the body. It can remain dormant in the skin for long periods. Flare-ups can be caused by humidity, sweat, non-breathable clothing, occlusive moisturizers, and/or hot tubs.


Because it is a fungal infection, folliculitis won’t respond well to typical acne treatments. Cleansers and serums formulated with Mandelic Acid, which is anti-fungal, are the best course here. The affected area should be kept clean and dry. For severe or resistant conditions, an oral anti-fungal medication may be required. These cases should be referred to a dermatologist.



Keratosis Pilaris

Similar to acne, keratosis pilaris appears as white or red bumps when hair follicles become plugged with a buildup of keratin. But unlike acne, the bumps are dry and often itchy. They lack the sebum and bacterial components that accompany acne. KP might actually be closer to a rash than a patch of acne. It’s a chronic condition that affects the cheeks, upper arms, thighs, outer legs, bottom, and back. The bumps can appear scaly. They are more noticeable in dry skin and are often worse in winter months.


The best way to treat keratosis pilaris is with moisturizing to relieve the dryness, and exfoliation to peel away the hard buildup of skin cells. Vivant’s Clear Body Therapy is the ideal treatment. The lactic acid and vitamin A cream formula is both hydrator and exfoliator. It works to soften and peel away hard keratin plugs drawing moisture into the skin.



Sebaceous Hyperplasia

It’s not a pimple. It’s not a cyst. It’s not a mole. Though it could be mistaken for any of the three. This hard, whitish or yellowish bump with an indentation in the center is sebaceous hyperplasia, and it’s the result of an overproduction of sebum that gets trapped inside a damaged sebaceous gland causing the gland to swell and create a bump. These nodules usually make an appearance on the forehead or the cheeks surrounding the nose, basically the T-zone. They are most common in the skin of people over forty. Those with fair hair, and/or those who’ve experienced a lot of sun exposure over the years are more likely to play host to these unwelcome visitors. And once they’ve already occurred, sun exposure will make them worse.


A dermatologist can offer several options for removing sebaceous hyperplasia including cryotherapy and electrocauterization, but these methods can cause scarring. Peels, retinoids, exfoliation, and time are often the best course.