Is your acne breakout “true acne”?

Conventional acne treatment e.g. topical/oral antibiotics, birth control pill, topical Tretinoin, or oral Roaccutane aim to:

  • reduce excess oil production by sebaceous glands
  • encourage healthy turnover of skin cells so it doesn’t clog up the pores
  • reduce high androgens (testosterone)
  • treat infection by P. Acne bacteria

However, did you know there are skin conditions that LOOK LIKE ACNE BUT ISN’T ACNE so it doesn’t respond to the conventional treatment, or is MADE WORST by it?

In this post, I share the 6 skin conditions that can mimic acne but is not. They can reoccur or be made worst with conventional acne treatments so if you’re in doubt, ask yourself if you have any of these:

  • Perioral dermatitis
  • Rosacea
  • Folliculitis
  • Sebaceous Hyperplasia
  • Steatocystoma Multiplex
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma


WHAT – rash of red bumps around mouth & folds around the nose. Can be dry, itchy, scaly & contain fluid/ pus. Can burn or feel sensitive.

CAUSE – not clear but can be triggered/ worsen by steroid cream or nasal spray, heavy creams containing paraffin or petroleum, fluoride toothpaste, birth control pill, sunscreen, cosmetics & hormone changes.


WHAT – chronic, inflammatory skin condition with redness across nose & cheeks with facial flushing, redness, thickening of the skin and sensitivity.

CAUSE – unknown but may be triggered/ worsen by stress, smoking, alcohol, spicy food, increasing age, temperature extremes & colonization of Demodex folliculorum mites.


WHAT – also known as fungal acne, typically present as tiny whiteheads, papules & pustules and it’s itchy.

CAUSE – an overgrowth of fungus or yeast (Pityrosporum folliculitis) in the hair follicles. Worse by hot, humid climates, (eg maskne), use of steroids, antibiotics or immunosuppressants, oily skin and diet high in sugar.


WHAT – damage sebaceous glands leading to flesh-coloured (can be white or yellow) firm bumps.

CAUSE – could be due to a change in androgen levels in the skin affecting oil production and cell turnover. May have a genetic link. Appears at an older age and is more exposed to the sun.


WHAT – benign, rare inherited condition where numerous cysts develop at puberty.

CAUSE – thought to come from the abnormal lining of the passageway to the oil glands (sebaceous ducts). A cyst can be removed by a laser, cryotherapy, electrotherapy or surgery


WHAT – type of skin cancer that is slow-growing and can often mistake for pimple.

IMPORTANT – if it bleeds, ooze, and does not heal properly or always comes back to the same spot, please have it checked out by your doctor.