Difference Between Acne and Dermatitis

It is very important to learn the difference between acne and dermatitis.
Both are treated in different ways.  If you’re taking measures to treat one of these conditions, yet are suffering from the other.  You’re going to make things worse.



You should always see a doctor.  If you’re unsure, it’s a no-brainer.  

First, I’d like to say that anything you read here must be taken with some dubiety.  I’m not a doctor, this is simply information brought to you by my own research.  Now that I’ve said that, read on.  And, hopefully I can help in some way.


How to Tell the Difference Between Acne and Dermatitis

  • Dermatitis is caused by
    Difference between Dermatitis and Pimples
    Vesicular Rash

    an allergen or irritant.  Acne is caused by hormonal and digestive issues that block hair follicles and get infected.

  • Dermatitis usually looks like a rash with small raised bumps and is itchy.  Acne can be pus-filled pimples (whiteheads), blackheads, pustules and papsules and are painful.
  • Dermatitis can happen on any part of the body.  Acne is usually on the face and neck, or chest and back.
  • It depends on what type of dermatitis you have, but most are treated with a hydrocortisone and an antihistamine.  Although more severe cases need antibioitcs and injections.
  • You can get both at the same time.  I’ve had dermatitis on my fingers, whilst suffering from acne on my face.


Types of Dermatitis

Each of the different types of dermatitis has its own signs and symptoms with the most common symptoms being lesions, redness, swelling, and itching.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with dermatitis, you may be wondering what it is, how you got it, and how to get rid of it.

Dermatitis is a term used to describe an inflammation of the skin. Because this is a general term, there are many different types and causes of dermatitis. No matter what you call it, red, swollen, itchy skin can leave you miserable.


Difference between Acne and Dermatitis
Eczema Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) – This type of dermatitis usually occurs with allergies.  It is usually hereditary and runs in the family.  Dry, irritable skin along with allergies is a sign of this condition. Stress can make it worse though it does not cause it.  Hydrocortisone lotions and antihistamines are typically used to treat this type of dermatitis.


Contact dermatitis – As the name implies, this type of dermatitis is the result of contact with an irritant.  Such as a soap, detergent, and cleaning products.  Or, an allergen such as rubber, jewelry, perfume, cosmetics, and poison ivy.  

Treatment revolves around discovering the irritant and eliminating it.  Hydrocortisone creams and wet dressing are often used to provide relief.


Neurodermatitis – Irritation from tight fitting clothes that rub and scratch your skin.  And, often results in this condition.  The main treatment involves stopping you from scratching the area.  Relief is also provided with hydrocortisone lotions.  Difficult to remove dressings are often applied to act as a physical barrier against scratching.


Perioral dermatitis – This condition affects the area around the mouth or nose.  It may be related to rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, or adult acne. Oral antibiotics such as tetracycline are typically prescribed to threat this condition.  

Warning!  This above condition is the most similar to acne but is treated very differently.  Find out more here.


Seborrheic dermatitis – If you’ve heard of cradle cap in infants, you may be familiar with this condition.  The signs of this are a red rash with a yellow, oily scale.  People with oily skin and hair are commonly affected.  Frequent shampooing and thorough rinsing are usually recommended to treat this condition.  Your doctor might suggest a specific brand of shampoo.


Stasis dermatitis – This form of dermatitis involves fluid buildup in the areas beneath your skin.  Which interferes with nourishment of the skin.  In addition, the fluid buildup places great pressure on your skin from below.  The lower leg is the area most affected.  Treatment involves correcting the condition that caused the fluid buildup.  Varicose vein surgery or elastic support hose are often used.


The Next Step

Depending on the severity of the condition, you may or may not need to seek medical advice.

For example, if you suspect that minor itching is due to the new laundry detergent you just bought, re-launder your clothes using your old brand and see if your contact dermatitis clears up. Contact dermatitis can take a week or two to clear up completely.

On the other hand, if the itching is severe, your skin is extremely painful, you suspect an infection, or if you are unsure, give your doctor a call.



Itchy skin leads to scratching which can tear the skin making it susceptible to infection. Staph and strep infections are common complications as is scarring.

A serious, life-threatening complication called cellulitis requires immediate attention. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that appears as red streaks with intensely inflamed, swollen skin that is tender, red, and warm to the touch. Spreading, indistinct margins also appear. Call your doctor right away, especially if you have a compromised immune system.


Getting Relief from Dermatitis

Dermatitis, Acne, Eczema, Rash
Allergic Rash

No matter what type of dermatitis you have, antihistamines are often used to give you relief from the itching. As hard as it is, try not to scratch.

If you can’t help yourself, apply a dressing to the area. Trim your fingernails short and wear gloves overnight. Dress appropriately to prevent excess sweating. Choose smoothly textured cotton clothes to minimize irritation.

In addition, to prevent future outbreaks consider bathing less frequently using warm.  Rather than hot, water.  Use mild soaps such as Dove that doesn’t remove an excessive amount of natural oils.  Apply the soap to your face, genitals, underarms, hands, and feet.  But opt for plain water elsewhere.  Gently pat yourself dry with a towel and apply a moisturizer to your damp skin.


To Find Out More About Acne Causes and Treatments- Follow This Link


Tips to Remember

The first difference between acne and dermatitis is that the former is usually from within the body.  The latter is from an irritant or allergen.

Because of this, the symptoms and appearances can vary

It is important to know the differences since using a dermatitis treatment on acne can worsen the condition. And, vice versa.

Thanks for reading.

If you have any questions or queries, be sure to comment below.


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