For most adolescents spending a summer with a great aunt studying English literature would be better than suffering even a day with face chocked full of acne. Those of us who are parents of teenagers might find that not all surprising.

Acne is caused by hyperactive glands secreting  into pores or openings in the face.  A bacteria with a long name-Propionibacterium acnes  adds to the mixture, causing a low grade infection and inflammation.  The result runs spectrum from mild cases with non scarring red pimples to severe ones with large, red splotches which can cause permanent scars.

What to do? First of all, be prepared to spend some money to buy whatever products your doctor recommends.  Mild cases can often be treated with a drying soap and a  peroxide containing agent.  Sometimes, antibiotics such as Doxycyline are added, in an effort to eradicate the acne causing bacteria.  At night Retin-A or its generic versions may be recommended.  These products will also dry the skin and reduce inflammation.

Beware however!  Initially the skin may appear actually worse with increased redness.  This goes away usually in a few days. You might want your kid to hold off on that hot date until the skin irritation has settled down a bit.  Also, avoid the sun as both Retin- A and Doxycycline may cause photosensitivity or an inflammation of the skin caused by sunlight. Results are not seen overnight, but in anytime from a few weeks to a few months.

More severe cases will usually require a visit to the dermatologist, who may prescribe isotretinoin, a very powerful medication which can reduce or even eliminate severe scarring acne. It has some very serious side effects including  fetal abnormalities, elevated lipids and depression with suicidal tendencies.  For these reasons it should only be prescribed by a physician who has registered with the FDA.

By and large most cases of acne will along with the adolescent period will resolve and remain nothing more than a somewhat tortured memory.