The American Academy of Dermatology web site will give you a lifetime's worth of details about that dreaded scourge of all our teenage years. Of course, acne can last well beyond adolescence, and for serious situations you'll need a comprehensive program of treatment and prevention that goes beyond a simple daily regimen.

The New Zealand dermatology resource outlines the causes of acne, explaining how the excess level of hormones in teenagers and some adults stimulates oil glands to enlarge. When oil glands are thus stimulated, they will produce copious amounts of sebum (a more technical name for the oil) that, together with keratin (dead skin cells), can block pores. A blocked pore is an unhappy pore, and you'll be its unhappy owner if you allow it to fester, since it will swell to become the pimple you hate so much. Here are some tips:

  • For mild or moderate acne, your doctor can prescribe topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoids to clear up the sebum and unblock your pores.
  • Sunlight and ultraviolet light can also help acne briefly, though always be aware of the dangers of overexposure to UV rays.
  • When acne becomes particularly chronic, you may need to take medication orally, in the form of high doses of antibiotics for six months or longer. The above resources help explain the various medications and can give you a good primer before you visit your dermatologist. We particularly recommend Acutane or Retin-A, two products which dry out your skin (causing painful chapped lips), but do an amazing job of decreasing sebum production.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW improve your complexion?