Antibiotic creams are often the first line of attack, but sufferers need to apply them twice a day over several months to get the full benefit. Unfortunately, more than half give up as soon as they see a slight improvement in their skin.
Once they stop the treatment, their face just erupts again. Which leaves them believing the antibiotic hasn't worked and sets them off on a cycle of different potions, lotions and pills.
But now an antibiotic gel has been developed which needs to be applied only once a day.
Importantly, it can be used last thing at night rather than in the morning when teenagers are at their busiest getting ready for school or college.
Young women can now wake up and put their make-up straight on without having to wait half an hour for the gel to soak into the skin.
The gel is called Zindaclin, a combination of zinc and the antibiotic clindamycin. In trials of 260 young people with mild to moderate acne, it has been found to be at least as effective as similar twice-daily treatments.
One of those on the trial is 20-year-old Leeds University student Michelle Sullivan, who has had spots since she was 14.
'I've never been completely clear of them. They just kept coming back in certain areas of my face,' says Michelle.
'When I was 16, I went to my doctor in Cardiff, where I was brought up, and he confirmed it was acne. It was probably at its worst when I was 17.'
She was put on different treatments with varying success, including Dianette, which has the dual purpose of being a contraceptive pill and tackling acne.
Acne is known to be hormone-driven, which is why contraceptives can help by stabilising hormone production. But many young women do not like to stay on the Pill because of possible side-effects such as thrombosis.
Michelle stopped taking Dianette when she travelled the world during her gap year. 'By the time I came back the acne had returned. Sometimes it could flare up, other times it might calm down a bit. It would depend on the time of the month as my hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle.
'It's never been really painful but it can get itchy and sore, especially if you touch it. You're supposed to leave it alone but you can't help it.
'It has made me feel a bit down. You have to make more effort with your appearance, using make-up to hide it, which probably didn't help a lot. I would feel insecure about how I looked and it can harm your confidence when you're out with boys.
'You feel they're judging you, though most of the time they probably don't even notice.'
Michelle is studying broadcast journalism and would like to be a TV presenter, where a good complexion is vital. 'It's all about the way you look,' she says.
When she heard of the Zindaclin trial at her GP's surgery, she eagerly accepted the chance to take part. So far, she has been on it for almost
two months and believes it is really helping. 'I didn't notice that much improvement at the beginning, but I have in the past three or four weeks.
'The last time I saw the doctor, he said there had been a big improvement, and I'm hoping if I keep it up it'll completely clear my skin.
'I certainly think it's a better option than putting hormones in your body. It's simple to apply and I've got into a routine now.'
According to the Acne Support Group, up to 90 per cent of the population suffer the disease at some time, with 15 per cent of those having it badly enough to see a doctor.
It is an inflammation of the sebaceous glands (tiny oil glands in the skin) concentrated on the face and upper body.
It particularly occurs at puberty because of increased production of the hormone testosterone - in young girls as well as boys. This stimulates the release of sebum, the waxy substance produced by sebaceous glands. A build-up of sebum may then block the pores, causing spots.
Alison Dudley, chief executive of the Acne Support Group, says: 'Seventy-five per cent of our members say they have felt depressed as a result of having acne, while 15 per cent actually felt suicidal.
'Nor are teenagers the only ones who suffer. Five per cent of women in their 40s still have it, as do one per cent of men, often because of abnormal reactions to normal levels of hormones in the body.
Diet has nothing to do with it. Chocolate and chips are not going to give you acne. If they did it, would be much easier to deal with.
'Acne is very treatable, but it's not an overnight thing - it's long-term. So having a treatment that needs to be used only once a day will be very helpful.'
Trials of Zindaclin, which will be available on prescription only, were conducted at various centres throughout the country, the main one being Leeds Infirmary.
Professor of Dermatology, Bill Cunliffe, who conducted the trials, says: 'This is a new preparation aimed at concentrating the drug in the skin so it will then last for 24 hours.
'You apply it in the evening when you're going to bed. Have a wash, put on the lotion and forget about it until the following evening.
'The zinc is there to maintain the concentration of the drug. It also works as an anti-microbial, reducing the bugs in acne. Some people become resistant to antibiotics and it could well be that the zinc will help to minimise this.'
He said the new formulation could also cause less soreness of the skin, a common problem in acne treatments. ' Obviously, if you use it just once a day, you are going to have less irritation in the long term.'
Acne Support Group: 0208 841 4747.
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