Birth control for acne has worked wonders for many women. This method of acne control and treatment is not new in the market. In fact, dermatologists have been recommending birth control pills for women suffering from severe acne breakouts for decades now. And if you are a woman with a terrible and stubborn acne breakout, birth control for acne is something that you might want to consider (Read more about causes of acne).
Acne control, in most cases, brings as much headache to women as the acne itself. Aside from its effect to physical appearance, acne also negatively affects a woman’s personality. It badly lowers a woman’s self-image, self-esteem, and her relationship with others. And in a quest for blemish-free skin, I have known women, friends, and acquaintances, who, in one way or another,have tried almost everything to treat acne but have gotten very minimal results.
If topical and oral acne medication did nothing to your acne control campaign, then maybe it is about time to talk to your doctor about the best birth controls for acne.
Acne can be caused by several factors. For women, one of the most common causes of an acne breakout is hormonal imbalance.
Hormonal imbalance happens when there is a high level of male sex hormones (androgens) such as testosterone in a woman’s body. The high level of androgens in a woman’s bloodstream prompts excessive sebum or oil production that leads to clogged pores and eventually causes an acne breakout.
Here are the effects of women’s hormonal imbalance to acne:
- Excessive sebum produced by oil glands
- Dead skin cells become tacky or sticky and get accumulated in the pores
- Buildup of acne-causing bacteria
- Skin redness and inflammation
This is where birth control for acne comes in. With the help of birth control pills, the levels of female sex hormones in the body, such as estrogen, increases. As a result, the level of androgen is reduced and oil production normalizes, leading to clearer skin for women.
Not all women suffering from acne are experiencing hormonal imbalance. Some may have acne caused by a different factor. However, to help you out, here are some symptoms that you may encounter if you suspect hormonal imbalance in your body: (Read more about Hormonal Acne)
- Frequent or uncontrolled acne breakouts
- Excess growth of facial or body hair
- Deepening of voice
- Infrequent or irregular menstrual period
If you are experiencing an acne breakout together with these other symptoms, then there is a high probability that your body is suffering from hormonal disorder. Suspicion is not enough though. It is best for you to see a doctor to verify that you have hormonal imbalance. Hormonal testing might be recommended to confirm your condition. If confirmed, you may undergo hormonal therapy by taking birth control pills to cure hormonal disorder and to address your acne breakout as well.
Understanding Hormonal Therapy: Facts and Considerations
In as much as you want to get acne help from birth control pills, it wouldn’t be that easy. Your doctor will have the final say if you can undergo hormone therapy to combat your acne breakout. Here are some important things you need to know before undergoing this acne control treatment.
- Combination oral contraceptives, containing both estrogen and progestin, are proven effective to clear acne in women; whether used alone or together with an anti-androgen medication like spironolactone.
- There are only three FDA approved birth controls for acne. All of these three contain both estrogen and progestin and are highly reliable in treating acne. These pills also have ethinyl estradiol combined with either progestinnorgestimate, norethindrone acetate, or drospirenone. Taking progestin alone will not do the job.
- Generally, hormonal therapy is only advised when topical treatment and oral antibiotics have failed to do their job.
- Before acne patients can undergo hormonal therapy, they must be screened thoroughly first as birth control pills can bring side effects or contraindications that can worsen some other health conditions. Some of these contraindications include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- High blood pressure
- Blood clots, stroke, and heart attack
- Personal history of breast cancer
- People under hormonal therapy need to be regularly monitored by their physician.
Types of Birth Controls for Acne
There are several types of birth control pills you can find in the market,but be informed that not all of them are approved and okay for acne control. Thus, before taking any birth control pill a friend or someone has recommended to get your acne treated, it is important toconsult a doctor.
So far, there are only three FDA approved birth controls for acne. These three are combination oral contraceptives containing estrogen and progesterone.Estrogen and progesterone must both be present for a contraceptive to be effective for acne control. In fact, progesterone alone can make your acne condition worse.
Birth controls that help acne and are approved by FDA:
- Yaz. This birth control for acne uses a combination of estrogen and drospirenone, a manmade form of progestin. Birth control pill brands that contain drospirenone are Zarah, Yasmin, Syeda, Safyral, Ocella, Gianvi, Beyaz. According to FDA, contraceptives containing drospirenone may increase risk of blood clot compared to pills that has other types of progestin.
- Estrostep. This birth control for acne uses a combination of estrogen and norethindrone, a type of progestin. Estrostep is available in different doses of estrogen.
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen. This birth control for acne uses a combination of estrogen and norgestimate, another type of synthetic or manmade progestin. Ortho Tri-Cyclen is available with different doses of progestin.
What to Expect When Taking Birth Control for Acne
Lucky are those women who immediately experience the positive effect of birth control pills on acne. But generally, in most women, acne starts to clear at the 3rd month of taking birth control pills. There are also some cases where acne flares up in the first few weeks or months of hormone therapy. This could be attributed to the body’s adjustment of hormone levels. Others may also experience breast tenderness, headaches, and breakthrough bleeding. It is important that you discuss with your doctor whatever side effect you may encounter so he or she can properly monitor your condition.
Does Birth Controls Helps Acne? Benefits
Birth controls for acne have been an effective way to control acne ever since. While topical acne treatment and oral antibiotics may have not worked for you, there is a huge probability that birth control pills will get the job done. Birth control pills have been a “run to” medication for moderate to severe acne in women because of the many benefits that it brings. (Read more about Acne Solutions)
- Effectively controls and prevents breakouts
- Decreases pimples
- Reduces inflammation
- Prevents severe acne development
With the balance in hormones that birth control pills do to a woman’s body, oil production is properly regulated, resulting to a less oily skin. It means less clogging of pores. And with the normal oil level on the skin, dead skin sheds properly instead of getting accumulated in the pores. With all these activities in the body brought by birth control pills, acne breakouts will definitely not prevail.
Downside of Birth Control for Acne
Presently, birth controls for acne have lower estrogen and progesterone. Unlike in the past, birth controls for acne that are prescribed nowadays lower the risk of other medical complications. However, women taking birth control pills for acne are still advised to submit for regular check up for monitoring purposes as these contraceptives could increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks. It could also increase the risk of:
- Cardiovascular issues such as hypertension and high blood pressure
- Depression and sudden mood swings
- Severe headaches or migraines
- Gallbladder and liver diseases
Furthermore, before prescribing birth controls for acne, doctors need to first put your general health as the number one priority. They should take an account of your medical history as these contraceptives or pills can put yourself in a bad health condition. Birth control pills should not be taken by people with:
- History of cancer (breast cancer, liver cancer, uterine cancer, etc.)
- History of cardiovascular diseases (heart disease, high blood pressure or hypertension, etc.)
- Blood-clotting disorder
- Diabetes, migraine, and liver issues
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding a baby
- You are severely obese
- You are over 35 and smoking
How do you maximize the benefits of birth control pills for acne?
Whatever medication or treatment for acne you are undergoing, if it’s not properly done, it will not provide the best possible result. As you undergo hormonal therapy, here are some tips that may help you in getting the best from the birth control pills you’re using:
- Do not stop other acne treatments that your doctor prescribed. Sometimes people think that taking birth control pills alone is enough to combat acne. Well, that is not always the case. Topical treatment or other oral treatment should be properly continued unless advised by the doctor not to. Two or more is better than one.
- Follow the prescribed amount and time when taking the pill. One of the basic things that a person under hormone therapy should do is to be obedient and on time when taking the pill. This way, you can make sure that you get the maximum benefits. It is always safe to follow your doctor’s prescription.
- Don’t forget to ask what to expect. You should know everything that the hormonal therapy can bring to you. This way, your expectations are set and you can prepare for it.
- Report to your doctor whatever side effect you may encounter. Your safety should always be your number one priority. So, in case you are feeling something unusual after taking the pill, more than the expected side effects, make sure to take note of it so you can report it to your doctor. This way, you can be properly monitored and avoid getting into unsafe situations.
- Be honest with what meds you are taking. There are medications that can hinder you from getting the best out of your hormonal therapy. Make sure to discuss with your doctor every med you are taking to verify if it can negatively affect your therapy.
Birth control for Acne VS Oral Antibiotic
Some say birth control pills work better for acne; while others say an oral antibiotic does the job better. Honestly, both sides are true and correct. After all, our body, skin type, and acne condition are different from one another. The important thing is you were able to find the acne treatment that works best for your condition.
But just to provide you with more information and shed light on some gray areas, here are the findings of the research entitled “Meta-analysis comparing efficacy of antibiotics versus oral contraceptives in acne vulgaris,” by Koo E, Peterson T, Kimball A., (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, May 2014)
- Both antibiotics and oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) have been found to be effective in managing acne vulgaris.
- At the first 3 months of use, oral antibiotic is more effective reducing 53.2% of acne than OCPs’ 35.6%.
- After the 6-month course, almost equal effects were shown. Oral antibiotic treatment has 57.9-% acne reduction rate while OCPs obtained 61.9%.
The study concluded that: Although antibiotics may be superior at 3 months, OCPs are equivalent to antibiotics at 6 months in reducing acne lesions and, thus, may be a better first-line alternative to systemic antibiotics for long-term acne management in women.
Birth control for acne is just one of the many treatments you can choose. There are still other forms of treatment that might bring great benefits to your acne condition. However, it does not mean that you should experiment with these treatments. Sometimes, it requires patients to see positive and noticeable effects. Again, consulting a dermatologist remains the first step to an acne-free skin.
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