Dermatologists have been using birth control pills to treat acne in women for decades. However, only four pills (Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, Beyaz and YAZ) have actually been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating acne. In general, birth control to treat acne is often advised for healthy women who also need contraception. It is typically started after other acne treatments such as topical creams and oral antibiotics, have failed to clear up the skin.
Some women experience premenstrual acne as their hormone levels shift during their cycle. And for some, acne simply persists through the years, even after menopause. Acne is triggered by the production of excess sebum. Sebum is an oil made by glands in your skin. Along with skin cells, sebum can clog pores and promote the growth of bacteria that contribute to acne. Androgens, a group of hormones that include testosterone stimulate your skin to produce sebum. Woman’s ovaries and adrenal glands normally produce a low level of androgens. Higher levels of androgens can lead to excess sebum. Taking birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone lowers the number of androgens in your body. This results in less sebum and less severe acne.
Several clinical trials have shown that taking suitable birth control pills can result in:
- Decreased acne flare-ups
- Fewer pimples
- Less inflammation
- Less severe acne
But please bear in mind some of the effects the pills may have on your health:
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- High Blood Pressure
- Liver and gallbladder disease
- Migraine headaches (could possibly lead to death)
- Depression and severe mood changes
Birth control is a common treatment option for acne, particularly among young women. However, before you decide to start taking birth control for acne treatment, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your previous medical issues and any concerns you have. In general, birth control is relatively safe and affordable compared to other prescription acne medications and is worth considering if over-the-counter products have not worked for you.
Have you used birth control to help with your acne and how has it helped you?