How Does The Pill Improve Acne
The pill contains man-made forms of the female sex hormones estrogen and progestin, which prevent your body from releasing an egg . This is one way the pill protects against pregnancy. The hormone estrogen also slows down sebum production in some women. Sebum is the substance produced by your skins oil glands that causes acne.
The Lowdown On Birth Control And Acne
Oral contraceptives, most commonly referred to as birth control, are medications that are first and foremost designed to prevent pregnancy. However, it has also long been tied to acne and acne treatment, leading many people to ask “does birth control cause acne or treat it?”.
To determine how birth control helps, and sometimes interferes with clear skin, its important to learn exactly how it affects the body. Lets break down the connection between birth control and acne.
What Birth Control Can Improve Acne
Combination birth control pills and other birth control methods containing both progestin and estrogen have proven very effective in controlling both non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne. The mix of hormones help reduce androgens in the body. This, in turn, reduces sebum production, so pores are less likely to get clogged and acne is less severe, or eliminated entirely.
While anecdotal evidence suggests a variety of birth control methods may improve acne, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved only the following four birth control pills for treating moderate acne in menstruating females at least 14 or 15 years of age who require contraception. If you are concerned about your skin, these pills are good options:
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen : contains norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol.
- Estrostep Fe: contains norethindrone acetate, ethinyl estradiol, and ferrous fumarate.
- Beyaz : contains drospirenone, ethinyl estradiol, and levomefolate calcium.
- Yaz : contains drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol.
The authors of a 2012 review by Cochrane Reviews suggest combination pills containing cyproterone acetate were the most effective at treating acne. Combination pills containing drospirenone were second-best, followed by pills containing norgestimate or nomegestrol acetate plus 17 beta-estradiol. The differences in performances were only marginal though, with the studys authors suggesting they shouldnt even be considered when determining which combination pill to use.
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The Basics On Acne And Birth Control
One of the leading causes of acne in all women is changes in hormone levels.
Have you noticed that you tend to break out at certain stages of your menstrual cycle, maybe right before you get your period? The cause of your acne is most likely hormonal.
Women primarily use birth control pills, also known as “oral contraceptives,” in medical terms, to keep from getting pregnant.
However, in the last couple of decades, birth control pills have been used to also treat acne in teenagers and adults. It makes sense though – both birth control pills and acne have to do with your hormones.
Whats Involved In Taking Hormonal Therapy For Acne
These medications must be prescribed by a doctor. Each is a pill that you would take daily.
If youre wondering whether hormonal therapy could help clear your acne, you may want to make an appointment to see a dermatologist. After examining your acne and gathering the necessary information about your health, this doctor can tell you if hormonal therapy may be an option.
Before you see a dermatologist, it helps to prepare for your appointment. Youll want to be able to tell your dermatologist the following:
Medical conditions you have , including high blood pressure, heart disease, blood clots, migraines, or cancer
Medications you take
Supplements and other natural products you take
Surgeries youve had
Medical conditions of close blood relatives, including cancer, kidney disease, or heart disease
If the pill is an option for you, you will have your blood pressure taken to rule out high blood pressure. You dont need a Pap smear or pelvic exam before a dermatologist can prescribe the pill to treat acne.
Before your dermatologist prescribes spironolactone, you will need some blood tests.
If you begin hormonal therapy, you will need to keep follow-up visits with your dermatologist. Spironolactone requires that you gradually increase the dose, so youll need to see your dermatologist every 4 to 6 weeks when you start taking it.
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Types Of Acne That Birth Control Can Treat
Acne can take the form of a blackhead, whitehead, a small mark, or even a cyst, but it’s the underlying cause of your acne that determines whether birth control might be an effective treatment. “While teenage or inflammatory acne is commonly treated with oral antibiotics if appropriate for hormonal acne, the failure rate of antibiotics is 70 to 80 percent,” Levin says.
That’s where hormonal medication, such as birth control, can come into play. If home treatment doesn’t help your breakouts, or if you’re finding yourself with large, hard, or pus-filled bumps, you may want to consult your doctor to learn if you’re experiencing hormonal or cystic acneboth of which may be treated with birth control. Other signs that you’re dealing with hormonal acne rather than good old-fashioned inflammatory acne include breakouts that follow a cyclical pattern with your menstrual cycle and acne that pops up mainly along your jawline or chin.
The Best Birth Control Pills For Treating Acne
Although there are numerous different birth control pills, the FDA has currently only approved three different pills for treating acne.
All of the FDA-approved birth control pills are combined oral contraceptives, meaning they contain a mix of estrogen and progestin.
Right now, the three FDA-approved birth control pills for treating acne area:
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What Is The Best Treatment For Women With Hormonal Acne
The best treatment for women with hormonal and adult acne would be a combination of effective medical-grade topical anti-acne medications and oral therapy. The topical will usually be benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, retinol or niacinamide, oral treatment, birth control pills, or non-hormonal supplements . The topical medications will help unclog skin pores, reduce inflammation, and kill the acne bacteria, while the oral treatment will help balance the hormones.
The Ultimate Guide To Birth Control And Acne
Have you ever been prescribed birth control pills to help fight your persistent acne? If so, you are not alone millions of women every year turn to hormonal contraceptives to clear up their skin, on doctors orders.
But does birth control actually help treat acne? We often hear mixed reviews. While some women rave about birth control being the ultimate cure to their acne, many women claim the exact opposite that birth control pills immediately triggered their previously nonexistent acne. So what is the truth? Does birth control cure or cause acne?
Before we answer this question, let me first explain how hormonal birth control works and how it affects acne.
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The Best Type Of Birth Control Pills For Acne
There are two main types of birth control pills:
- Combination birth control pills
- Progestin-only birth control pills
Short answer: Out of the two types of birth control pills, the best type of birth control pill for acne is a combination birth control pill. This is the most common type of birth control pill.
Combination birth control pills “combine” two hormones called estrogen and progestin.
If you’ve been prescribed birth control pills, chances are that you’re taking a combination pill. There are tons of different brands of combination pills like Vienva, Yaz, or Loestrin.
However, there are birth control pills that have only one hormone, progestin. It’s a progestin-only pill, also called the “mini-pill.”
And there are other types birth control methods that add hormones to your body, like the IUD.
However, these other methods seem not to affect acne. Some researchers have found that hormonal IUDs like Mirena may even increase your likelihood of getting acne. Their research also seems to show that birth control pills that contain only progestin could make acne worse.
For the best answer on these other methods and their effect on acne, though, talk to your doctor. They’ve seen it in action from their experience with helping their patients!
Why Does Birth Control Help Hormonal Acne
Combination birth control contains the hormone estrogen and the synthetic progestin, which is a form of the sex hormone progesterone. When these hormones are combined, they reduce the amount of androgens like testosterone, which are responsible for the over-production of sebum. By balancing out the testosterone, the estrogen and progestin present in the birth control keeps androgens from triggering the sebaceous glands, which, in turn, reduces the likelihood that the pores will be clogged with excess oil.
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What Helps Get The Best Results
When taking hormonal therapy for acne, it helps to:
Give the medication time to work
Take the medication at the same time every day
Use everything on your acne treatment plan
Keep all follow-up appointments with your dermatologist
Contact your dermatologists office right away if you experience signs of a serious side effect, such as cramping in your leg or arm
Hormonal therapy is an option for many women with stubborn acne, but its not always the only option. A dermatologist can tell you what can help clear your stubborn acne.
ReferencesCarol, R. Hormonal therapies serve as key adjunct acne treatment. Dermatol World. 2012 May . 2-6.
Ebede TL, Arch EL, et al. Hormonal treatment of acne in women. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009 2: 1622.
Harper JC. Use of oral contraceptives for management of acne vulgaris. Practical considerations in real world practice. Dermatol Clin. 2016 34:159-65.
Kim GK, Del Rosso JQ. Oral spironolactone in post-teenage female patients with acne vulgaris: Practical considerations for the clinician based on current data and clinical experience. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012 5:37-50.
Plovanich M Weng QY, et al. Low usefulness of potassium monitoring among healthy young women taking spironolactone for acne. JAMA Dermatol. 2015 151:941-4.
Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL et al. Guidelines of care for the management of acne vulgaris. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016 74:945-73.
Does Birth Control Help Cystic Acne
Yes! Birth control is a great treatment option if you are looking to eliminate cystic acne. Cystic acne occurs when the hair follicles get clogged with sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria, forming an acne cyst under the skin. The infected cyst can become red, swollen, and very painful. The cysts can also contain pus and should not be popped, for the risk that the pus could spread the infection. It is imperative to consult a dermatologist, such as Dr. Green, to receive treatment for cystic acne in order to prevent scarring. Combination hormonal birth control pills work to combat all kinds of acne cystic acne included.
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Who Should Try Taking Birth Control For Acne
Taking birth control isn’t without risks, and various factors should be considered. After your doctor decides you’re a good candidate for birth control, you’ll have to decide if the possibility of clear skin is worth the potential side effects and risks.
“Patients who do not have a personal or family history of clotting disorders or blood clots, fall within a healthy BMI, do not smoke and are under the age of 35 are the best candidates,” says Krishnan. “If side effects such as weight gain and mood changes are a concern, choosing an option that contains slightly less of the estrogen component makes sense.”
Additionally, birth control isn’t a surefire way to get rid of acne. It’s possible that birth control can make your acne worse. And sometimes, your skin will get worse before it gets better when you start the pill.
Unfortunately, it may take some work to find the right pill that makes your acne better with little to no side effects. There’s no way to predict what will or won’t work for you. You should discuss your options with your dermatologist and gynecologist.
What About When I Want To Come Off The Pill
Most women wont stay on the pill forever. Some may come off the pill to have children or take a break from synthetic hormones while using other contraceptive methods in the meantime. So what happens when you stop taking the pill?
Its important to remember that birth control is not a cure for acne, but rather a temporary treatment. As long as youre taking the pill and introducing the right combination of hormones into your body, youre likely to see an improvement in your acne.
But once you stop taking the pill, the acne is likely to come back. Post-pill acne can often be worse than pre-pill acne and even harder to get rid of.
Let me repeat myself since many women are not aware of this before starting the pill. Many women find that post-pill acne is worse and much more difficult to fix than the acne they had before starting the pill.
When stopping the pill, your hormones will take some time to normalize. Your hormones could take several months before returning to their pre-pill levels, during which your skin can be prone to breakouts.
I asked some members of the Clear For Life Facebook group to share their experiences after stopping the pill. Click on the left and right arrows to browse through what they have shared.
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How Long Does It Take To See Results
It may take up to three months of treatment before you see an improvement in your skin. Thats the time it takes for your body to adjust to the new hormones and for the medication to affect your skins sebum production. If one brand of birth control pill doesn’t work for you, ask your healthcare provider if you can try another one. Women respond differently to different birth control pills.
Its possible that birth control medication alone will be sufficient to improve your acne. But if you have severe acne, you may need to use skin creams or prescribed topical treatments, along with the pill, to see an improvement in your skin.
Does Nexplanon Help With Acne
Nexplanon is a type of hormonal birth control that looks like a small plastic rod and is inserted just below the skin. Nexplanon, in particular, is a progestin-only contraceptive. The progestin used is called etonogestrel and in some studies ~12-13% of those using Nexplanon have reported new or worsening acne.
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Overview Of Birth Control Options
There are two major factors to consider when evaluating your birth control options:
The first is the type of hormone they contain. All birth control methods contain either progestin-only or BOTH progestin and estrogen. Progestin is a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone, and estrogen is a counterregulatory hormone of testosterone, as mentioned above.
The second way to categorize birth control options is by delivery method. The most common methods include:
- Pill a daily dose of hormones taken by mouth. There are dozens of different brands and types, delivering different amounts of hormones to prevent ovulation. Popular brands include Yaz, Diane-35 and Valette.
- Implant a tiny rod inserted into your arm, where it releases hormones into your body. This method can last up to four years.
- Patch worn on the stomach, upper arm, or back. This thin patch also releases hormones into your body and must be replaced weekly for three weeks, with one week off before your monthly cycle begins again.
- Shot also known as Depo-Provera. A new shot must be given every three months.
- Vaginal ring commonly known as the NuvaRing. This hormone-releasing ring sits inside the vagina and must be replaced every month.
- Intrauterine device also known as the IUD. This can come in two types: a non-hormonal copper IUD which can last for up to twelve years, and a hormonal IUD which can last between three and six years.
How Does Birth Control Treat Acne
Birth control works by changing a womans hormone levels to prevent pregnancy or relieve menstrual symptoms. Estrogen-containing birth control reduces the amount of testosterone in your body. With less testosterone, your pores produce less oil which reduces the likelihood of blocked pores that cause acne formation.
Once you start using birth control for acne, it takes some time for your body to get used to the new hormone levels. One drawback is that your acne may flare up before things get better. This is only temporary and should improve as your hormone levels adjust. You can expect your acne to improve within 2 to 3 months of beginning birth control pills .
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Does The Birth Control Patch Help With Acne
Yes! The patch is a form of birth control in which you stick a patch on certain parts of your body that releases a combination of the estrogen and progesterone hormones. The estrogen and progesterone work together to keep your ovaries from releasing eggs and to also prevent the over activation of the sebaceous glands. This combination of hormones in the patch works much the same way as the combination birth control pills though the patch is not yet FDA approved to treat acne. There are two brands of the patch that work to prevent acne: Xulane and Twirla. To use this form of birth control, you will stick a patch to a clean and dry part of your skin on your buttocks, stomach, or back.
Hormones And Acne: Whats The Connection
Acne occurs when the hair follicles in your skin become clogged with oil, dirt, and dead skin cells. While diet, certain products, the environment, and some medications can contribute to the problem, the underlying culprit is often a hormonal issue heres why.
Although commonly called male hormones, both men and women have androgens in their bodies. Since androgens are responsible for sebum production, and sebum is responsible for clogging pores and causing breakouts high levels of androgens often lead to acne.
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