Types Of Birth Control To Treat Acne In Women
The last decade has seen an explosion in new types of birth control. But so far, only three types of birth control pills have been approved by the FDA for treating acne. All three are “combination” oral contraceptives that contain both estrogen and progesterone. In fact, birth control pills that contain only progesterone can actually make acne worse.
Each type of birth control pill used for acne contains a low dose of the same form of estrogen. But each one uses a different form of progesterone.
The FDA has approved the following types of birth control for acne:
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen uses estrogen combined with a progestin called norgestimate. A progestin is a synthetic, or manmade, form of progesterone. The pill is available with different doses of progestin.
- Estrostepuses estrogen combined with a progestin called norethindrone. The pill is available with different doses of estrogen.
- YAZ uses estrogen combined with a manmade form of progestin called drospirenone. The FDA has concluded that birth control pills containing drospirenone may have increased risk for blood clots compared to pills containing other progestins. Other brands containing drospirenone include Beyaz, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Safyral, Syeda, Yasmin, and Zarah.
Studies have not shown a major difference among these three pills in terms of how well they treat acne.
Skin Care Regimen While On Birth Control
It is always important to keep good skin habits and use proven ingredients that fight acne in your daily regimen.
Combined contraceptives tend to make the face drier while progestin-only contraceptives increase skin oiliness. It is therefore important to keep the birth control you are on in mind when purchasing and using skin care products. If you are on a combination contraceptive continue to treat your acne topically with ingredients such as Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, and Retinols. Even though the contraceptive will help clear your skin, it’s important to continue using acne-targeting topical ingredients to improve the skins surface and fight the acne battle from the top. To help against skin dryness, Dr. Zenovia recommends using an oil-free moisturizer morning and night.
With progestin-only contraceptives, Dr. Zenovia recommends using a gentle cleanser to control oil production. Using a toner or pad with Glycolic Acid will help exfoliate the skins dead skin cells and remove excess dirt.
Using retinol at night will directly control oil production and unclog pores. Retinols are a basic necessity for all acne types and finding the right retinol is an important step for everyone with acne-prone skin.
Side Effects Of Oral Antibiotics
Taking a regular dose of oral antibiotics can result in:
- Bacterial resistance
- Yeast overgrowth
- A variety of rashes
In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, research showed that during a six-month period, oral contraceptives reduced acne by 61.9%, while antibiotics resulted in 57.9% improvement.
So, are oral contraceptives a better option than antibiotics? Numerous studies have shown that antibiotics and birth control pills have shown similar success in improving acne symptoms, but the pill is a great alternative for avoiding the drawbacks of antibiotics.
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How To Treat Acne Caused By Birth Control
When dealing with acne caused by birth control, check which formulation you are using and see if it is a progesterone-only or androgenic progestin, and inquire with your doctor to see if you can switch to a combination pill on our list .
Also keep in mind that birth control can make your acne-flare up at first before you start seeing improvement in your acne. It may be beneficial to wait a few months before deciding to switch to another formulation.
Does Birth Control Cause Acne
So, does birth control cause acne? No, birth control is not a cause of acne. While you wont solely develop acne from birth control, it can affect the frequency and severity of acne.
Asking can birth control cause acne is a bit of a complicated question. Whether birth control helps or worsens acne basically all comes down to its hormonal composition. Since hormonal fluctuations are a major cause of acne due to increased amounts of androgens, the level of hormones in birth control can affect the frequency and severity of acne breakouts.
Here’s how it works…
Understanding Estrogen & Progesterone
The majority of birth control pills contain both progestin and estradiol . Estrogen prevents ovulation, the process in which the ovaries release an egg. They also lower the number of androgens in the body, which results in decreased sebumdecreasing the occurrence of clogged pores and acne.
However, large amounts of progestin can increase androgensthis can promote and worsen breakouts. This is often why some people say that they experience increased acne on birth control.
So, as long as you choose an oral contraceptive with a sufficient amount of estradiol and low levels of progestin, birth control shouldnt worsen acne, it can actually help it.
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Other Forms Of Birth Control
While the pill may be the most popular form of birth control, there are plenty of other options out there too, but it is important to also be aware of the effects that all of these can have on the skin as well.
Lets begin with the contraceptive patch
This basically looks similar to a band-aid, and is stuck on to the skin in the same way. The patch then releases certain hormones to prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
When it comes to the skin effects of the contraceptive patch
The most common is skin irritations and redness.
This tends to occur on the part of the skin where the patch is located, but, in most cases, will sort itself out on its own after a couple of months.
Since the patch usually contains similar hormones to the pill, some of the same skin effects, such as the reduction in acne, may still apply. Of course, this varies with each individual.
Another birth control option is the contraceptive implant
This is inserted into the arm, after which it can remain there for up to three years.
It contains the same hormones as the pill, releasing these slowly and steadily into the body.
The main impact that this can have on your skin is scarring at the site of the implant.
In terms of acne, this can go in two ways
While some women notice an exacerbation in their breakouts after the implant has been inserted, others notice that their acne significantly improves, meaning that you wont know the effect that the implant will have until you have actually tried it.
Who Can Take Birth Control For Acne
Birth control pills can be a great option for patients who are looking to treat and/or prevent acne. It is a long lasting solution that is effective and safe for most people. In order to take birth control pills, you must have have through puberty such that you are regularly menstruating. As you are preparing for your consultation appointment with Dr. Green, it is important to disclose to her certain medical information before she can prescribe birth control as acne treatment. If you suffer from high blood pressure or have a history of blood clots, chronic migraines, cancer, or heart disease, it may be dangerous for you to take birth control pills. Be sure to also disclose to your healthcare professional, Dr. Green, any medications that you are taking or surgeries you have had. If you are over the age of 35 and a smoker, birth control pills may also be unsafe. Disclosing this information will help to keep you safe as you embark on your treatment and ensure that Dr. Green can provide you with the best medical advice for your acne treatment plan.
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Is There A Way To Balance Hormones Without Birth Control
There are several medications besides birth control that can help balance hormones and effectively treat acne. One of the most effective is called Spironolactone , an oral medication used to treat high blood pressure does not contain hormones or synthetic hormones. It’s actually a diuretic that works as an androgen blocker, which means it blocks the effects of male hormones in the body like testosterone, contributing to oil production and, ultimately, acne.
How Birth Control Works
Amanda Lawrence / Stocksy
Combination hormonal birth control, or the main type of oral contraceptive prescribed for acne, contains two hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Together, these hormones suppress ovulation. A typical menstrual cycle includes menstruation , a follicular phase, ovulation, and a luteal phase, which are all driven by fluctuations in hormones from the brain and ovaries. The pill stops these fluctuations and in turn, stops ovulation.
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If I Have A Contraceptive Implant What Do I Do When I Want To Try To Get Pregnant
If you want to try for a baby, you need to have the implant removed. Your periods will return to normal, although it can be up to three months before you get back to your old rhythm. However, it is possible to get pregnant before you have your first period.
Start pre-pregnancy care such as taking folic acid, stopping smoking and considering any regular medication you take beforehand. You can ask your doctor or nurse for further advice.
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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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Your Period On Birth Control: What Is A Withdrawal Period
Before we can get into what birth control stops your period, theres something you should know.
Did you know that your period while on hormonal birth control is an imposter? Dont panic! We can explain.
Women taking hormonal birth control typically have what are called withdrawal periods. While they may look and feel like regular periods, they arent actually true periods at all.
These periods usually occur during your placebo week when taking hormonal birth control such as the ring, the patch, or the pill. However, as mentioned, this bleeding isnt really a true period. According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals , its the bodys reaction to not having the hormones it gets the other three weeks of the cycle.
What Is Acne Vulgaris
Acne vulgaris is the scientific name for the skin problem commonly just known as acne or colloquially called pimples, spots, or blemishes. The condition is characterized by spots on your skin that can appear on your face, upper back, chest, or arms. These blemishes arise when there is an excess of oil on your skin, which can clog the hair follicles in the oily areas of your body. When your pores are clogged only with sebum and dead skin cells, this is called noninflammatory acne, or comedones, which can manifest as whiteheads or blackheads . If bacteria gets into the clogged pores, it can cause an infection, which leads to inflammatory acne. Inflammatory acne can appear as pustules, which contain pus, or papules, which do not. Cystic acne is another kind of acne that occurs when cysts develop below the surface of the skin. When the cysts are infected with bacteria, they become swollen, red, and often painful.
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Does Birth Control Help With Back Acne
Yes! Combination hormonal birth control such as the birth control pill and the birth control patch both work to eliminate all types of acne across all locations on the body. In addition to the face, the back is another common location for people to develop acne. There is a high concentration of sebaceous glands on the upper back, meaning that when the body produces excess sebum, the upper back is likely to be affected. When Dr. Green prescribes birth control pills for the acne on your back, the combination of hormones will prevent the androgen hormones from triggering increased sebum production.
Accutane treatment for acne on the back before and after
Can A Dermatologist Prescribe Birth Control For Acne
There are currently 3 birth control pills that are FDA-approved for acne treatment: Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yaz, and Estrostep. As implied in this article, many other birth controls have been prescribed as off-label use for acne.
While dermatologists can prescribe birth control for acne, they generally tend to refer their patients to a primary care doctor or gynecologist since the main indication for birth control pills is contraception, and it is critical for sexually active women to receive check-ups and pap smears before starting on birth control.
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Benefits Of Birth Control For Acne
Several clinical trials have shown that taking combination birth control pills can result in:
- Less inflammation
- Less severe acne
Many women with severe acne take oral contraceptives with other acne treatments. For women who also want contraception, taking birth control pills for acne also offers one of the most reliable forms of contraception, as long as the pills are taken on schedule as prescribed.
How Do You Get The Implant Removed
The contraceptive implant can be removed at GP surgeries, contraceptive clinics, or sexual health clinics.
The implant can be removed at any time by a trained doctor or nurse. They would use a local anaesthetic and make a tiny cut in your skin to pull the implant out of your upper arm. It only takes a few minutes.
Youll no longer be protected against pregnancy immediately after the contraceptive implant is removed.
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The Best Types Of Birth Control For Acne
Levin, who also works as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai, says Ortho Tri-Cyclen, a popular brand of birth control, has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of acneic skin. Along with Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and Yaz are two other brands of birth control cleared by the FDA for acne treatment. Yaz contains the hormone progestin drospirenone that is known to be especially effective in the reduction of hormonal acne.
While certain brands of birth control carry the FDA’s approval as an acne treatment, others are still prescribed off-label with some success. Other times, people who are prescribed oral contraceptives for other indications find that a bonus “side effect” is an overall reduction in their acne symptoms. OB/GYN Sara Twogood, MD, notes that all oral contraceptive pills can have the effect of being anti-androgenic, meaning that they can lower the level of androgens like testosterone in the body. Androgens are one factor that leads to the development of hormonal acne, so blocking them can help to improve acne over time.
“There are no set requirements or parameters for starting birth control pills for acne. The decision about when or if starting the pill to help control acne should be individualized,” says Twogood.
Nava Greenfield, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group, agrees: “Each person may respond differently to different forms of oral contraception, so finding the one that works for you is important.”
Which Birth Control Method Is Right For Your Skin
We all know that contraception is one of the most important things in our reproductive health toolkit, but for many women, birth control is also an essential part of their routine for beautiful skin. With all the barriers, pills, implants and patches available today, though, it can be difficult to understand the benefits that each type of contraceptive has on acne. So, weve done a little fact-finding to break down the most common methods of birth control and their effects on the skin.
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Are There Side Effects
Most birth control medications have side effects, though theyâre different for each woman.
Both the pill and the rod could cause:
Nationwide Childrenâs Hospital: âBirth Control: Nexplanon Implant.â
UpToDate: âEtonogestrel contraceptive implant.â
University of Michigan Health Service: âContraception Cost, Insurance and Payment.â
Nemours Kids Health: âAbout the Birth Control Pill.â
WomensHealth.gov: âBirth control methods,â âFrequently Asked Questions: Ovarian Cysts.â
Mayo Clinic: âCombination birth control pills,â âContraceptive implant,â âMinipill .â
Cleveland Clinic: â6 Things That Can Happen When You Stop Taking The Pill,â âBirth Control: The Pill,â âShould You Wait to Get Pregnant After Stopping the Pill?â
American Family Physician: âHow to Switch Birth Control Methods.â
Which Contraceptive Methods Should You Avoid If You Have Hormonal Acne
The pill is the contraceptive method that is most beneficial for acne. The contraceptive patch or ring with the same hormones, although administered differently, may also have a positive effect.
Progesterone-based IUD Avoid these devices as they dont block ovulation, and increase androgen secretion, particularly in the case of polycystic ovary syndrome.
Progesterone-only pills and contractive implants Apart from Slinda that has just arrived on the market, all progesterone contraceptives should be avoided if you suffer from acne, as progesterone is slightly androgenic.
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