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 Long Does It Take For Birth Control Pills To Clear Acne
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Why Do Androgens Cause Hormonal Acne
For the majority of women, hormonal acne occurs because their skin is sensitive to the normal levels of androgens like Testosterone.
Although considered to be a male hormone, it is normal for women to produce small amounts of Testosterone. Testosterone is an important hormone for women as it helps strengthen bones and muscles, provides a healthy libido and regulates the menstrual cycle. Androgens are the name for male hormones. Women produce other androgens as well as Testosterone. These are dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate , dehydroepiandrosterone , androstenedione . These three androgens are not very active by themselves and have to be converted to Testosterone or Dihydrotestosterone first.
Testosterone is produced by the ovaries and the adrenal glands. However, cells in the skin also make Testosterone from DHEAS. Skin cells, especially the cells in the sebaceous glands, also make DHT from Testosterone.
Hormonal acne also occurs when there are conditions in which too many androgens are produced such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
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Who Is A Good Candidate For Taking Birth Control For Acne
Taking birth control comes with risks so you should consider the risk factors before starting with any birth control methods. Once your doctor has approved you as a good candidate for birth control, you will have to determine whether or not the possibility of clear skin is worth the potential side effects and risks.
The best candidates for birth control are those who have no 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. If you are concerned about weight gain and mood swings, you may want to consider options that contain slightly less estrogen.
And be forewarned birth control isnt a surefire way to get rid of acne. It is possible that birth control may make your acne worse and it is not uncommon that your skin will get worse before it gets better when you start the pill. Unfortunately, it can take some time and some work to find the right pill to improve your acne with little to no side effects. There is no way to predict what will or wont work for you. Make sure you discuss your options with your OBGYN and dermatologist to find what works best for you.
What Is The Best Birth Control For Acne
So weve established that a contraceptive method delivering a small amount of estrogen alongside progestin is effective in both providing contraception and reducing acne. But what about the progestin itself? Is there a certain dosage or type of progestin that will be more effective against acne?
Many progestins are androgenic, which means they boost androgens and can aggravate acne. But some progestins are actually antiandrogenic, which means they can be a powerful asset in the fight against acne.
Below is a table of antiandrogenic progestins and their associated brands of birth control. These progestins block androgen receptors, effectively preventing androgen hormones from doing their job. If you suffer from hormonal acne and want to reduce the effects of androgen on your skin, these brands should be your starting point.
There are mixed reviews regarding the efficacy of one antiandrogenic progestin over the others. One study concluded drospirenone-containing birth control pills more effective in acne reduction than chlormadinone-containing pills, while a different study concluded the opposite statement. Another study concluded that dienogest-containing formulations were equally effective against acne compared to cyproterone-containing pills.
On the flip side of the scale, progestins with high androgenic properties can make your acne worse.
To the left you can see a handy chart I compiled to help you decide which progestins to look for and which ones to avoid.
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How Does The Pill Treat Acne
Acne occurs as a result of several factors relating to a hormonal imbalance, including the overproduction of a natural oil called sebum on the skin and the accumulation of dead skin cells in the hair follicle or pores.
In addition, some females have abnormally high levels of androgens, such as testosterone. High androgen levels can stimulate the production of sebum and increase the growth of skin cells in both the skin and hair follicles.
Hormonal medication, including the birth control pill, can help regulate these hormones and minimize acne.
The birth control pill works best when a person takes it at the same time every day and as the prescription specifies. Sometimes, the birth control pill is more effective alongside other medications.
I Just Started Taking The Pill And Now Im Breaking Out Doesnt The Pill Help With Acne
By | Aug. 25, 2011, 4:24 p.m.
i just started taking the contraceptive pill. my face is full of sore, red pimples. ive been stressed lately, but ive never had such a breakout. plus, shouldnt the pill be helping?
Yes. Protection against acne is a known benefit of combination pills pills that contain both estrogen and progestin. But combination pills do not have an immediate impact on acne. It might take up to six months of use for the pill to bring relief. However, if youre taking a progestin-only pill, it will not offer this benefit.
If, after six months, your acne has not been relieved by taking the combination pill, you should talk with your health care provider about this. She or he can determine whether or not your acne it a sign of a condition that should be looked into.
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Whats The Best Birth Control For Acne
Quite frankly, there isnt one.
Emily was experiencing the symptoms of low testosterone and lab testing showed that she was indeed lacking adequate amounts. But her acne persisted.
Thats because the pill doesnt fix acne or regulate hormones for that matter. It simply suppresses it.
And for some women, acne is worse after stopping birth control.
Over 2 years Emily had been on 5 different birth control pills and felt like her skin was getting worse. So, instead of reaching for another new prescription, it was time to take a holistic approach to her skin.
How Do Dermatologists Get Rid Of Acne
Topical treatments, which you can get over the counter or through a dermatologist are one way to treat acne. Look for products with benzoyl peroxide, since it can help the skin topically. Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne-causing bacteria and unclog the pore.
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How Does Birth Control Help With Acne
Combination birth control pills help with acne by preventing androgen levels from spiking, which, in turn, keep sebaceous glands from producing too much oil and clogging pores. The estrogen component here is keyprogestin on its own wont work, which is why minipills arent approved for the treatment of acne.
Things To Try When Acne Wont Clear
The following tips from dermatologists can help you get started.
1. Give an acne treatment at least 4 weeks to work.Using a new acne product every few days may seem useful, but that approach can worsen acne. Acne treatment needs time to work. Using a different product every few days can also irritate your skin, causing new breakouts.
If a treatment works for you, you should notice some improvement in 4 to 6 weeks. It can take two to three months or longer to see clearing.
If you notice improvement, keep using the treatment. Even when you see clearing, youll want to keep using the acne treatment. This helps to prevent new breakouts.
When to see a dermatologist about acne?
Seeing a dermatologist can help prevent acne from worsening. You can benefit from seeing a dermatologist when acne:
Causes acne cysts and nodules
Hasnt cleared with treatment you can buy without a prescription
Makes you feel uncomfortable, and you want clearer skin
2. Attack the different causes of acne.If you dont see improvement after 4 to 6 weeks, add a second acne product to your treatment plan.
This approach can help attack the different causes of acne. Bacteria, clogged pores, oil, and inflammation can all cause acne.
Benzoyl peroxide decreases P. acnes bacteria
Retinoids, such as adapalene gel, unclog pores and reduce oiliness
Salicylic acid eases inflammation and unclogs pores
Wont clog pores
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Birth Control: How Can It Change Your Skincare Routine
Finding the perfect skincare routine can be a long, uphill battle. Oftentimes the perfect skincare routine cannot even be found in the beauty aisle. Some women have found that birth control clears skin better than the most expensive creams and lotions, while some women have found that birth control worsens their acne.
Facial acne is a common problem regardless of age, but that doesnt make it easier to deal with. Lets explore the ways that different types of birth control affect skincare.
Certain Oral Contraceptives Are Approved For Acne Treatment
Oral contraceptives are one of the most effective methods for preventing pregnancy. Commonly called birth control pills , theyre also becoming a popular treatment for another condition that affects many women: acne. When other acne treatments have not been successful, birth control pills may be the answer.
Exactly how does birth control help with acne? Birth control affects hormones, and hormones play a major role in acne. Hormones called androgens promote the production of sebum, an oil made by your skin. Too much sebum can lead to clogged pores and bacterial growth, which create breeding grounds for acne.
Women usually produce low levels of androgens, but hormonal changes related to their menstrual cycle can raise androgen levels and, consequently, trigger acne breakouts. For some women, acne persists throughout their cycle. Even during perimenopause, when a womans body prepares for menopause, hormonal changes can continue to promote acne.
Birth control pills that contain both the hormones estrogen and progesterone reduce functional androgen levels, thereby reducing sebum production and acne. Pills that contain only progesterone can actually make acne worse.
Which types of birth control pills treat acne?
The best choice for one woman may not be right for another, says Dr. Dunn. Some women need higher levels of hormones for the most effective results with fewest side effects, while others do better with lower levels.
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It Works Best When Used Together With Topical Treatments
Birth control is rarely used entirely on its own when it comes to addressing acne. Doctors usually also prescribe topical creams and lotions that are meant to fight everyday zits, such as benzoyl peroxide and retinoid. There isn’t any research out there to determine whether the pill is as effective on its own compared to its impact alongside topical treatments, but we do know that it’s quite common for dermatologists to encourage their patients to use both.
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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Birth Control Disrupts The Microbiome
Birth control messes with your microbiome in the worst of ways. It can lead to leaky gut , which in turn, can lead to food sensitivities, increased inflammation, and even autoimmune disease. Yikes!
The pill has been shown to cause changes to the oral, vaginal and gut flora. This can leave you more susceptible to infection. Plus, imbalances in good gut bugs can lead to further hormone imbalance.
Whenever acne is the main complaint with my patients, the gut is the first place I look. If your gut isnt functioning properly then your skin can be a common area for your body to express that disharmony.
Alice was experiencing difficulty passing stool and reported that sometimes her food wasnt digested. Because of this, we began a comprehensive digestive enzyme and spore-based probiotic to begin shifting her gut to a more favorable state.
How To Take Care Of Your Skin While On Birth Control
Whatever your reasons are for starting a new birth control method, it can be a seriously confusing time. Not only are you dealing with a completely new dose of hormones in your body, but youre also faced with a whole crop of side effects you may or may not have seen coming including changes in your skin.
There are two main types of hormonal contraceptives, and they have totally opposite effects. Combination contraceptives tend to make your face more dry, while Progesterone-Only Contraceptives make it more oily. Whatever birth control method you decide is right for you , there are certain things you can do to make sure your skin is properly taken care of. Here are some small things you can do to cater your skincare routine to your birth control, whether its making your face feel dry, greasy, or somewhere in between.
How To Treat Your Skin On Combination Contraceptives
Stick With Your Topical Treatments
While combination contraceptives can work miracles on your skin, theyre not a solo solution. Just because youre on a seemingly magical acne pill it doesnt mean you can skip out on your skincare routine. Your best bet is to stick with whatever topical solutions you may have already been using to treat your acne, like spot treatments, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize!
How To Treat Your Skin On Progesterone-Only Contraceptives
Use A Gentle Cleanser
Pick The Right Toner
Skip The Moisturizer
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What You May Have Heard About How Birth Control Affects Skin And Hair
You may have heard that hormonal birth control can improve acne and make your hair fuller. You may have also heard that hormonal birth control can cause acne or make your hair fall out.
It can be confusing, especially when your personal experience is different from that of your friends and loved ones, or what youâve been told to expect.
Not all hormonal birth control is the same, so the side effects arenât all the same either. Hormonal birth control comes in many forms and contains different types and levels of hormones.
Combined hormonal contraceptives are birth control methods that contain two hormones , like the pill, patch, or ring.
Progestin-only contraceptives contain just a form of progestin hormone , like the implant, hormonal IUD, shot, or mini-pill. Different forms of birth control may affect individual people in different ways.
Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle cause changes in skin and hair. So it makes sense that the hormones found in birth control can as well. Read on to learn how different methods may improve or worsen the condition of the skin or hair.
Can Birth Control Pills Help Acne
The pill works by giving you such a high dose of hormones that your brain stops talking to your ovaries. This mechanism reduces production of testosterone, which is why some docs think birth control pills fix your acne.
By lowering testosterone, oil production is also reduced. The theory is that the oil is why you get acne and by lowering the hormone that influences its production then you can eliminate acne. Of course, youre also eliminating your mood, motivation, and libido too because women need testosterone.
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What Are The Best Forms Of Birth Control For Acne
Different birth control pills contain different forms and concentrations of hormones, so it can be difficult to know which type of pill will be most effective in treating acne.
Large scale research from the Cochrane Collaboration offers some answers. This collaboration is an extensive network of thousands of doctors, researchers, and specialists who review the available research to answer specific medical or clinical questions.
In 2012, they reviewed the research on birth control pills as a treatment for acne. The team looked at a total of 31 studies that included 12,579 people.
The authors concluded that combined oral contraceptives that contain chlormadinone acetate or cyproterone acetate seem to improve acne more significantly than those that contain levonorgestrel . In addition, they advised that birth control pills containing drospirenone may be more effective than those with norgestimate or nomegestrol acetate .
However, they noted that there is limited evidence to confirm these results and that further research is necessary.
The following brands contain these hormones:
- Androcur Depot contains CPA
- Yasmin and Yaz contain DRSP
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Previfem contain NGM
- Lutenyl, Naemis, and Zoely contain NOMAC/E2
The side effects should lessen or go away entirely after a few months of taking the pill. If they do not, and they are especially bothersome, it is important to speak with a doctor. The doctor may recommend switching to a different pill.