Why Do Some Women Say That The Pill Caused Their Acne
If youve heard that the pill can actually cause acne or make it worse, heres why. Any time a woman begins to take an oral contraceptive, it takes a while for the regulating effects to kick in. Until it does, your hormones continue to fluctuate, which means that androgens may still rise and lead to acne. Over time, your birth control pill will do its job and stabilize your hormones and your acne.
Another possible link between an oral birth control pill and an increase in acne is when the pill contains progesterone only, commonly called the mini pill. In some cases, the lack of estrogen in the pill may allow for higher levels of androgens and, therefore, the potential for hormonal acne.
How Long It Takes To See Results
ohlamour studio / Stocksy
While it can take as little as a month to notice an improvement, says Twogood, “in most studies, it took three to six months to show a reduction of acne due to birth control use.” Of course, oral contraceptives are considered long-term treatment, and acne may flare back up with discontinued use of the medication.
How Birth Control Can Improve Acne
Birth control works by affecting your body’s hormone levels, which is how, along with preventing unwanted pregnancy, it can also impact other hormonal-related issues like acne.
“When women’s hormone levels shift from a more female profile, for example, with estrogen and progesterone, to a more male profile, for example, testosterone, during our cycles, this has an effect on oil production and acne,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Entière Dermatology in NYC.
“When the hormone profile is more male dominant, a couple of skin changes occur: The sebaceous glands become more active, there is an increase in dead skin cells, and the skin cells become stickier. This environment is perfect for acne flares. Some women are more sensitive to circulating testosterone and develop hormonal acne,” says Levin. Taking birth control pills can stabilize these hormones and decrease the amount of testosterone in your body.
Don’t Miss: What Is Chest Acne Caused By
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.
Green Tea May Decrease Acne Lesions
Green tea contains potent antioxidants and has been shown to possess powerful anti-inflammatory effects .
Research indicates that supplementing with green tea may benefit those with acne.
A study in 80 women with moderate to severe acne demonstrated that those who supplemented with 1,500 mg of green tea extract for 4 weeks experienced significant reductions in acne lesions, compared with a placebo group .
Green tea extract is widely available, but be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before trying a new supplement to treat your acne.
Recommended Reading: Is Doxycycline Good For Acne
Don’t Miss: How To Get Rid Of Acne Scars Immediately
Which Birth Control Is Best For Hormonal Acne
There are several hormonal birth control methods on the market. Oral contraceptive pills remain one of the most popular forms. There are two types of birth control pills: combination pills and minipills . Different forms of hormonal birth control include:
To treat acne, a dermatologist will prescribe a combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains both estrogen and progestin. The Food and Drug Administration has approved four birth control pills for acne treatment: Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, Beyaz, and Yaz.
How Long Does It Take To Clear Acne
As indicated in the first study, birth control doesnt clear acne overnight. It can take up to six months to see good results. Also keep in mind that the 55% reduction mark is only a calculated average, so not all women will reach that potential.
In contrast, antibiotics seem to work much faster, reaching their full potential within the first three months. However, frequent and long-term use of antibiotics is generally not recommended. Issues of toxicity and antibiotic-resistant infections can be dangerous.
Frequent use of antibiotics can also cause gut problems, which can in turn cause acne according to some studies. Taking into consideration these long-term damaging effects, birth control pills provide a much safer option for acne treatment.
Read Also: What Foods Should I Avoid For Acne
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.
Birth Control Depletes Zinc
Alices labs also revealed she was low in zinc. Birth control depletes nutrients like crazy, including zinc. Zinc is necessary for healthy immune function and skin. It has the ability to inhibit bacteria from growing in your sweat glands, which is one way that pimples arise.
Zinc is necessary for helping you use vitamin A. Vitamin A is well recognized for its ability to support healthy skin and reduce acne. It’s important to keep your testosterone in check to allow your skin to flourish, and as mentioned, support the immune system in regulating the bacteria that can lead to acne.
You May Like: How To Clear Acne Around Mouth
How To Treat Hormonal Acne Without Birth Control
Dealing with pimples as an adult is so not fair. For years, the Rx for hormonal acne has been the birth control pill, but what if that’s not for you? Follow this dermatologist-approved treatment plan.
Ever feel like you’re 30 going on 13, thanks to your skin? Dealing with pimples as an adult is so not fair. Acne is a teenage problem after all, right?
Not necessarily: According to research in the Journal of Women’s Health, 26% of women in their 30s battle breakouts. Its very common for a woman to come to my office for an anti-aging procedure, then tear up, admitting that shes still struggling with acne, says Whitney Bowe, MD, a dermatologist in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
While bacteria and inflammation are the two main culprits, acne is also influenced by hormones, Dr. Bowe explains. When a womans androgen receptors are particularly sensitive, these hormones can trigger excess oil production and cause skin cells to become sticky, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.
How can you tell if your acne is hormonal? Clues include breakouts primarily on your lower face and acne flares before or during your period.
For years, the Rx for hormonal acne has been the birth control pill. Those that contain both estrogen and progesterone lower the amount of androgens your body produces, keeping blemishes at bay. But what if you’re perfectly happy with your current type of birth control, or you just dont want to pop the pill?
I Started Birth Control But My Skin Is No Better
Whenever you start combined birth control pill, there can be some side effects that take a month or two to resolve.
One of these can actually be a flare up of your acne. This is only temporary and should improve as hormone levels become more regulated. Combined birth control does not tend to make acne worse.
As a rule, a minimum of three to six months of therapy is required in order to evaluate whether birth control is going to work for your acne or not.â
Recommended Reading: How Do You Get Rid Of Acne Scars Naturally
Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Red Acne Spots
How Long Until Acne Clears After Stopping Taking Birth Control
As mentioned before, it takes several months for your hormones to normalize after coming off the pill. However, every womans body is different, so its hard to make a blanket statement to predict your acne patterns upon stopping birth control pills.
It will generally take at least 3-4 cycles for post-pill acne to resolve. Doctors also recommend using preventative measures before you come off the pill to suppress some of the effects of post-pill acne.
What Is Menopausal Acne
Menopausal acne is when acne appears in women in their 40s and 50s. The cause of menopausal acne is a decrease in estrogen levels or an increase in androgen hormones like testosterone in menopause. Some of the hormonal treatments for menopausal symptoms can also cause hormonal acne. This is especially common in women taking a progestin.
Don’t Miss: What Treatment For Acne Scars
Try One Treatment At A Time
The good news? There are loads of acne treatments on the market today, some of them available over the counter.
However, that doesnt mean you should try multiple solutions at once.
When it comes to treating hormonal skin, Spierings warns against overloading your skin with too many treatments at one time.
Start with something simple like salicylic acid 2 percent in a lotion, which is easily available and non-irritating. Use it for a few weeks and see if you have any improvement, she suggests.
Additional options include:
Which Contraceptive Pill Is Best For Acne
Co-cyprindiol, the generic form of the treatment Dianette, is a combined contraceptive pill which is licensed for use in cases of severe acne, rather than as a contraceptive. It is often prescribed to women who have not seen an improvement in their acne when using antibiotics. Co-cyprindiol helps to block the hormones that cause a build-up of sebum in the hair follicles which prevents acne from forming.
Co-cyprindiol is the generic name of the treatment, it is often known by its branded versions Dianette or Clairette.
Also Check: How To Clear Up Hormonal Acne Fast
Recommended Reading: How Do You Get Rid Of Acne Scars Naturally
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.
What Are Common Side Effects Of Birth Control Pills
As with all medications, birth control pills come with some common side effects, but in many cases, changing the dose or type of birth control pill can help. It may take some trial and error before landing on the ideal birth control pill for you.
These are the most common side effects of birth control pills:
Spotting between periods
Some less likely but more serious complications of birth control pills include gallbladder or liver disease and heart disease.
Abdominal pain could be a sign of gallbladder or liver disease.
Chest pain, shortness of breath, blurry vision, severe headaches, or severe aching, redness, or swelling in the legs could signal heart disease in the form of a heart attack, stroke, blood clot, or high blood pressure.
If you experience any of these symptoms, tell your healthcare provider right away. Be sure to discuss the potential benefits and risks of birth control pills with your healthcare provider before deciding to use them for acne treatment. Despite the possible side effects, birth control pills are relatively safe, especially compared to other prescription acne medications.
Read Also: Is Differin Good For Acne
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.
Which Birth Control Pills Are Approved To Treat Acne
The Food and Drug Administration has approved 4 birth control medications to treat acne:
Each one of these contains a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin. Progestin-only birth control or mini-pills like Camila and Micronor do not work against acne. Besides these 4 brands, your provider may prescribe other birth control pills to improve acne, as long as they contain estrogen.
Read Also: What To Put On Baby Acne
Oral Contraceptives Have Long Been A Treatment Option For The Treatment Of Acne For The Right Female Patients But Is This Treatment Option Used Enough In Dermatology Why
There are several FDA-approved OCPs for acne, and OCPs offer a treatment option that does not contribute to antibiotic resistance. Therefore, Dr. Harper says dermatologists should consider prescribing more OCPs for acne. They are overlooked because dermatologists dont always know how to properly prescribe them, how to counsel patients about risks and benefits, and prescribers have misconceptions about what type of work-up needs to take place prior to initiating treatment with OCPs, she explains.
Dr. Stein Gold agrees that many dermatologists are uncomfortable prescribing combined oral contraceptives for acne. There are a number of contraindications and special circumstances that must be reviewed prior to prescribing, she says, adding that a pap smear and exam are not required prior to initiating therapy.
Dr. Zeichner says he thinks only a minority of dermatologist are actually writing prescriptions for birth control pills for the treatment of acne. Many are not familiar with either the branded or generic products or may not feel comfortable with the potential risks associated with the pills. It may be easier for the dermatologist to refer the patient to the gynecologist, which is why they are not writing for birth control pills themselves.
Does This Mean Birth Control Pills Actually Help Acne
Acne is one of the many reasons women areprescribed birth control. Take Emily, one of my patients, for example. At herfirst visit, she admitted that she hadnt let anyone take her picture in threeyears. Three years!
Emilys doctor had put her on the pill tocontrol her acne, and while she had tried several types, none of them resultedin the clear skin she hoped for. She was embarrassed, frustrated, and confused.Why was this happening? Its simple: The pill does not fix hormones.It merely masks them.
But while the pill did not clear Emilys skin,it does often workunless you try to come off it. Ive heard dozens of cases ofwomen trying to stop the pill, only to have a raging acne flareeven if theynever suffered from acne prior to being on the pill!
Alice developed acne shortly after stoppingbirth control. Her doctor recommended Accutane and thatshe get back on the pill . Alice was leery of starting more medicationsand she was puzzled. Yousee, Alice had never had acne until she stopped taking the pill.
Acne after stopping birth control is oftencaused by Post-Birth Control Syndrome , and it is a common side effect ofgoing off the pill. PBCS acne can appear anywhere, even unexpected and totally unpleasantplaces like your butt!
Now, if youve followed me for a while, you know I dont accept that common translates to normal. So, while PBCS acne is not unusual, you do not have to simply accept it.
Don’t Miss: How To Clear Up Forehead Acne