Taking Birth Control For Acne
Birth control pills have become a common solution that many dermatologists prescribe to treat acne.
For people who have vaginas, the ovaries and adrenal glands typically produce low levels of androgens.
Higher production of androgens can cause the body to produce excess sebum.
Birth control pills containing progesterone and estrogen can help lower the androgens in your body.
A lower amount of androgens will result in less sebum and thus help get rid of unwanted acne.
Most times, patients opt for the birth control pill after testing out other acne treatments, such as antibiotics and topical creams, that have failed to help clear their skin.
The following information will help you better understand the risks and benefits of taking birth control pills to cure acne.
Hopefully, this will assist you in making an informed decision about what next steps might be right for you.
Many clinical trials have detected that taking combination birth control pills can lead to:
- Fewer pimples
How Hormones Affect Acne In Women
There are three side of the story about how hormones affect acne in women and how women can use hormonal treatment to help acne:
- How hormones that women have naturally can worsen acne
- How oral, injectable or implanted hormones can worsen acne in women
- How to pick the best hormones that will help acne in women
Takeaways: The Birth Control Ring
The Annovera ring and the NuvaRing are pretty cool methods of birth control:
They are flexible plastic rings that are squishy and should be comfortable to use.
Youd insert the ring into the vagina and remove the ring yourself, saving you a bunch of trips to the doctor since they need to be removed and reinserted each month.
In the case of Annovera, its reusable and lasts for an entire year. The NuvaRing would need to be replaced each month.
The ring gradually releases the same hormones like the birth control pill into your body, preventing pregnancy at a rate of 91% with typical use.
Neither ring requires refrigeration.
Its been said that the contraceptive ring is a global step forward. Especially in places with fewer resources globally, having a woman-controlled contraceptive method that can last a whole year without refrigeration is pretty amazing. And its also pretty useful during a global pandemic when its harder to go into a doctors office or pharmacy every month to pick up birth control pills. Whatever birth control method you choose, just know that its your choice, and knowing the facts will help you make the right decision.
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Fact Or Fiction: Birth Control Causes Acne
This claim is still up for debate among medical professionals. It seems like everyone has a friend who started taking the pill and suffered horrendous breakouts soon after, blaming the hormones from the pill. But that’s a loaded claim, mostly backed by anecdotal evidence in today’s discourse.
But, it’s important to note that not all birth control hormones are anti-androgenic or oil-lowering. Some progestins still act like androgen hormones in the body, mimicking the same types of hormones that contribute to acne. A 1995 study found that pills containing hormones with androgenic effectscaused skin-worsening side effects to the point where women actually stopped taking the pills because of how badly it affected their complexion. Yikes! However, compared to the pills used in the study, the newer hormones in up-to-date pills contain lower androgenic activity , and because of this are less likely to cause breakouts.
What Are The Best Oral Contraceptives For Women With Hormonal Acne
We know that dealing with hormonal acne can be super frustrating, so the idea of taking a birth control pill sounds like an appealing way to help to regulate hormones and get breakouts under control. However, before you start taking birth control pills, you should know that not all contraceptives work the same way and that some birth control pills can actually make acne worse. Seriously. Talk about a bummer. But knowledge is power, and here’s what you need to know.
The best oral contraceptives to control hormonal or adult acne are the ones that contain Ethinyl estradiol and one of the following: drospirenone, norethindrone, or norgestimate. Beware that oral contraceptives are contraindicated in women with a history of blood clots, high blood pressure, breast cancer, and women that smoke.
A study recently published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology categorized the different types of contraceptives by their efficiency in clearing acne. These are the birth control pills the study said significantly improve hormonal acne: Yaz, Ocella, Yasmin, Trinessat, MonoNessa, Apri, and Reclipse. Pretty long list, right?
There are also some contraceptives that the study found to have little or no effect on acne. Those are Nuvaring, Microgestin pills, and Orthoevra . The study also found that some contraceptives can actually make acne WORSE. That list includes Depo-Provera , Skyla, Lylema, Implanon, and Nexplanon .
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Women Hormones And Acne
Young teens going through puberty often suffer from hormone-related acne because this is a stage of life characterized by an increase in androgens. But girls and women experience hormone fluctuations every month before, during, and after their menstrual periods that can cause or exacerbate acne well into adulthood.
If youre like most women, your highest androgen level occurs about a week before your period so, if you tend to break out just before you menstruate, this may be why. Then, during your period, your estrogen level goes up and your progesterone level goes down.
But menstruation isnt the only thing that affects your hormones. Stress, medications, and pregnancy can all shake up your normal and leave you with a pimply face, chest, or back.
Risks Of Oral Contraceptives
Today’s birth control pills contain lower doses of estrogen and progesterone than in the past. This has significantly lowered their medical risks. Still, women taking oral contraceptives do have a higher risk of side effects, including heart attack, stroke, and dangerous blood clots in the legs or lungs.
Other risks include:
You also shouldn’t take oral contraceptives if:
- You’re a smoker over age 30
- You’re currently pregnant or breastfeeding
- You’re severely obese or physically immobilized
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Birth Control: Acne Savior Or Antichrist
There’s a question that’s tossed around skincare circles with increasing velocity. Does the birth control pill actually clear your acne, or can it cause acne?
The birth control pill is a tricky topic, any way you slice it. It affects womens bodies in so many ways, one major area being the skin. Fortunately, weve come a long way from the “only married women can use the pill” mantra of the 1960s. This ideal was the norm following its initial FDA approval.
In lieu of a hard and fast yay or nay solution, let’s close in on how oral contraceptives function to figure out if they’re triggering or targeting acne.
Treating Mild To Severe Acne
These three oral contraceptives have been approved for treating moderate acne in women who:
- Are at least age 14 or 15
- Have already started menstruating
- Need contraception
In actual practice, doctors prescribe birth control for the full spectrum of acne, from mild to severe.
In addition, doctors may prescribe additional birth control products for acne. For example, the oral contraceptives Yasmin and Alesse have both been clinically shown to improve acne. But neither one has been approved by the FDA for this use.
If you’re already taking an oral contraceptive that’s working well in treating acne, there’s no need to switch brands. But if you are taking birth control pills for acne for the first time, it’s best to use one of the three types now approved for acne treatment.
You may need to take an oral contraceptive for a few months before your skin starts to clear. And an initial flare-up of acne is common when a woman first starts taking birth control pills.
Birth control pills work on only one acne-related factor — excess sebum. Doctors often prescribe other forms of acne treatment — topical medications or antibiotics — to be used alongside them for best results in clearing the skin.
If you have severe acne along with irregular periods, excess facial hair, or obesity, your doctor may do further testing for a medical condition called polycystic ovary syndrome or other hormonal condition.
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Birth Control For Acne: Which Options Are Best For You
Acne â especially when youâre still getting it as an adult â can be very frustrating. If you havenât tried birth control as an option to treat your acne, it might be a great next step. Many people find that birth control pills actually treat their hormonal acne better than other topical medications.
It tends to work for blackheads, whiteheads, and cystic, inflammatory acne. Read on to find out how.
Skin Conditions Treated By Birth Control
Different forms of birth control may improve or worsen your skin or hair. Combined birth control pills are prescribed to treat hormonal acne, hirsutism, and sometimes hair loss. Hirsutism is also related to hormonal imbalances that can cause dark, coarse hair to grow on your face, abdomen, arms, and thighs.
- Hormones help regulate complex bodily processes, which is why its so important to keep them in balance.
- Estrogen impacts the skin by decreasing oil production and keeps hair in its growth phase longer. In general, it improves acne.
- Androgens, on the other hand, can cause oily skin and cause hair growth that is coarse and dark. Conversely, they can cause some women to experience thinning or excessive hair loss.
- One of the most important factors is how sensitive you are to these man-made or synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones. That will exacerbate side effects like acne.
Doctors sometimes prescribe the pill, with both estrogen and progestin, to help stabilize hormones and suppress the ovaries production of androgens. In turn, this can increase production of sex hormone-binding globulin , which binds to androgens found in the blood and keeps them from entering the cells in the skin and hair follicles.
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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.
Many different kinds of birth control pill are available, but the most effective type for acne is the combination pill, which contains forms of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
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.
Limiting Your Intake Of High
A typical Western diet is loaded with carbs that can spike blood glucose levels and reduce insulin sensitivity. Therefore, if you are looking for a way to heal your acne, opt for low-glycemic-index foods that are low in carbs.
Studies show that a low-carb and high-estrogen diet reduces both insulin resistance and levels of sex hormones that can cause acne. Such foods can include green veggies, fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and bran breakfast cereals. These foods can not only reduce the risk of post-birth control acne but also help you lose weight as an added bonus.
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What Increases Your Risk Of Developing Post Birth Control Acne
Post birth control acne isnt a done deal. Youre more at risk if:
- Your pre-birth control hormones were already out of whack: If your skin already pumped out too much oil and you experienced acne before, chances are the sames gonna happen now youve stopped oral contraception.
- Genetics: Again, if your skin was naturally oilier and acne-prone, youre more at risk when you get off the pill.
- Type of birth control: Pills with a higher dose of estrogen, containing only the hormone progestin, and higher androgen effect of progestin make you more at risk of post-birth control acne. Combination pills with the new generation of progestins and vaginal rings are less likely to cause any trouble.
- Lifestyle factors: Smoking and an unhealthy diet high in processed foods increase your risk of acne, too.
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How To Pick The Best Hormones That Will Help Acne In Women
There are two main groups of medications used for hormonal treatment of acne in women—hormones types that occur naturally and medications that influence hormonal activity. Hormones that are natural to women include estrogen and progesterone. These include Oral Contraceptive Pills and estrogen supplementation around menopause. Medications that influence hormonal activity include Spironolactone and Cyproterone. Cyproterone is not available in the U.S.
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Relative Contraindications To Oral Contraceptives
- Migraine without aura: in women aged over 35 years or in smokers
- Smoking: in women aged over 35 years who smoke < 15 cigarettes/day
- Concurrent treatment with certain anticonvulsants
- Postpartum: first 3 weeks , first month
- Hypertension: well controlled or moderately well controlled
- Breast cancer, diagnosed more than 5 years earlier.
Systemic Products Containing Isotretinoin
Some of the most serious health effects come from isotretinoin products, such as Accutane® or Clarus® that are derived from vitamin A. These products are prescribed to treat severe cases of acne that are difficult to treat any other way.
If taken by pregnant women, isotretinoin products can cause severely deformed babies or result in miscarriages, even if it is only used for a short time. Even one dose can affect a developing fetus.
Women should not breastfeed if they are taking isotretinoin products, since doing so may harm the child.
When doctors are prescribing this drug to women of childbearing age, they must use the manufacturer’s risk management program. This program includes:
- comprehensive information about the potential risks of this drug
- a signed statement that the patient has been informed about the risks
- a checklist for criteria that must be met prior to prescribing this drug to female patients of childbearing age
- detailed information on birth control options
- patient consent and
- monthly pregnancy reminders for physicians to use at each patient visit during the treatment period.
Although there is no direct evidence, these products have also been linked to depression, even suicide in some people. They can also increase your chances of developing diabetes, liver disease or heart disease if you have a family history of these diseases.
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Birth Control And Acne
Birth control use and acne breakouts are linked, but in most cases its for positive reasons. One of the main causes of acne is the presence of male hormones, particularly androgens. Androgens are found in both men and women. These hormones are very active during puberty, which is one of the reasons acne is so common in the teenage population. Acne occurs in 70 to 87 percent of teenagers.
Acne occurs when androgens increase the size of the sebum glands and increase oil secretion. Oil and dead skin cells trap hair follicles. This can result in the following:
Acne occurs commonly on certain parts of the body, such as the:
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.
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How Womens Naturally Occurring Hormones Can Worsen Acne
In a previous post, Open Pandoras BoxHormones, Women and Acne, we discussed Polycystic Ovary Syndrome , and other forms of ovarian or adrenal hyperandrogenism. One of the signs of these conditions is acne. These are complicated medical problems that need to be evaluated by your gynecologist. Hormonal treatment can often improve many of these symptoms, reduce your risk of serious adverse health effects, and will make your acne easier to treat.
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Beyaz is approved for moderate acne for women at least 14 years old if the patient desires an oral contraceptive for birth control. It is a combination pill that also contains folate. Like Yaz, it can treat symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder for women. It contains drospirenone , ethinyl estradiol and levomefolate.
Birth control pills contain low doses of both estrogen as well as progesterone. While estrogen works to reduce acne, progesterone, in fact, interacts with the reception of acne contributing hormones and further aggravates acne. When estrogen and progesterone are used in combination, many patients experience a reduction in acne. However, pills that only contain progesterone also known as the mini pill can actually make acne worse .
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Absolute Contraindications To Oral Contraceptives
- Migraine with aura
- Smoking: women aged over 35 years who smoke > 15 cigarettes/day
- Ischaemic heart disease, past or current
- Active liver disease: viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, or tumour
- Major surgery with prolonged immobilisation
- Deep venousthrombosis, past or current
- Hypertension: poorly controlled
- Breast cancer, current