How To Use The Birth Control Pill To Treat Acne
If you have acne and want to use the birth control pill to treat it, the best approach is to talk to your healthcare provider . Depending on the severity of your acne, they may recommend a specific pill as a treatment.
If youre uncomfortable talking to your healthcare provider about birth control, we offer an online consultation with a healthcare provider and a choice of 10 different birth control pills, including generic forms of Yaz or Ortho Tri-Cyclen, both of which are approved by the FDA as acne treatments.
It can take several months for the birth control pill to help bring your acne under control. For the best results, its important to be patient and give your medication at least three to six months to work before assessing your skin.
Although some birth control pills can help to treat acne, they may not be enough to ensure you no longer experience acne breakouts. If you have severe or difficult-to-treat acne, your healthcare provider may prescribe a medication like tretinoin, clindamycin or isotretinoin in addition to the pill.
How Long Does Birth Control Take To Clear Up Acne
It takes time for a birth control pill to regulate the hormone levels in the body. For this reason, it can take several weeks to months for birth control pills to help with acne. Studies have shown that most patients see some improvement in their skin after three months of acne treatment with oral contraceptives. The most significant improvement in hormonal acne breakouts is typically observed after roughly six months of treatment with birth control.
How Long Do Most Patients Take Hormonal Treatments
When hormonal therapy helps to clear acne, a patient may stay on it for a long time. You will often stop other acne treatments such as an antibiotic and medication that you apply to your skin. Hormonal therapy can be used alone to prevent new breakouts.
Taking hormonal therapy long term appears to be safe.
Studies show that taking spironolactone at the same time every day can give you the best results.
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When To Talk To Your Healthcare Provider
If you are curious if birth control pills could be a good fit for you and your skin, speak with your healthcare provider. They will be able to make specific recommendations and discuss your risk for side effects or complications.
Once you begin a regular birth control pill regimen, stay in contact with your healthcare provider. Tell them if you are experiencing any side effects. Its helpful to remember that it can take about two to three months to start seeing an improvement in your acne.
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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How Is Hormonal Acne Treated
If your acne is mild you might be able to treat your acne with the over-the-counter face washes, gels or creams. This will typically contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
If your acne is moderate to severe you may, if suitable, be able to get a prescription medication to treat your acne. This may be topical gels and creams, oral antibiotics or for women, the combined contraceptive pill. You may also be prescribed a combination of these treatments.
The combined contraceptive pill is prescribed as it can help balance hormone levels, avoiding flare-ups caused by hormonal changes.
Tldr Whats The Lowdown
- Your contraception can affect your skin sometimes in a good way, but sometimes negatively
- Combined hormonal contraception generally improves acne, while progestogen-only birth control sometimes lead to acne spots
- But its not always as simple as that. Take a look at our reviews to see how different contraceptives affect different womens skin
Its a cruel fact of life that some people dont leave acne behind in their teenage years. Some adults continue to get zits well into their 20s, 30s and even 40s. Acne may be a cosmetic issue but it is certainly not a trivial problem. It can even lead to feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
Annoyingly, women are more likely than men to be affected by acne in adulthood, suggesting hormones may play a key role. Its perhaps not surprising then that many women find that changing their contraception affects their skin. In this article, we look at the contraceptive methods such as the pill, patch or copper coil that can help or hinder your efforts to bust blemishes.
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How Much Can Birth Control Pills Reduce Acne
A paper published in 2014 combines data from 32 quality studies across the globe to examine the effects of birth control pills and antibiotics for acne. The graph below is a summary of the pooled data showing the average reduction in different types of acne after three and six months of treatment with either antibiotics or birth control pills.
You can see that antibiotics produced strong results after just three months. Birth control pills took a little longer, but after the six-month mark their improvements in both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions were noticeable and comparable to those with antibiotics.
The total weighted reduction of lesions for the birth control group was 35% after three months and 55% after six months. The placebo group only showed a total lesion reduction of 28.6%.
While these are simply weighted average figures that combine a wide variety of results among several thousand women, it is clear that birth control pills can significantly improve acne for many women.
To further support these findings, a more recent study published in 2018 concluded that despite hormonal therapy not typically used as first-line treatment for acne, it can shorten the duration of antibiotic use or even eliminate the need for oral antibiotics.
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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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.
When Is Birth Control Recommended For Acne Treatment
Birth control pills can be effective against all types of acne, including blackheads, whiteheads, and inflammatory acne. Your healthcare provider may recommend trying birth control for acne treatment when other options like topical acne creams and oral antibiotics have failed. Since birth control is relatively safe, it may be prescribed before other acne medications with harsher side effects like isotretinoin are recommended.
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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.
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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Are Birth Control Pills Safe
Currently available evidence points to BC pills being by and large safe. Some women experience spotting or abnormal vaginal bleeding during the first two cycles on the pill. 10 to 20% of women also report slightly more headaches and moodiness while on the pill.
The pill is commonly blamed for reduction in sex drive and weight gain. However, a 2014 review of 49 studies showed women taking BC pills didnt gain anymore weight than women who used other birth control methods.
Changes in sex drive and libido are reported in studies. However, a 2007 study of 1716 women taking BC pills showed that over 80% of the participants reported no change in sexual satisfaction. Furthermore, equally many women reported improvements in sexual satisfaction than did report reductions.
Studies have also shown 8 to 24% increase in breast cancer risk among women who take birth control pills. Increase in breast cancer risk is higher in younger women. However, the absolute risk of breast cancer in women under 40 is miniscule. The increase in risk declines after stopping the pill and disappears within 5 to 10 years. BC pills are also known to reduce the risk of other cancers.
There are also concerns that birth control pills increase the risk of blood clots. Again, the absolute risk in young women is miniscule.
The Contraceptive Pill And Acne
The main reason acne develops is because the male sex hormone androgen is made in larger amounts during puberty in girls too. Inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne can improve in girls and women who use contraceptive pills as birth control. The pills that help against acne have the female sex hormones estrogen and progestin in them. But most contraceptive pills haven’t been specifically approved for the treatment of acne. There are also non-hormonal treatments which can help against acne, some of which have fewer side effects.
The frequency and severity of side effects are influenced by the dose of hormones in the birth control pills. But possible side effects might still play an important role when deciding which pill to use. So it’s good to know whether certain pills reduce acne more effectively than others and what side effects they have.
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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.
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Pros And Cons Of Hormonal Treatment Of Acne
Hormones often cause acne in women. Hormones you have just by virtue of being female: hormone changes with adolescence, early adulthood, pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause, and taking oral contraceptives , birth control IUDs, birth control shots. In short, any hormones related to the reproductive system that has keep the species going for quite a long time.
Womens hormonal systems are designed to promote, enable and control something incredibly complicated and fantastically wonderfulenabling us to create another human being. Therefore, you can image that there are some consequences that are detrimental to something as evolutionarily minor as acne. However, that doesnt mean we cant use some of our technological advances to modify those undesirable effects.
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When To Talk To Your Doctor About Birth Control
If your acne is getting especially bad and isn’t responding to other treatments, consider speaking with a specialist or your primary care physician. Your doctor can help identify the underlying cause of your breakouts and suggest a treatment plan.
While there is no harm in asking your doctor about taking birth control for your acne, particularly if you believe your breakouts are hormone-related, be prepared to follow a suggested treatment plan, even if it doesn’t include the pill. While birth control can be incredibly effective against certain types of acne, it’s important to note that it’s not intended to be the first line of defense.
Usually, dermatologists will first recommend a topical retinoid. “Topically, my feeling is everyone and their mother should be on a retinoid,” says board-certified dermatologist Adam Friedman, MD, FAAD. “This first-line medication can be difficult to get covered in our current healthcare climate, so fortunately, there is an over-the-counter form available called Differin Gel .”
Levin agrees: “In addition to clearing existing acne, Differin Gel will also help to prevent future breakouts from forming by increasing skin cell turnover to minimize clogging of pores.”
Foods that are high in sugar or contain dairy are known to cause acne. To establish a diet conducive to fighting acne, look for foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as those packed with essential fatty acids and antioxidants, to help get acne under control.
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