Women who take birth control pills are likely to be pleasantly surprised with its
side effect – their skin becomes free of acne and begins to glow!
This happens because certain types of these pills cause the level of testosterone
in the body to decrease which in turn slows down the activity of sebaceous gland
resulting in reduced the production of sebum in the skin. Due to this, the skin pores
do not easily get clogged - a condition that is unfavorable for the acne forming
bacteria to multiply and cause acne breakout.
Not all birth control pills help reduce acne. Some birth control pills contain hormone
progestin only (known as Progestin Only Pills - POP); these can actually encourage
Other types of birth control pills contain a combination of progestin and estrogen
(known as Combination Pills). The estrogen, present in the form of ethinyl etradiol,
controls the level of androgen (testosterone) hormones in the sebaceous glands.
Acne and Birth Control Pills
While birth control pills are primarily meant for preventing conception, FDA has
approved three of the Combination Pills for use in treating acne conditions in women..
These are Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep and Yaz.
Birth control pills are prescribed for daily use, preferably at the same time every
day. It may take up to three weeks before effective reduction in acne is noticed.
Often, the acne condition worsens before the effect of birth control pills take over.
Side Effects of Birth Control Pills
Use of approved birth control pills for acne treatment could have undesirable effects
- weight gain
- breast tenderness
- menstrual spotting, and
- mood swings
While these are not considered significant, serious side effects (which are not so
- blood clots
- increase in blood pressure, and
Women who are older than 35 years of age, have high blood pressure, or suffer migraine
are advised to strictly stay away from these pills for acne treatment as per FDA
advisory; neither should sexually inactive teenagers take them.
Sometimes birth control pills can have unwanted chemical reactions when taken along
with other medications, not necessarily acne medication. So, if you are currently
prescribed any medication, it would require consultation with your doctor before
proceeding to use the birth control pill.
Birth Control Pills and Other Acne Treatments
Oral birth control pills are not normally prescribed as the first line of acne treatment.
It is only when the other conventional methods fail to produce the desirable result
that these pills are resorted to. Of course, if a woman requires the birth control
pills also for avoiding conception, then the question of trying out other methods
of acne control does not arise.
When prescribed, birth control pills should be used along with other acne treatments
like the topical applications, hydrogen peroxide or benzoyl peroxide treatment, etc.
In any case, use of birth control pills for treating acne should be resorted to only
in consultation with your doctor.