How Does Birth Control Help To Treat Acne
A common cause of acne, especially present among teens, is an imbalance of androgens, a type of hormone found in both men and women, but some people may produce it in higher amounts. One side effect of this overproduction is an increase in sebum, a type of oil that your skin naturally produces. Excess sebum can clog pores which leads to acne.
Birth control, however, can help to regulate hormones, reducing androgen production and thereby decreasing the amount of sebum production, and acne as a result.
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Which Contraceptive Is Right For You
To find the contraceptive that is right for you, share any concerns about potential side effects with your health care provider and dermatologist. They will be able to answer your questions and determine which contraceptive is best for you.
If you are strictly looking for a hormonal regimen for your acne, then perhaps a trial of spironolactone may be the choice. However, if you want the combined benefit of contraception , menstrual cycle regulation, and acne control then the birth control pill may be right for you. For acne, Dr. Zenovia recommends a combined oral contraceptive like YAZ because it has a low dose of progesterone and an anti-androgenic progesterone.
If you are experiencing any unwanted side effects from your birth control, be sure to bring those issues up to your doctor. Common side effects include nausea, acne, weight gain, bloating, and breast tenderness.
Remember, hormones are tricky and everyone’s body handles contraceptives differently. Two people on the same contraceptive can have totally different experiences! It may take a couple of tries and communication with your health care provider to find one with the right balance. There are many to try so it may take 3-6 months to figure out the best option for you. Hormones are delicate yet powerful messengers and the downstream effects on your skin can take a while to appreciate.
Types Of Acne That Birth Control Can Treat
Acne can take the form of a blackhead, whitehead, a small mark, or even a cyst, but it’s the underlying cause of your acne that determines whether birth control might be an effective treatment. According to Levin, teenage or inflammatory acne can be treated with oral antibiotics, but hormonal acne is not usually successfully treated by antibiotics.
That’s where hormonal medication, such as birth control, can come into play. If home treatment doesn’t help your breakouts, or if you’re finding yourself with large, hard, or pus-filled bumps, you may want to consult your doctor to learn if you’re experiencing hormonal or cystic acneboth of which may be treated with birth control. Other signs that you’re dealing with hormonal acne rather than good old-fashioned inflammatory acne include breakouts that follow a cyclical pattern with your menstrual cycle and acne that pops up mainly along your jawline or chin.
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Why Doesnt The Pill Work As An Acne Treatment For Everyone
And that brings us to the important conundrum: why doesnât the Pill work for everyone? It all comes down to the type of acne you have and the factors causing these breakouts to occur.
For those who havenât noticed an improvement in their skin after 3 months of using the oral contraceptive Pill, itâs important to speak with your GP to understand the root cause of the acne. In some cases, the Pill can actually cause acne .
Itâs important to speak with your GP to rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing breakouts to still occur while on the Pill, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome . If there is another condition at play, topical products and even hormonal treatments often wonât work effectively in resolving acne.
Although the Pill might be an effective acne treatment for some, it isnât a cure-all for every woman. It might be a process of trial-and-error for a number of different treatment methods before finding the solution. So, make sure to speak with your doctor to find the right treatment plan to suit your skin.
Is There A Way To Balance Hormones Without Birth Control
There are several medications besides birth control that can help balance hormones and effectively treat acne. One of the most effective is called Spironolactone , an oral medication used to treat high blood pressure does not contain hormones or synthetic hormones. Its actually a diuretic that works as an androgen blocker, which means it blocks the effects of male hormones in the body like testosterone, contributing to oil production and, ultimately, acne.
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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.
How Do You Know If You Have Hormonal Acne
The first step to treating acne is to understand its underlying cause. Differentiating between the common acne vulgaris and hormonal acne can be confusing due to certain similarities in nature. Below mentioned are symptoms that are unique to hormonal acne and can help you understand your acne better.
1. Your acne persists beyond your adolescent years. Hormonal acne can suddenly appear after the age of 25 and last till the age of 50 or the pre-menopausal period.
2. Your pimple keeps occurring in the same spot.
3. Your acne is triggered during your pre-menstruation or menopausal period.
4. Your acne is aggravated by an increase in stress.
5. The acne condition follows a periodical cycle.
6. Acne triggered by the start or stop of oral contraceptives.
7. The condition is characterized by painful inflammatory acne located in the lower region of your face.
It is a myth that excess sexual activity can trigger hormonal acne. The fluctuation of your hormones have nothing to do with any kind of sexual activity that can lead to a skin condition.
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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.
Research Has Only Found Small Differences In The Effect On Acne
Researchers from the an international research network took a look at the effectiveness of birth control pills in the treatment of acne. They did a search for studies comparing the pill with a fake drug or a non-hormonal acne medication. The researchers analyzed 31 studies involving a total of about 12,500 participants. Most of the studies compared different contraceptive pills with each other or with a placebo. Hardly any of the studies compared the pill with other acne medications.
All of the birth control pills tested were able to improve acne. They reduced both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne. The pills often had to be taken for several weeks or months before the participants skin got better. The birth control pills that reduced acne had ethinyl estradiol in them, combined with one of the following drugs: levonorgestrel, norethindrone, norgestimate, drospirenone, cyproterone acetate, chlormadinone acetate, dienogest or desogestrel.
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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.
Hormonal Contraception As A Hirsutism Treatment
Hirsutism is excessive male-pattern hair growth in certain areas of a womans face and body such as the mustache and beard area. Androgens, the dominant sex hormones in men, can be responsible for these conditions. Women normally have low levels of androgens, but abnormally high levels of androgens can lead to excess hair growth. Given that hormonal contraception can reduce the levels of free androgen in your system, certain combination birth control pills can be a helpful hirsutism treatment.
If you use this type of birth control, you may not even be aware of its non-contraceptive benefits. Certain hormonal contraceptives have been shown to diminish the effects of hirsutism. It is important to note that women may react differently to specific contraception, so this information is intended as a general overview. Please keep in mind that hormonal contraception is meant to be used for birth control potential non-contraceptive benefits can be considered when determining which hormonal birth control method to use.
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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 may be incredibly effective against certain types of acne, it’s important to note that it’s not usually 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 try to help get acne under control.
Why Does The Pill Reduce Acne For Some Women
The hormones contained in the Pill can play a role in reducing acne. Particularly for those suffering from hormonal acne, the Pill can lower the circulation of androgens which also decreases the production of sebum . Less oil can mean less acne for some women.
However, effective acne reduction is only seen with types of contraception that contain a combination of both estrogen and progestin. That means the minipill wonât have an impact on improving acne.
For those of us who experience breakouts in sync with our cycle, the Pill can be an effective acne treatment. When looking for acne-fighting Pill prescriptions, your doctor should recommend a Pill variation that contains progestin with a low androgenic possibility . In most cases, it will take a few months to see the full impacts so itâs important to be patient.
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How Do These Birth Control Pill Treat Acne
Before we can get into how these birth control pills prevent acne, well need to cover the basics of how acne develops in the first place, as well as how its related to your hormones.
Acne develops when your pores the openings in your skin that lead to the sebaceous glands and hair follicles become blocked. Several different substances can cause blockages in your pores, but the most common are sebum and dead skin cells.
Sebum is an oil-like substance thats produced by your sebaceous glands. If your skin feels wet and oily at the end of a busy day, its almost always the result of sebum building up on the skins surface.
Your skin naturally produces sebum to keep your skin soft and moist, as well as to protect your skin from wind, dust, dirt and other irritants. While it can be annoying when it builds up in large amounts, sebum is an essential component of healthy skin.
When too much sebum builds up on your skin, it can become clogged inside the pore, resulting in a pimple.
Depending on the amount of sebum that blocks the pore, youll develop either a whitehead or a blackhead. A whitehead forms when the sebum completely blocks the pore. The white color is a result of the sebum forming a complete seal in the pore, blocking air from entering.
A blackhead forms when the sebum only partially blocks the pore. Blackheads arent black as a result of dirt or poor hygiene instead, the black color forms when air comes into direct contact with the sebum.
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.
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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.
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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