Why I Don’t Recommend Most Women Use Birth Control For Hormonal Acne
I want to preface this by saying that if you are already on the pill or want to continue to take it while adding natural ways to support acne, that is a valid choice. But, I also want to make sure each person understands why birth control shouldn’t necessarily be the first answer to everyone’s acne so you can make an informed decision based on learning the reason why the acne is occurring in the first place.
Too many doctors prescribe the pill to millions of people without discussing potential side effects like nutrient depletion, inflammation, increased risks of blood clots, and mood symptoms. Theres rarely a mention that we dont have any data on what birth control does to a developing brain when this is offered to teenagers, something many researchers, including Dr. Sarah Hill has raised concern about.
Birth control can disrupt the natural balance of your microbiomethe bacteria happily residing in your gut. There’s a close connection between gut and skin healthso much so that I make gut health a priority when working with anyone dealing with acne. A healthy gut is vital for healthy hormone balance, and an imbalanced gut can significantly contribute to hormonal acne.
Hormonal birth control is a complex subject, to say the least. My book Beyond the Pill is a must-read to help you heal if you’re dealing with post-birth control acne or wanting to support your body while using the pill.
How Birth Control Pills Affect The Skin
Birth control can benefit the skin by lowering androgen levels, which decreases sebum production and can reduce acne.
Along with reducing androgen production in the ovaries and adrenal glands, CHCs lower the amount of testosterone in the bloodstream. The estrogen in birth control pills also helps lower oil production by the sebaceous glands.
CHCs are effective at reducing inflammatory and noninflammatory acne.
The Food and Drug Administration has
The following are CHCs, meaning they contain progestin and estrogen and can help a person reduce acne:
Traditional Treatments For Hormonal Acne
Unless your hormonal acne is mild, over-the-counter products usually arent successful.
This is because hormonal acne typically takes the form of cystic bumps. These bumps form deep under the skin, out of reach of most topical medications.
Oral medications can work from the inside out to balance your hormones and clear up the skin. Common options include oral contraceptives and anti-androgen drugs.
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How Do I Treat Hormonal Acne
Based on the severity of your acne, different treatment options are available to reduce sebum production, pimple formation and painful inflammation:
- Blackheads and whiteheads: Topical cream .
- Inflammatory acne: Topical retinoid and/or topical antibiotic and/or benzoyl peroxide.
- Moderate to severe acne: Antibiotic and/or isotretinoin .
- Cystic acne: Steroid injection .
Look For These Active Ingredients
Pro tip: Stick to face wash if you have sensitive skin. Leave-on masks and other products might cause irritation. Wash your face daily for the best results.
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Your Diet May Be The Culprit
Food is one of the primary contributors to fluctuating or increased hormone levels in our bodies.
The typical American diet is acidic and high in saturated fats, processed grains, meat fats, and refined sugar. It is also low in fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, fiber, and antioxidants. Research has shown that this can cause an imbalance in testosterone and androgen levels, respectively. Therefore, a healthy diet is one form of natural treatment for hormonal acne. Another way to balance hormone levels is by taking certain herbs and vitamins. Both these items are discussed in more detail below.
How Soon After Treatment Will Hormonal Acne Go Away
Treating acne can be different for each individual, but patience is key. Generally, it could take up to four to six weeks to see improvement in your skin after you begin treatment. Even if you dont notice that the treatment is clearing your skin, it is recommended that you continue treatment to prevent new acne from forming.
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When To Consider Vitamins Or Supplements For Hormonal Acne
Some key nutrients can help hormonal acne by reducing inflammation, balancing hormones, and supporting natural detoxification. Generally, I recommend using a combination of supplements to address the different factors that can contribute to hormonal acne.
Taking supplements won’t work without other lifestyle and diet changes, but they can be a part of your toolbox. You can find many of these nutrients in food, but sometimes you need more than what you can get from diet alone. If youve been trying everything diet wise, it may be time to bring in supplemental support.
Supplements to support healthy hormone balance could help with hormonal acne by reducing androgen production or by providing your body the necessary nutrients it uses in the detoxification process and removing excess hormones. Examples include diindolylmethane , a derivative from cruciferous veggies like kale or cabbage, or myo-inositol, which studies show could also support healthy blood sugar balance.
Additionally, supplements that target gut health can also be helpful. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in your gut and help with digestion, and certain strains have been found to help with hormonal acne. Gut diversity is key, which is why diet can be so helpful and Womens Probiotic can offer additional support.
These are only some of the acne supplements I use, but they can be an excellent place to start. Sometimes it takes trial and error to find what works for you.
Clear Pores With Benzoyl Peroxide
“By far and away, the best topical medicine for acne is benzoyl peroxide,” Katie Rodan, MD, dermatologist and cofounder of Proactiv, says. “Nothing, not even antibiotics, beat it when it comes to killing bacteria and clearing pores for the long-term without antibiotic resistance.” Benzoyl peroxide is so powerful because it’s antimicrobial, meaning it zaps acne-causing bacteria and keeps pimples from coming back.
Zeichner recommends using benzoyl peroxide in concentrations ranging from 2.5 to 10 percent for maximum benefits. It works best when left on the skin in the form of a lightweight lotion, but some cleansers and masks containing benzoyl peroxide can remain on the skin in an effective concentration after they’ve been washed offif they’ve been formulated to do so . Try this pick from Humane, which contains five percent benzoyl peroxide along with soothing ingredients like aloe vera gel and cucumber extract.
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How To Treat Hormonal Acne Naturally Top 3 Ingenious Ways
Hi! Im Jessica Gremley, Founder and CEO of Natural Acne Clinic. This blog post is a personal one for me as it took 15 years of education and research to figure out how to clear my own hormonal acne.
I launched NAC out of my passion to share the truth about acne and how hormonal acne can be treated naturally. With each client we serve, my hope is to debunk misleading myths and incorrect information about how hormonal acne can be cleared once and for all because I was able to do it for myself.
When we consume the wrong information, we often think the natural approach will not be as effective as a more harsh treatment like Accutane. Not true!
Harsh topicals, birth control pills, and pharmaceuticals can destroy the body from the inside out and are not the only option. Honestly, these are pretty old-school approaches that dont consider the whole body as we do at NAC.
The American Academy of Dermatology has found the onset of adult acne is becoming increasingly common in women in their 30s, 40s and even 50s. Studies show that up to 50% of women in their 20s and 25% of women in their 40s struggle with acne triggered by hormonal changes in the body.
Pregnancy, diet, stress, and menopause can cause hormonal imbalances triggering acne on the jawline, chin or lower cheek. It can often appear red and inflamed causing some amount of pain.
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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How To Treat Hormonal Acne Without Birth Control
Ever feel like youre 30 going on 13, thanks to your skin?
& #151 — intro: Ever feel like youre 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 Womens 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 youre perfectly happy with your current type of birth control, or you just dont want to pop the pill?
Follow this multi-modal treatment plan, courtesy of Dr. Bowe, for clearer skin within three months.
Take Better Care Of Yourselfseriously
This always feels like the most frustrating piece of health advice, right? Oh, youre stressed? Just work harder at being less stressed! Just try squeezing in some meditation, yoga, exercise, therapy, baths, nature walks, sleep, etc.! How easy! No pressure! Just breathe! Yeah. F*ck that.
First, Ill say that yes, its all true: stress and lack of sleep can worsen hormonal acne. When youre freaking out, your stress-related hormones spike and send your oil glands into overdrive, Dr. Zeichner has said. These spikes then lead to inflammation, pimples, dryness, extra oiliness, and even rashes. Similarly, when you dont get enough sleep, your body is exposed to continuously high levels of cortisol, which can trigger breakouts, he added.
But what are you going to do about it, if youre dealing with final exams, or a global pandemic, or political turmoil, or personal traumas and stresses in your life? Youre going to do the best you can, whether that means going to a dermatologist , downloading a meditation app, or just being aware of your stress levels throughout the day. Hormonal acne is stressful enough without you feeling like its somehow your fault or in your control, okay?
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Treating Hormonal Acne Without Birth Control
Are you frustrated that youre still dealing with acne well past your teenage years? Youre not alone. A significant amount of women experience breakouts well in their 40s.
While inflammation and bacteria are the two main culprits of acne for many women, hormones are the underlying trigger for breakouts. Specifically, androgen receptors in women tend to be particularly sensitive leading to excess oil production creating a perfect environment for bacteria.
What Are The Possible Side Effects
To reduce the risk of a woman developing serious side effects, dermatologists carefully screen their patients before prescribing hormonal therapy. Possible side effects include the following.
The pill. Taking the pill increases the risk of:
High blood pressure
While these side effects may not seem worth the risk, most women who are healthy do not have side effects. In fact, the risk of developing blood clots is greater during pregnancy and just after having a baby than when taking the pill.
Its also important to know that there is less risk of serious side effects today than in past. Today, the pill contains less estrogen.
Some women taking the pill develop melasma, or dark patches on their face. Protecting your face from the sun can help prevent these patches.
Breakthrough bleeding is another possible side effect. You can often prevent this by taking the pill at the same time each day.
Acne and the pill
If you take the pill, you can reduce your risk of blood clots by staying active, drinking lots of water, and not smoking.
Spironolactone. When taking spironolactone without a birth control pill, the most common side effects are:
Painful periods and cramping
These side effects may be decreased when women also take the pill.
Other possible side effects of taking spironolactone include fatigue, headache, and dizziness. These rarely cause a woman to stop taking the medication.
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The Causes Of Hormonal Acne
The concern that hormonal acne is more prevalent could be due to several factors, like women talking about it more, increased environmental toxicity, and the prevalence of xenoestrogens or chemicals that cause hormone imbalances in our environment, Dr. Jolene Brighten, a functional medicine naturopathic medical doctor and the author of Beyond The Pill, tells TZR. We also need to acknowledge the role of processed food and medications that can lead to nutrient depletions, hormone disruption, and poor gut health.
Birth control use is on the rise, and the hormonal changes which occur after discontinuing or starting a birth control pill also cause acne, Dr. Wood says while Dr. Robinson adds that patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome , a hormonal disorder, will often present with hormone-related acne, as well.
Basically, this type of acne is multifactorial, as Dr. Brighten says. From diet to lifestyle to birth control and plain old hormonal imbalance, there are multiple causes of hormonal acne and often, more than one is present in each individual patient which makes it hard to pin down a single effective treatment.
The Link Between Our Hormones And Acne
Before we get to the three best natural treatments for hormonal acne, lets first discuss how hormones trigger breakouts. Bear with me for a moment while we have a mini biology lesson!
Hormones have a major role in the development of acne. Although the exact mechanism behind their powerful influence is unknown, we do know that androgen hormones gum up the follicle by triggering oil production.
Androgens are the so-called male hormones and are present in males and females. The testes, ovaries and the adrenal glands all produce androgens. The most well-known androgens are testosterone and its breakdown product is dihydrotestosterone .
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How To Treat Hormonal Acne Naturally
In some cases, plant-based treatment options may be used to clear up mild hormonal acne.
Natural treatments are usually free of the side effects sometimes caused by prescription options. But they may not be as effective. Research on natural options is lacking, and at this time nothing has been proven to produce results. Talk with your doctor about potential risks and to ensure the treatment wont interact with any medications youre taking.
Consider Accutane For Hormonal Acne
STOP! Please dont just scroll by with a big olnope! Despite the myths and supposed horror stories youve heard, Accutane is not as dangerous as youve been led to believe. Yes, its definitely a serious medication , but its honestly the closest thing to an acne cure that dermatologists have, and its usually completed with just one six-month treatment.
Isotretinoin, or Accutane, permanently shrinks your oil glands so they cant be hormonally stimulated as easily anymore, says Dr. Gohara. And no, you dont need a face full of severe, cystic zits to be a candidate either: I have patients with pretty mild yet persistent acne, and because nothing else has worked for them, I have them on Accutane, she says.
Basically, keep your options openif your dermatologist thinks Accutane is the right call for your hormonal acne, at least hear them out, k? And maybe looking at some before-and-after Accutane photos from real people will help calm your nerves, too.
Limit Stress To Reduce Inflammation
Ever heard of a stress zit? Being on edge is not only bad for your mindset but also aggravates your skin. “Stress triggers the release of a variety of hormones that can trigger an inflammatory response in the body,” says Fenton. “Inflammation is a major part of acnethat’s what leads to those large and deep red cystic pimples. Anything you can do to reduce inflammation will be helpful for your acne.”
Staying hydrated and reducing stress are things that are often overlooked in regards to skincare, Henry adds. “Exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep them healthy,” she explains because it increases blood flow.
When it comes to lifestyle adjustments, Kimberly Snyder, a holistic nutritionist, says to make sleep a priority: “Sleep fights stress and helps your body and hormonal systems function.” Additionally, she recommends upping your water intake dry brushing exercising to help manage and relieve stress and staying on top of gut health, by incorporating a quality probiotic.