Should I Go On Birth Control To Clear My Acne
Birth control is normally prescribed for women who need contraception. If you are not seeking contraception, is it worth it to get on birth control?
While we discussed the many benefits of birth control, there are a number of other risks and side-effects that cannot be glossed over. Serious medical complications are extremely unlikely, but should always be considered when choosing a method of contraception.
Hormonal contraceptives can increase the risk of:
- Certain cancers
- High blood pressure
- Yeast infections
- Benign liver tumours
Many of these risks increase with age and smoking in particular. Birth control pills must never be used in smokers over age 35 due to the increased risk of blood clots in the legs or lungs .
A study published in 2017 concluded a 3 to 7 fold increase of VTE risk in women who regularly use combination pills. Furthermore, this risk is evidenced to be higher in combination pills that contain cyproterone acetate and especially drospirenone, the progestin that is considered most effective against acne.
For these reasons, you should discuss the risks with your doctor and be extra cautious about starting birth control if you are over the age 35 and/or have the following conditions:
- History of blood clotting or heart issues
- History of smoking
- Uncontrolled blood pressure
- Weight gain or loss
- Irregular bleeding
Birth Controls Effect On Acne
The hormones in combination birth control pills can help reduce acne. The pills decrease the circulation of androgens, which decreases the production of sebum.
The pills must contain both estrogen and progestin to be effective against acne. The minipill only contains progestin, so it doesnt improve acne.
Many combination birth control pill brands are available. Each contains its own variation of hormones. Pills prescribed for acne should contain progestin with low androgenic possibility. This means the progestin has less androgenic side effects, such as oily skin and acne.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the following pills for use in the treatment of acne:
- Beyaz, which combines drospirenone, ethinyl estradiol, and levomefolate calcium
- Estrostep Fe, which combines norethindrone acetate, ethinyl estradiol, and ferrous fumarate
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen, which combines norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol
- Yaz, which combines drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol
However, other combination pills that arent on this list may still help to improve acne.
What Is The Best Topical Treatment For Women With Hormonal Acne
The same as teen acne adult acne treatment should be personalized to the skin type and acne and acne severity type. The best topical ingredient for mild hormonal acne is salicylic acid, retinol, niacinamide, and benzoyl peroxide for moderate acne. Benzoyl peroxide is regarded by the American Academy of Dermatology as the best FDA-approved single anti-acne ingredient. It is frequently more effective than any other over-the-counter prescription acne medication. Unlike adapalene , they are often very irritating new preparation of micronized benzoyl peroxide 2.5% can be used on acne-prone and sensitive skin without significant side effects.
The best cleansers for women with hormonal acne include a low percentage of salicylic acid. Salicylic acid at a concentration of 0.5% can help unclog the skin pores without over-drying the skin. Plant-based ingredients can further help fight skin inflammation and reduce the dryness and redness frequently associated with regular anti-acne cleansers.
Choosing the right moisturizer is crucial for women with hormonal acne. Anti-wrinkle moisturizers can increase the risk of acne breakouts. For best results, look for moisturizers oil-free and specially formulated for acne or acne-prone skin people. Women with normal – oily skin can benefit from an active moisturizer with niacinamide, and women with drier skin can befit from a more hydrating moisturizer.
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Consider The Effects Of Taking A Birth Control Pill
Like any medication, the birth control pill comes with potential side effects. In many cases, these fade after a few months, once your body has adjusted to the new influx of hormones, but this is not always the case.
Additionally, it could have unwanted effects on men or, obviously, any pregnant woman or one whos trying to fall pregnant. For those, the birth control pill for acne will be counterproductive.
Combination birth control pills are associated with the following side effects.
- significant weight gain
- heightened anxiety and mood swings
- blood pressure fluctuations
- breakthrough bleeding
- headaches, and
The Best Types Of Birth Control For Acne
Levin, who also works as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai, says Ortho Tri-Cyclen, a popular brand of birth control, has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of acneic skin. Along with Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and Yaz are two other brands of birth control cleared by the FDA for acne treatment. Yaz contains the hormone progestin drospirenone that is known to be especially effective in the reduction of hormonal acne.
While certain brands of birth control carry the FDA’s approval as an acne treatment, others are still prescribed off-label with some success. Other times, people who are prescribed oral contraceptives for other indications find that a bonus “side effect” is an overall reduction in their acne symptoms. OB/GYN Sara Twogood, MD, notes that all oral contraceptive pills can have the effect of being anti-androgenic, meaning that they can lower the level of androgens like testosterone in the body. Androgens are one factor that leads to the development of hormonal acne, so blocking them can help to improve acne over time.
“There are no set requirements or parameters for starting birth control pills for acne. The decision about when or if starting the pill to help control acne should be individualized,” says Twogood.
Nava Greenfield, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group, agrees: “Each person may respond differently to different forms of oral contraception, so finding the one that works for you is important.”
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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.
When Is Yaz A Good Fit
Yaz is usually prescribed for women and teenagers who, show no adverse reactions to birth control pills. Women who have a history of heart disease or at a high risk of developing blood clots should not take Yaz.
You may experience some side effects when using Yaz include nausea, headaches, mood swings, and breast tenderness.
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What Is The Best Progesterone
Progesterone-only pills are generally not recommended for acne treatment because they tend to worsen acne. While anti-androgenic progestins are more beneficial for acne, there are currently no progestin-only formulations available with these progestins.
Therefore, its difficult to recommend a progesterone-only pill for acne its best to avoid these pills and instead use a combination pill if you are trying to use birth control for acne.
How Birth Control Works
Amanda Lawrence / Stocksy
Combination hormonal birth control, or the main type of oral contraceptive prescribed for acne, contains two hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Together, these hormones suppress ovulation. A typical menstrual cycle includes menstruation , a follicular phase, ovulation, and a luteal phase, which are all driven by fluctuations in hormones from the brain and ovaries. The pill stops these fluctuations and in turn, stops ovulation.
How Long Does It Take The Pill To Clear Acne
Once you begin taking birth control pills, it could take several weeks to months to see a difference in your skin. Many studies show some improvement at three months with the greatest improvement evident at six months. This is because the pill needs some time to recalibrate the hormone levels in the body that cause acne.
There are a handful of side effects associated with birth control pills. Headaches, nausea, menstrual irregularities , weight gain, and breast tenderness are the most common. Although rare, a more serious side effect is the risk of deep vein thrombosisin which a blood clot forms in your vein, often in the thigh or lower leg.
What Are Signs Of Hormonal Acne
Hormonal acne differs from other types of acne in that it is specifically related to hormones. While this is not always easy to distinguish, if you notice one or more of the following, the acne you are experiencing may be related to hormones.
- Breakouts that recur around the same time in the same areas of the skin every month.
- Painful, deep cysts
- Individual pimples around the chin, jawline, neck, or sides of the face.
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Worst Types Of Birth Control For Acne
Birth control pills that contain only progesterone, like the mini pill, shouldn’t be used for acne. Not only do they not show any success in clearing up acne, but they might also trigger acne formation. Studies have shown that other birth control types like implants, IUDs, and patches may not benefit acne treatment or worsen it.
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.
Can Birth Control Pills Containing Estrogen Affect Men Negatively
In a word yes, because increased estrogen can cause feminizing features, such as enlarged breasts or a loss of facial hair. This is not a universal effect, however. Some men do not notice a significant change in appearance, so its still a viable option to treat acne if men are willing to take a chance and see how it affects them.
Whether youre a man or a woman, taking birth control pills can have serious side effects, such as an increased risk of blood clots . Blood clots are associated with thrombosis, which can be deadly. Thats why its important to take the birth control pill only under medical supervision.
Five Steps If Youre Considering Taking Birth Control Pills For Treatment
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How To Control Hormonal Acne With Birth Control
A lot of women also develop acne as the result of PCOS , for which birth control pills are prescribed as a hormonal acne cure to correct the hormone imbalance.
Many birth control methods contain hormones that help control the production of sebum, an oil made by your skins glands. These hormones are referred to as androgens, a group that includes testosterone.
When your body produces higher levels of androgen hormones, you make more sebum, which clogs your pores and leads to blemishes.
Skin problems are frustrating to deal with, but they can also cause permanent scarring, so many women are looking for ways to get their skin under control.
Dual-hormone birth control methods contain progesterone and estrogen, which can reduce the level of androgens your body produces on its own.
As a result, taking this type of birth control can help your body produce less sebum, which contributes to less severe acne. This is probably one of the best birth control side effects.
How Birth Control Can Change Your Skin
Here in the beauty department, we’ve already told you about one particular pill that could help with your acne. You know it as Accutane, and while it certainly works for most who try it, it’s a pretty major and serious commitment.
But there’s another pill you can take that’s a lot less medically controversial. Yes, you guessed it: birth control. Going on “the pill,” as it’s called, can totally change your skin by regulating your hormones, which is crucial for young women who are still developing, or whose bodies are still adjusting from their very first period.
“The pill contains the same hormones that your body makes, called estrogen and progestin, just in different amounts, so it can override your body’s signals to release an egg . Consequently, it also lowers your body’s testosterone level, which in turn can reduce acne,” says Dr. Jennifer Ashton, OB-GYN and senior medical contributor for Good Morning America.
Testosterone is the male hormone that, as we know by now, increases our oil production. And as celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau explains, “oils breed bacteria, and bacteria leads to breakouts.” So the theory is, if testosterone goes down, so does acne.
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The Best Birth Control Pills For Treating Acne
Although there are numerous different birth control pills, the FDA has currently only approved three different pills for treating acne.
All of the FDA-approved birth control pills are combined oral contraceptives, meaning they contain a mix of estrogen and progestin.
Right now, the three FDA-approved birth control pills for treating acne area:
Does Birth Control Help With Back Acne
Yes! Combination hormonal birth control such as the birth control pill and the birth control patch both work to eliminate all types of acne across all locations on the body. In addition to the face, the back is another common location for people to develop acne. There is a high concentration of sebaceous glands on the upper back, meaning that when the body produces excess sebum, the upper back is likely to be affected. When Dr. Green prescribes birth control pills for the acne on your back, the combination of hormones will prevent the androgen hormones from triggering increased sebum production.
Accutane treatment for acne on the back before and after
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Post Pill Hormonal Acne
While waiting for your cycle to naturally regulate itself, sticking with a simple skincare routine that contains effective acne-fighting topicals will help control breakouts. Dr. Zenovia recommends using a cleanser with Benzoyl Peroxide which decreases skin inflammation, opens the pores, exfoliates the surface layer of skin, removes excess sebum, and kills bacteria. These properties make Benzoyl Peroxide a powerful acne-reducing agent.
How Birth Control Helps Treat Acne
A common cause of acne, especially for teens, is an imbalance of androgens. Androgens are types of hormones that both men and women have, but some people may produce in high amounts. A side effect of this is an increase in sebum, a type of oil that your skin produces.
Excess sebum can clog your pores, leading to acne. That’s where birth control can help. Hormonal birth control regulates hormones in a way that reduces androgen production, thereby reducing sebum production, and hopefully, acne.
However, not all birth control pills are created equal when it comes to fighting acne. Although other pills may help, the FDA has only approved three types for treating acne: Yaz, Estrostep, and Orth-Tri-Cyclen. These three are prescribed for the types of hormones they contain:
While these three types of birth control are most commonly prescribed for acne, doctors can prescribe other types that can also work for some patients.
“Most birth control pills have both an estrogen and a progesterone component, and the types of estrogen and especially progesterone can vary greatly based on the pill,” Krishnan says. “Every patient is very different and responds to the various birth control options in different ways.”
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