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Birth Control Acne Improvement 

Medically reviewed by Brooke Grant Jeffy, MD
3 min read

Acne affects more than 40 million people in the world half of whom are adult women over the age of 25. Acne can be improved with the use of hormonal birth control. 

Does Birth Control Help With Acne?

Yes, hormonal therapy which includes oral contraceptives (birth control pill) can help to improve acne. For many patients topical treatmentsare not enough. Birth control pills help because they affect the hormones that play a large role in acne. It may take up to 3 months before seeing results after starting to use birth control for acne.

Which Birth Control Helps Acne?

There are 4 oral contraceptives that have been approved by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of acne. All of these types of birth control contain estrogen in the form of ethinyl estradiol plus a form of progesterone. Multiple studies conducted over the span of 6 period cycles (about 6 months) show a reduction in inflammation and acne in study participants taking these oral contraceptives. Pills that only contain progesterone, also known as the “mini pill,” can actually make acne worse (1).

Estrostep

Studies showed subjects treated with Estrostep to havestatistically significant reductions in inflammatory and total lesion count and improvements in acne. Estrostep is approved for use in women over 15. 

Yaz

The progesterone in Yaz, drospirenone, has diuretic properties beneficial for reducing weight gain due to fluid retention that can be caused by estrogen. It is approved for use in persons above 14, and also can be used for the treatment of PMDD (premenstrual dysmorphic disorder).

Ortho Tri-Cyclen

Studies showed reductions in inflammatory and total lesion countsand is approved for use in women over 15.

Related: Is PCOS Treatable?

Beyaz

Beyaz is approved for moderate acne for women at least 14 years. It is a combination pill that also contains folate. Folate supplementation reduces the risk of neural tube defects in future pregnancies. Like Yaz, it can treat symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) for women. It contains drospirenone (DRSP), ethinyl estradiol and levomefolate.

How Does Birth Control Help Acne?

When excess sebum is produced by your body, it mixes with dead skin cells and other particles which can plug follicles, resulting in acne. Androgens are a group of hormones that increase sebum production thereby increasing the potential for acne. Reducing the production of androgens can control sebum production and in turn treat acne. 

Birth control pills are considered an ovarian androgen blocker (3). They have the hormone estrogen that inhibits the activity of LH and FSH. LH and FSH are hormones that increase the production of androgens. Birth control reduces the effect of androgen on sebaceous glands and, therefore, reduces the production of sebum and acne (1).

Birth Control Acne Improvement: Take Home Points

The use of birth control, specifically oral contraceptives, improves acne in many people. The 4 FDA approved oral contraceptives for acne treatment are Estrostep, Yaz, Beyaz, and Ortho Tri-Cyclen. It is generally the estrogen component of the oral birth control pill that assists with hormonal regulation and acne control. Persons on progesterone only oral contraception may actually experience an increase in acne. Chat with a doctor about your options for using birth control for acne improvement.

Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923944/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/minipill/about/pac-20388306#:~:text=The%20minipill%20norethindrone%20is%20an,%E2%80%94%20doesn't%20contain%20estrogen.
  3. https://scmsjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/vol27_i3_Hormonal-Therapy.pdf

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