Birth Control Acne Improvement 

4 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 treatments don’t work very well or they result in relapse of acne. 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?

Only 4 types of oral contraceptives have been approved by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of acne. All 3 of these types of birth control have estrogen in the form of ethinyl estradiol and have multiple studies conducted over the span of 6 period cycles (about 6 months) which show a reduction in inflammation and acne in study participants (1).

Estrostep

Studies showed subjects treated with Estrostep showed statistically significant reductions in inflammatory and total lesion count and improvements in acne.

Yaz

Yaz contains drospirenone, that has antiandrogenic properties beneficial for reducing the effects of weight gain due to fluid retention 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 counts.

Beyaz

Related: PCOS Diagnosis Criteria and PCOS Treatment

Beyaz is approved for moderate acne for women at least 14 years old if the patient desires an oral contraceptive for birth control. It is a combination pill that also contains folate. Like Yaz, it can treat symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) for women. It contains drospirenone (DRSP), ethinyl estradiol and levomefolate.

Birth control pills contain low doses of both estrogen as well as progesterone. While estrogen works to reduce acne, progesterone, in fact, interacts with the reception of acne contributing hormones and further aggravates acne. When estrogen and progesterone are used in combination, many patients experience a reduction in acne. However, pills that only contain progesterone also known as the “mini pill” can actually make acne worse (1).

How Does Birth Control Help Acne?

When excess sebum is produced by your body, it mixes with dead skin cells and other particles. This can lead to the growth of bacteria and causes the follicle to get plugged, resulting in acne. Androgens are a group of hormones that are evidenced to have an effect on the increase of sebum production thereby increasing the potential for acne. 

While women generally produce a low level of androgens, higher levels lead to excessive sebum production. Reducing the production of androgens (including testosterone) 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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