Birth Control Pills for Acne

February 16, 2011

Certain birth control pills have been successfully used to treat acne in women, although it is considered to be an "off-label" treatment. Currently Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep and YAZ are FDA approved as acne treatments as well as birth control methods. Generally, your doctor will not prescribe a birth control pill simply as a means of controlling acne unless all other treatment options have been unsuccessful, or if you need a contraceptive anyway. Many times birth control pills that control acne are prescribed along with other acne treatments such as topical retinoids.

How Do Birth Control Pills Control Acne

Progestin and estrogen are the usual make-up of birth control pills, and thinly estradiol is typically the estrogen ingredient. Because birth control pills reduce the levels of testosterone in a woman's body, they can be very useful in improving breakouts which are hormonally based. Suppressing testosterone levels also decreases the amount of oil production, thus reducing pore blockages. Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome may also experience acne, and oral contraceptives can be helpful in relieving the worst symptoms. You will need to discuss your issues with acne with your doctor as some oral contraceptives can actually raise testosterone levels in the body which would make your acne worse.

How Long Before I See Results?

You may wait three months or longer before you begin to see positive results with your acne from oral contraceptives, and it's not uncommon for the acne to actually worsen before it begins to show signs of improvement. If you have been on the pill for over three months, and your acne has not improved or has remained worsened, you might need to discuss trying a different brand or formulation of the pill with your doctor.

Other Issues to Consider

Even if you see dramatic results in your acne after going on the pill, remember that the pill brings certain risks along with it, so balance those risks out with the benefits to your acne. If you are younger than 35, and don't smoke, you are much less likely to have any serious side effects from the pill, although you may have headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, dizziness, or mild to moderate mood swings and depression. While birth control pills can help regulate your periods, relieve PMS and reduce cramping, it may also cause weight gain, breast cysts and an increased risk of cancer, blood clots or stroke.

The bottom line is that if you are a healthy woman under the age of thirty five, are a non-smoker, and are already looking for a reliable form of birth control, then the pill may be a good choice for providing contraception and acne control, especially if your breakouts are mild to moderate and tend to worsen during ovulation and menstruation. Weigh your risks carefully and discuss them with your physician before making your choice. If, after several months on the pill you find the side effects too great, or see that your acne is not improving at all, you may want to consider an alternative form of birth control.

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