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How Effective Is Birth Control Acne Treatment?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 17, 2024
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Birth control acne treatment can be quite effective for women whose ovaries typically produce higher amounts of a hormone type known as androgen. This kind of acne is relatively common and can occur in women of many ages from the teen years to menopause. Elevated androgen levels in the bloodstream can cause the skin's oil glands to become overactive, which typically leads to acne when bacteria mix with the excess secreted sebum. Birth control for acne can bring the levels of androgen under control through measured doses of progesterone and estrogen. Candidates for birth control acne treatment are typically first evaluated by a physician to determine if they have symptoms of hormonal acne.

Women with acne that cannot be effectively treated with skin-cleansing products usually have breakouts just before their monthly menstrual cycles. Some may have erratic cycles and irregular facial or body hair growth. All of these are signs of hormone imbalances that can often be corrected with a prescription birth control acne treatment. Different brands of birth control pills usually have different ingredients that may be more effective on some women versus others. A gynecologist can often determine which birth control for acne could be the best for specific individuals.

In addition to reducing excess androgen levels, some types of birth control acne treatment can significantly reduce the amounts of sebum. In these cases, women on this acne treatment should regularly use an oil-free moisturizer to keep the skin from drying out; drying can lead to even more oil production and the resulting acne. Some physicians may also prescribe an additional androgen-inhibiting medication such as spironolactone if birth control acne treatment alone is not noticeably effective. In cases of severe hormonal acne, others doctors may prescribe a corticosteroid medication along with the birth control pills to reduce inflammation.

Acne breakouts can also result from elevated levels of testosterone along with androgen in some women. Many of these women require a birth control pill with specific ingredients that target the excess testosterone. These chemicals include ethinyl estradiol, drospirenone, and norethindrone acetate. Any type of birth control carries some risk of side effects, so women considering this option should discuss their health histories with their physicians before beginning birth control acne treatment. Smokers, women beyond the age of 35, and those with histories of migraine headaches or high blood pressure have increased chances of developing more serious side effects.

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Discussion Comments

By Pippinwhite — On Jan 27, 2014

For females who can take it with few side effects, birth control can have a lot of benefits. I knew girls in high school who took it and their acne improved dramatically, and quickly. Some had been on the pill all summer and came back in the fall looking like different people. It's a huge self-esteem boost, for sure.

Birth control can also help lessen the effects of PMS and periods in general. I had horrific cramps, heavy flow that lasted about four days, and my periods lasted about eight days. They were awful. Birth control changed my life! I still had cramps, but two Aleve took care of them (as opposed to six a day, just to function), my flow decreased to maybe two heavy days, or one, and my period duration was cut in half. Talk about a happy camper! And the day my insurance started covering it was a good one.

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