Birth Control Pills for Acne?

There are hundreds of anti-acne products out there. But despite that, some women still can’t find a product that works for them.

However, there might be something that could help them fight acne that they would not expect: birth control pills.

That’s right birth control pills or oral contraceptives, according to Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson, are typically considered when other acne treatments, such as prescription medications, do not work.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved three estrogen-progestin combination birth control pills to treat acne in women:

  • Ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate (Ortho Tri-Cyclen)
  • Ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Estrostep)
  • Ethinyl estradiol and drospirenone (Yaz)

How acne forms

Acne forms when sebum – a kind of oily material that lubricates the skin and hair – and dead skin cells build up in the hair follicle and form together as a kind of soft plug. As this plug continues to grow, the follicle wall will break thus allowing more oil and skin to build up. Eventually bacteria get in, causing more inflammation and infection.

How birth control works to prevent acne

Birth control pills work by reducing the amount of sebum. But since birth control pills work against one kind of acne – the kind that is caused by sebum – it is best to use them with other acne medications such as medicated creams containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. You may have to use birth control pills for several months before you see any results. Your skin may also get worse before it gets better.

Possible side effects of birth control pills

Birth controls are safe, but there are possible side effects including:

  • Headaches
  • Change in menstrual flow
  • Potential fetal problems, if taken when pregnant
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased sex drive (libido)
  • Depression
  • Slightly increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high potassium (hyperkalemia) and blood clots

 Souce: MayClinic