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Nov 3, 2023

Skin Health

Hormonal Birth Control for Acne

About Acne

Acne is a very common skin condition that affects most of the population at some point in life. It is particularly prevalent during puberty due to hormonal changes in the body. One of the key hormones involved is testosterone, which plays a significant role in both male and female puberty.

Testosterone, an androgen hormone, is responsible for various changes that occur during puberty. It serves as the precursor to estrogen and contributes to the development of typical male and female characteristics. However, one of the effects of testosterone, regardless of gender, is its impact on oil glands.

Androgens, including testosterone, can bind to oil glands and increase the production of sebum, the natural oils found in the skin. While sebum is necessary to prevent skin from drying out, excessive production can result in the retention of oil in hair follicles. This, in turn, leads to inflammation and eventually the formation of acne.

How Birth Control Works for Acne

Hormonal birth control is a commonly used treatment for women with acne, as acne formation is influenced by hormones. Throughout a typical menstrual cycle, hormone levels fluctuate, and it is believed that increased androgens during certain phases can trigger acne breakouts.

Combination hormonal birth control pills contain synthetic estrogen and progesterone, the two primary hormones involved in the menstrual cycle. By introducing these hormones into the body, the production of hormones by the body itself is reduced. This reduction leads to a decrease in the production of precursor androgens. With lower androgen levels, sebum production is also expected to decrease, reducing the likelihood of sebum getting trapped in hair follicles and causing acne.

It's important to note that while there are different types of birth control available, only combination pills have been approved for the treatment of acne in women.

Typical Side Effects of Birth Control

While birth control can be an effective treatment for acne, it's important to be aware of potential side effects. Since birth control works by causing hormonal changes in the body, it can also lead to some unwanted hormonal effects. These effects manifest as side effects of birth control.

The most commonly reported side effects of contraceptive pills include:

  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Spotting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular periods

Who Cannot Use Birth Control for Acne

Certain individuals are advised against taking combination hormonal birth control due to an increased risk of serious conditions. While most people are at minimal risk, some individuals may be more susceptible to these risks or may not desire the effects of birth control.

Individuals who are generally advised against using combination hormonal birth control include those who:

  • Are within 6 weeks of delivery
  • Are smokers above 35 years old
  • Have uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Have a history of blood clots
  • Have various forms of heart disease
  • Experience migraine headaches with aura
  • Have active liver disease
  • Are men

If birth control is not a suitable option for you due to potential risk factors, there are alternative treatments available for acne.

How to Pick The Right Birth Control

There are many different combination birth control pills available. In general, they vary based on the types and amounts of synthetic estrogen and progesterone.

There are three combination pills approved by the FDA to treat acne, including:

  • Yaz (3 mg drospirenone/ 0.02 mg ethinyl estradiol)
  • Estrostep (1 mg norethindrone acetate/ 0.02 mg ethinyl estradiol)
  • Ortho-Tri-Cyclen (0.180 mg norgestimate/ 0.035 mg ethinyl estradiol)

Each of these pills contains different hormone levels and types of progesterone. While ethinyl estradiol is a synthetic estrogen, drosperinone, norethindrone acetate, and norgestimate are different types of synthetic progesterone.

Generally, higher estrogen levels result in increased anti-androgenic effects, which can be beneficial for acne treatment, but they may also come with more side effects. The various types of progesterone can also have different effects and side effects. However, it's important to note that individual responses to each pill may vary, making direct comparisons challenging.

Buy Combination Pills for Acne for $20/pack

You can get generic versions of Yaz and Ortho-Tri-Cyclen for $20/pack with free shipping.

References

  1. Sutaria AH, Masood S, Schlessinger J. Acne Vulgaris. [Updated 2023 Feb 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459173/
  2. Kraft, J., & Freiman, A. (2011). Management of acne. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 183(7), E430–E435. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.090374
  3. Acne: Types, causes, treatment & prevention. Cleveland Clinic. (2023, January 4). Retrieved May 23, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, August). Acne: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Steps to Take. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved May 23, 2023, from https://www.niams.nih.gov
  5. How Do Birth Control Pills Help with Acne?. Scripps Health. (2022, August 12). Retrieved May 23, 2023, from https://www.scripps.org

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