Birth Control Pills For Acne: All You Need To Know

Birth Control Pills For Acne:

In this article, we’ll discuss how birth control pills for acne work.


Women are usually beauty conscious. They like clean and glowing skin. Something like acne is nothing less than a nightmare for females. These small abrasion-type bumps on skin not only mar the beauty but are equally painful.

Now acne can result from several reasons. Sometimes, it is the hormonal imbalance in women that are the reason for acne. The doctor may prescribe birth control pills to treat hormonal acne. In this post, we will discuss types of birth control pills for acne and how these may treat acne.

Birth Control Pills: Facts

Acne causes skin irritation. This could be mild to severe. Often, acne in women is caused because of the increase in male sex hormone – androgen. Now, androgens are found in women as well. These activate in the teen years in both males and females. Increased androgen activity can cause sebaceous glands in females to produce more oil or sebum.

  • Acne and its Forms: Acne may occur in various forms such as whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, tender or small red bumps, cystic lesions, or nodules.
  • Causes: Acne may happen in women due to makeup, medications, placing pressure, or rubbing on skin. But most of the time, these occur due to hormonal changes in teenage, puberty, and adulthood. Also, those with a family history of this condition are more prone to acne.
  • Treatment with Contraceptive Pills: The medications treat acne as well as prevent unplanned pregnancies. These bring certain hormonal changes in the body, which are effective to control acne.

How Do Birth Control Pills Work?

The oral contraceptive pill has synthetic hormones, progesterone, and estrogen. These female sex hormones prevent the sperm from fertilizing an egg. The medicine works by stopping the release of an egg from ovaries.

It also thickens the cervical mucus, making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. Then the medication also alters the uterus lining to prevent fertilized egg (if any) from implanting on this lining.

Pills that contain both the mentioned hormones are combination pills. Now depending on the type of combination pill, the hormone ratio will differ.

Then there are progestin-only pills that contain only the synthetic form of progesterone. These are also called minipills. But these are not effective to treat acne.

Benefits Of Birth Control Pills

  • Fewer menstrual cramps
  • More regular and lighter periods
  • Reduced acne
  • Reduced risk to certain cancers such as colon, uterine, and ovarian cancer

It is important to understand that these pills do not protect from sexually transmitted diseases and infections. For protection against these conditions, you can use a condom or a barrier method.

Birth Control Pills For Acne: Treatment

The medicine changes the hormone levels in women to prevent pregnancy and reduce menstrual symptoms. Tablets with estrogen reduce the testosterone amount in the body. So, with reduced testosterone levels, the pores under the skin produce less sebum (oil).

This further reduces the possibility of blocked pores that lead to acne. Once the treatment of acne starts with birth control tablets, it takes some time for the body to adapt to the new hormone levels.

So, the acne may initially flare up before the effect of treatment kicks in. Flaring up of acne under these tablets is temporary. As the body gets used to the new hormone level, the acnes gradually reduce.

The pills help to lessen the acne breakouts. You can expect improvement in 2 to 3 months of starting with birth control treatment. For some people, it may just take a few weeks.

When Do Doctors Recommend Birth Control Pills for Acne?

As understood, acnes occur due to excess production of sebum. Oil or sebum is produced by glands in the skin. Sebum and skin cells clog pores. These cause the growth of bacteria, which leads to acne. Excessive production of androgen makes the skin to produce more sebum. Your adrenal glands and ovaries usually give out a low level of androgen. Taking oral contraceptive pills can control a high level of androgen.

  • Hormonal birth control methods may treat all types of acne such as whiteheads, inflammatory acne, and blackheads.
  • Combination pills contain both progesterone and estrogen. These lower the excessive androgen level in your body.
  • The medication lessens severe acne by controlling the production of sebum.
  • Your doctor may recommend this line of treatment if antibiotics and topical creams fail.
  • As the hormonal pills are relatively safe, these are often prescribed to treat acne.

Can Birth Control Pills Containing Estrogen Cause Acne?

Combination pills are often taken for acne treatment. Thus, these tablets also contain estrogen. But you may think that taking estrogen may make acne worse. However, this is untrue. The real cause of acne is increased androgen hormones such as testosterone.

This hormonal increase happens in the week that leads to your menstrual cycle. Birth control pills like Ovral G or Loette may suppress this increase. Thus, estrogen-containing pills do not cause acne. But these counter the effects of increased testosterone.

Who Can Use Birth Control Pills For Acne?

You should be at least 14 years to 15 years of age to use a hormonal birth control method to reduce acne conditions. Also, you must have already begun with menstruation. Your doctor will evaluate your health to ensure that the pills are not harmful to you.

These medicines are usually not recommended for women with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Gallbladder or liver disease
  • History of blood clots or blood clotting disorder
  • Visual changes with migraine headaches
  • History of uterine or breast cancer
  • Smoking addiction
  • Over 35 years of age

Females with a history of blood clots, migraines with aura, hypertensions are susceptible to strokes. This may make taking estrogen-containing contraceptive pills dangerous for such women. This is also applicable for females who smoke and are older than 35 years of age.

Also, females with gallbladder or liver disease should avoid these medicines. This is because hormonal medication may make the illness worse. Those with a history of uterine or breast cancer should avoid estrogen-containing pills or cancer may come back.

Side Effects of Birth Control Pills

If a certain birth control pill has side effects, your doctor may switch to another contraceptive pill. Eventually, with trial and error, the doctor will be able to recommend the ideal pill for you. Some of the side effects of the pills include weight gain, nausea, mood changes, decreased libido, and lighter periods, spotting between periods, swollen and sore breasts.

  • In rare cases, the pills may cause serious complications such as heart, liver, or gallbladder disease.
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, abnormal pain, blurry vision
  • Severe aching and headaches, swelling or redness on legs
  • Heart disease, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, or blood clot

If any of these complications affect you, then you must inform your doctor immediately.

How to Get Maximum Benefit From This Treatment?

Below-given are tips to get the best out of acne treatment with hormonal contraceptive pills:

  • If your doctor recommends a subsequent acne treatment, then continue that too. Oral contraceptive tablets can improve only certain aspects of acnes.
  • You should properly follow the schedule of taking oral contraceptives. Usually, you need to take one birth control pill at the same time every day, once in 24 hours.
  • Let your doctor know if you are on any other medicine. Some medications may interact with oral contraceptives. This may reduce the efficacy of birth control pills and lead to an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Do not miss any dose of the hormonal pill. Talk with your doctor about what to do in case you miss a dose.
  • Consult your doctor if you experience any side effects from the medication. The side effects may include headache, a temporary flare-up of acne, breast tenderness, or spotting.

Wrap Up

You should talk to your doctor about different types of acne treatment and which could be the best for you. If the basic over-the-counter methods do not clear up acne, then the doctor may suggest combination birth control pills.

For females with hormonal imbalance and increased testosterone levels, contraceptive pills are great alternatives to harsh side-effect giving antibiotics.

Also, these pills are relatively safer than many antibiotics for acne and can be safely used for the long-term.


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