Where topical acne treatments may fail, birth control is another option that can help to effectively treat acne. For years, this has been an acne treatment that physicians have been prescribing to their patients particularly in treating hormonal acne.
A common cause of acne, especially present among teens, is an imbalance of androgens, a type of hormone found in both men and women, but some people may produce it in higher amounts. One side effect of this overproduction is an increase in sebum, a type of oil that your skin naturally produces. Excess sebum can clog pores which leads to acne.
Birth control, however, can help to regulate hormones, reducing androgen production and thereby decreasing the amount of sebum production, and (hopefully) acne as a result.
Not all birth control pills are effective at fighting acne and although other pills may certainly help, the FDA has only approved three birth control medications for treating acne: Yaz, Estrostep, and Ortho-Tri-Cyclen. They are prescribed for the types of hormones they contain.
Yaz is considered the most effective of the three as it contains drospirenone which is a synthetic version of the sex hormone, progesterone. It helps to treat acne by blocking the effects of testosterone, a type of androgen.
This birth control contains another type of synthetic progesterone called norgestimate, making it the second most effective of the three.
Estrostep contains norethindrone and ethinyl estradiol which lower testosterone levels. This is considered the least effective of the three at treating acne.
These three birth controls are most commonly prescribed for acne; however, doctors may prescribe other types of birth control that can also work for some patients. Every patient will respond to the various birth control options in a different way.
Taking birth control comes with risks so you should consider the risk factors before starting with any birth control methods. Once your doctor has approved you as a good candidate for birth control, you will have to determine whether or not the possibility of clear skin is worth the potential side effects and risks.
The best candidates for birth control are those who have no personal or family history of clotting disorders or blood clots, fall within a healthy BMI, do not smoke, and are under the age of 35. If you are concerned about weight gain and mood swings, you may want to consider options that contain slightly less estrogen.
And be forewarned; birth control isn’t a surefire way to get rid of acne. It is possible that birth control may make your acne worse and it is not uncommon that your skin will get worse before it gets better when you start the pill. Unfortunately, it can take some time and some work to find the right pill to improve your acne with little to no side effects. There is no way to predict what will or won’t work for you. Make sure you discuss your options with your OBGYN and dermatologist to find what works best for you.