If you are thinking of different treatments for your acne, the birth control pill is probably something you have looked into (especially if you've come across this article). Some people who have taken birth control have rant and raved about the amazing things it has done for their skin, while for others it's done a lot more harm than good.
Let’s talk about all things birth control and acne so you can get the info that others may not have told you about.
What Is The Birth Control Pill?
In this article, we'll focus on birth control methods that involve using hormones estrogen and progesterone commonly known as the birth control pill. While term birth control itself is defined to prevent pregnancy, hormonal birth control pills are often prescribed as a way to reduce acne among other medical reasons.
The Birth control pill is one of the standard treatment options for people with hormonal acne. It is also possible that birth control pills can worsen your acne before it even gets better once you start taking birth control pills.
BIRTH CONTROL FOR ACNE
Acne, as we know, is a skin condition triggered by excess oil production or sebum made by our hormonal glands. Along with our skin cells, our sebum clogs the pores, promoting bacterial growth which then contribute to acne. The sebum production is caused by a group of male sex hormones (testosterone) or androgens which stimulate the skin to produce oils.
Clearly, there’s a relationship between our hormones and acne. Pregnant women are prone to experience acne flare-ups brought about by the shift in hormonal levels. For acne prone women, it's pretty common during that time of the month to have a flare up of acne. The amount of androgen hormones is lowered by taking birth control pills which contain both estrogen and progesterone, resulting in less sebum production as well as less severe acne.
Birth control pills are not just there for preventing pregnancy. They can also help ease painful period cramps, manage conditions like endometriosis, and clear up your skin.
These pills fall under the category of hormonal therapy (i.e any medication that acts on the hormones)
When it comes to acne, dermatologists have been using these birth control pills as means to treat acne in women – with only three pills being approved by the FDA for treating such skin conditions. Birth control pills are still being used by doctors for treating acne and this method has been suggested for healthy women who also need contraception.
These three FDA approved birth control pills are:
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen – contains or uses estrogen combined with progestin known as norgestimate
- Estrostep – uses estrogen and progestin called norethindrone.
- YAZ – uses estrogen combined with man-made form of progestin called drospirenone. (Note: FDA concluded that birth control pills containing drospirenone may increase risk of blood clots compared to birth control pills containing other progestins). Brands of this birth control pill are Beyaz, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Safyral, Syeda, Yasmin and Zarah.
Before going for birth control for acne, it's better to try to approach it with a more holistic approach like food sensitivities, digestion health, and creating a consistent skincare routine with products that work for your skin type to see if that works.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR BIRTH CONTROL TO CLEAR ACNE?
It will take some time for your body to adjust to the new hormones and for the skin's sebum production rate to change. With that being said, it could take around 3 months to notice a difference in acne from taking birth control pills - but this does vary from person to person. If after 3 months and no results are seen, then stopping the pill is probably your best bet if it's not providing you enough benefits.
The Risks Of Birth Control Pills For Acne
While taking birth control pills to treat acne may be beneficial for some, there are also risks or disadvantages in using this method.
Although Birth Control can be beneficial for many that are struggling with acne, in some cases it can also cause acne & breakouts. Some birth control pills contain high amounts of synthetic estrogen and synthetic progesterone. The surplus of synthetic hormones can be very toxic and cause acne and breakouts on the skin.
Also, not all hormonal acne is the same. If someone's acne is caused by having an imbalance of way to much estrogen then birth control pills are unlikely to fix it since they too contain estrogen.
Women taking birth control pills or contraceptives to treat acne are also at higher risk of side effects like heart attack, stroke and dangerous blood clots in both their legs or lungs.
Please be aware of these possible side effects when taking birth control pills for acne:
- stomach cramps
- weight gain/loss
- changes in period
- breast tenderness
- hypertension and other cardiovascular problems
- liver and gallbladder disease
- migraine headaches
- depression and mood changes
- blurred vision
This long list of side effects are pretty scary, so really ask yourself if it's worth the risk and make sure you get a thorough yearly checkup with bloodwork done to make sure you aren't experience any of these potential dangerous side effects.
CAN BIRTH CONTROL WORSEN YOUR ACNE?
Although birth control can help with acne in many cases, because all of our bodies are different - it can do the opposite and make acne worse. Many women who did have their acne clear up while on the pill may experience a rebound effect there their acne gets really bad again once they are off the pill as the solution of taking hormones is just a temporary one.
LIZ’S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH BIRTH CONTROL
In the video above, Liz lets us in on her experience with taking the pill. She started birth control pills at the age of 16 and was on them for a little over five years, all because her doctor said that it would cure her acne. In turn, it actually gave her some longer term side effects. Liz expresses that the pill is usually a short-term solution, that suppresses symptoms and ignores the underlying root cause. She recently went off the pill and has focused more on her gut health and targeting her issues from the inside.
WHO SHOULD BE AVOIDING BIRTH CONTROL PILLS?
Whether you should or should not be taking birth control pills in treating acne depends on your medical history as there certain medical conditions that may worsen when using an oral contraceptive.
One should not be taking birth control pills or contraceptives in treating acne if they have any of these following conditions: history of heart disease, hypertension, blood clots in the legs or lungs, blood clotting disorder (e.g factor V Leiden deficiency), history of cancer – breast, uterine or liver and liver disease, diabetes or migraine headaches.
Birth control pills are usually considered as a common treatment option, especially among young women. However, it’s best to seek a dermatologist or an OB-GYN first before starting to take birth control pills in treating acne and ask for any recommendations other than birth control if you aren't comfortable taking it. Inform them of any previous medical issues you may have. Birth control pills are generally safe and affordable compared to other prescription medications used for treating acne. However, if you are coming off the birth control pills, you could experience an increase in acne again. Here's how you can go off birth control without breaking out.
Have you been prescribed birth control pills to help reduce your acne? Let us know your experience in the comments!