Effect of Birth Control Pills on Acne
Oral contraceptives are made of a combination of progestin and estrogen. They manipulate the natural female reproductive cycles and change the internal hormonal patterns. These pills reduce the amount of testosterone within the body and this decreases the hormonal acne breakouts. The reduction in testosterone production, leads to lesser oil production by the sebaceous glands and hence lesser pore blockages. It takes two to three months, minimum, to notice a definite improvement in the acne problem. The problem could also worsen during the interim. Some birth control pills increase the testosterone levels in the body and this can actually make the acne worse. So tell your doctor to prescribe you the right pills.
Birth control pills work particularly well in curing the acne of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) patients. Certain birth control pills contain progesterone, which limits the androgen hormones. It is these androgens that trigger the oil glands to produce more sebum, leading to acne. The progestins can act as androgens as well as anti-androgens. The pills that act as androgens worsen the acne problems. The best pills for acne happen to be anti-androgenic. So look for those pills that contain less androgenic activity, such as norgestimate, norethindrone, desogestrel, ethynodiol or levonorgestrel.
Birth Control Pills Approved for Acne
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain birth control pills as acne treatments. They are:
Ortho Tri-Cyclen: The Ortho Tri-Cyclen contains norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol. It’s a combination of female hormones that help in prevention of ovulation. It is used as a contraceptive pill for the prevention of pregnancy, and also used for acne treatment. It’s available in three different colors: white, light blue and dark blue.
- Every light blue tablet contains 0.215 mg of the progestational compound norgestimate, 0.035 mg of the estrogenic compound and ethinyl estradiol. Inactive ingredients in each tablet include carnauba wax, lactose, FD & C Blue No. 2 Aluminum Lake, croscarmellose sodium, magnesium stearate, hypromellose, polyethylene glycol, microcrystalline cellulose, titanium dioxide and purified water.
- Every white tablet contains 0.180 mg of the progestational compound, norgestimate, 0.035 mg of the estrogenic compound and ethinyl estradiol. Each tablet contains following inactive ingredients: croscarmellose sodium, carnauba wax, lactose, hypromellose, microcrystalline cellulose, polyethylene glycol, magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide, and purified water.
- Every dark blue tablet contains 0.250 mg of the progestational compound norgestimate, 0.035 mg of the estrogenic compound and ethinyl estradiol. Inactive ingredients in each dark blue tablet include: croscarmellose sodium, FD & C Blue No. 2 Aluminum Lake, hypromellose, carnauba wax, lactose, polysorbate 80, polyethylene glycol and purified water.
Estrostep: Estrostep is an oral contraception that evens out the hormonal surges that cause oily skin. It has been approved by the FDA particularly for acne treatment. However, it may take a few months to treat a severe case of acne.
Yaz: Yaz contains progesterone that may help reduce the quantity of androgen hormones in the body thus limiting the outbreak of acne. The pill may also help curb excessive hair growth.
Yasmin: The birth control pill named Yasmin is similar to Yaz. It is used to prevent pregnancy and also for acne management. It helps alleviate the signs of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) like depression, anxiety, weight gain, headache and breast tenderness. However, it’s not advisable to use this medication during pregnancy, as it may harm your unborn baby.
While these oral contraceptives do help with the acne problem, they give rise to several side effects. No birth control pill prevents acne outbreak completely, they may reduce it by 30% – 60%. It’s always advised to consult your doctor before taking any birth control pill for acne. These tablets are not recommended for women who are:
- above 35
- suffering from breast or liver cancer
- have blood clots in their legs
Some of the side effects of these tablets are mentioned in the paragraph given below.
Possible Side Effects
The side effects of birth control pills for acne are basically the side effects of taking the pill itself. The side effects can be listed down as follows.
- Weight Gain
- Breast Tenderness
- Menstrual Spotting
- Mood Swings
- Blood Clots
- High Blood Pressure
Some of the side effects disappear after a few months of usage, as the body gets used to the changed hormonal balance. The side effects vary between the combined (contain a combination of both, estrogen and progestin) oral contraceptives and the progestin-only contraceptive pills.
These pills take about 3 to 6 months to show some noticeable improvement, but they definitely work on the acne that worsens during ovulation and menstruation. The perfect use of combined birth control pills lowers the chances of pregnancy to 1 or fewer women out of a hundred, only if acne control abilities are a little lesser and slower. In comparison, the progestin-only contraceptives have a higher pregnancy risk, 2 out of hundred, but are better for curing the acne. Choose wisely, for the lesser of the two evils. Who would have thought that we’d be killing two birds with one stone, great skin care and the choice of charting your own motherhood plans. Utilize with care, your right to birth control.