The birth control pill can be used to treat acne in women and may even clear it completely. Some types of acne is caused by hormone levels, in particular, the male hormone testosterone or other androgen – the collective name for male hormones.
Many women who suffer from acne have a high level of androgens in their bloodstream. Before you start worrying that you might be about to grow a beard and change your name to Kevin, remember that everybody has a mix of male and female hormones in their makeup. However most women have on average just a tenth of the androgen levels found in most men. Anything above this low level will not make a difference to your personality or femininity but it may be enough to cause acne. Androgens cause acne because they stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce increased amounts of sebum.
Recent research has indicated that female acne sufferers do not necessarily have high testosterone levels but may have low levels of zinc or an inability to process the androgens on their skin.
Why do contraceptive birth control pills clear acne?
Oral contraceptives contain a mixture of female hormones estrogen and progesterone to mimic the state of pregnancy and alter the reproductive cycle. They also reduce the levels of testosterone and this in turn reduces sebum production and acne.
Some doctors are prescribing birth control pills specifically to cure acne. In the USA, a number of oral contraceptives have been approved by the FDA as being suitable for acne treatment. These include Estrostep, YAZ and Otho Tri Cyclen. Usually prescribed for acne when all other treatments have failed, these hormone tablets work well and are an approved treatment. Not all birth control pills will reduce acne. Some contain higher levels of androgens, which could make your skin worse.
Should you use birth control pills for acne?
If you are contemplating taking some form of oral contraceptive and you suffer from acne you should consult your doctor. He or she should be able to prescribe a birth control pill that will help to improve your skin as well as offering contraception. Taking the pill specifically because you have acne is also an option. Although the correct type of oral contraceptive will help you get rid of acne it does not work immediately. You can expect to wait for around three months before you notice any improvement and in the intervening time your acne may worsen. You should also consider the health implications before embarking upon this treatment. The pill can have numerous side effects and can cause sensitivity in the breasts, weight gain and nausea. If you are overweight, a smoker or have a family history of breast cancer, taking the pill can be risky to health.
What if Birth Control Pills don’t work?
Taking an oral contraceptive as an acne treatment will certainly work for many women. And for those who are taking the pill anyway, it can be seen as a beneficial side effect. If you suffer from acne and taking the birth control pill doesn’t work for you, then you could always look at an over the counter acne treatment.