Acne Pimples and blackheads are not only annoying and sometimes painful, but if serious enough, can lead to permanent skin scarring. If you suffer from acne, chances are you’ve already tried a variety of different products, from creams and face washes to even antibiotics. However, there’s another option you may not have tried yet- birth control pills. Dermatologists have been using the pill to treat acne in women for decades. We’re breaking down how it works and what you need to know.
How Does Birth Control Treat Acne?
Acne is caused by an excess production of sebum, an oil made by glands in your skin. Sebum can clog pores and promote the growth of bacteria that contribute to acne. Androgens, a group of hormones that includes testosterone, stimulate your skin to produce sebum. Women normally produce a low level of androgens, however, some women naturally produce higher levels of androgens, which can lead to excess sebum. Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progesterone lower the amount of androgens a body produces, which results in less sebum and less severe acne.
Types of Birth Control to Treat Acne
There are only three types of birth control pills that have been approved by the FDA for treating acne. All three are "combination" oral contraceptives that contain both estrogen and progesterone:
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen
Treating Mild to Severe Acne
These three oral contraceptives have been approved for treating moderate acne in women who:
- Are at least 14 or 15 years old, depending on the brand
- Have already started menstruating
- Need contraception
You may need to be on the pill for a few months before you start to notice clearer skin. It’s also good to know that an initial flare-up of acne is totally normal when you first start taking birth control pills.
One thing to note is that birth control pills only work on acne caused by excess sebum. Stress, medications, and diet can also cause pimples, so doctors often prescribe other forms of acne treatment such as topical medications or antibiotics for best results in clearing skin.
If you're a good candidate for birth control and you want to get rid of stubborn pimples, birth control may just be a great option for you.