Birth Control For Acne: Can It Improve Acne?

Written by Ramona Sinha • 

Yes. You read it right. I am talking about using birth control for improving acne. I know you are not convinced yet because, for most of you, birth control pills serve only a specific purpose (pretty obvious!). But, its benefits for acne control are undeniable. Here’s everything that you need to know about birth control pills and acne treatment. Scroll down!

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Birth Control And Acne: How It Works

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To understand how birth control works for acne, you need to understand your hormones and how they influence acne formation. Whenever there is a shift in your hormone levels, you get acne. Most women experience acne flare-ups when the hormone levels change during the menstrual cycle. However, for some, acne can be a permanent fixture on their face even after menopause.

When your hormones shift, your skin produces excess sebum. This excess sebum clogs the pores, promoting the growth of acne-causing bacteria. Androgens (a group of hormones) trigger this excess sebum production. Birth control pills regulate hormone production. Taking pills that contain both progesterone and estrogen (hormones) helps to bring down the level of androgens in your body. This reduces the sebum production and prevents acne formation.

Now, the question is, which type of birth control pills work best for acne? It’s a tough question to answer – because not all birth control pills will work on you. Research is still going on, and every day, experts are coming up with new recommendations. Let’s take a look at a few.

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Types Of Birth Control That Works Best

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So far, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved three birth control pills that are effective in controlling acne (1). These are:

  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen

Also known as Norgestimate, this birth control pill contains both progestin and estrogen hormones. Although it is mostly used for birth control purposes, dermatologists also prescribe this medicine for controlling acne.

A study was conducted on 257 women with moderate levels of acne to find the efficacy of Ortho Tri-Cyclen for acne control. It found that 93.7% of the women who took the pill for acne control saw significant improvement in their condition (2).

  • YAZ

This birth control pill contains a blend of estrogen and drospirenone, a type of synthetic progestin. This medicine is widely used for controlling acne. A double-blind study conducted on females between the age of 14 and 45 years found that drospirenone was very effective in controlling acne lesions (3).

However, there were concerns that the synthetic progestin may also increase the chances of blood clots. Long-term use of this medicine may also increase the chances of stroke and other associated cardiovascular issues (1).

Some brands of birth control pills that contain drospirenone include Syeda, Ocella, Loryna, Gianvi, Beyaz, Yasmin, and Zarah.

  • Estrostrep

This pill is a combination of norethindrone (a form of progestin) and estrogen. You will find this pill with different dosages of estrogen.

For treating acne, antibiotics are always the first choice of dermatologists. From tablets and ointments to capsules and gels, the antibiotics for treating acne are available in almost every form. But are antibiotics a better option than birth control pills? Let’s find out.

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Birth Control Or Antibiotics?

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The most common antibiotics used for treating acne include names like doxycycline, tetracycline, clindamycin, and erythromycin. You will need a doctor’s prescription to get these medicines.
Antibiotics mainly help to:

  • Reduce the effects of bacteria on your skin
  • Ease skin irritation and inflammation caused by the acne breakouts.

And that’s the reason antibiotics are commonly used for treating acne. However, antibiotics have several risks (4). They include:

  • Long-term usage of antibiotics causes bacterial resistance (the bacteria develop resistance to the drug). This makes treating acne with antibiotics difficult in the long run.
  • It may also cause infection in the upper respiratory tract.
  • Your skin may become dry and scaly.
  • You may also develop contact dermatitis.

A study compared the efficacy of antibiotics and oral contraceptive pills in treating acne at 3 and 6 months. It suggested that although antibiotics performed better than oral contraceptive pills for 3 months, the birth control pills gave results equivalent to the antibiotics in 6 months. The study concluded that birth control pills are a better alternative than antibiotics in the long run (5). Birth control pills are better alternatives for avoiding all the side effects caused by antibiotics.

Although birth control pills are considered safe for acne treatment, there are several side effects that you need to consider before you start using them.

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Birth Control For Acne: Is It Safe? Are There Any Side Effects?

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The birth control pills that you get today contain low dosages of progesterone and estrogen. Yet, there are several risks associated with these pills. They may cause:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps and bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Soreness of breasts
  • Depression and mood issues

They may also cause cardiovascular issues and hypertension. Moreover, you need to review your medical history before you start using birth control pills. You should avoid using the pills if:

  • you have a history of cancer (liver, breast, and uterine cancers)
  • you have diabetes
  • you have liver disease and migraine
  • you have a blood clotting disorder
  • you have hypertension
  • you have cardiovascular issues
  • you have blood clots in your lungs and legs
  • you smoke regularly and are over 35 years of age
  • you are morbidly obese
  • you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Here are some additional tips to reap the maximum benefits from your acne treatment.

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Additional Tips

  • If you are taking birth control pills, follow the schedule religiously. This ensures your safety and maximum benefits.
  • Talk to your doctor about the side effects and how to mitigate them. Make a list of the side effects that you are experiencing or you think you might experience (such as a headache, tenderness of breasts, etc.). Talking about the side effects helps you understand what to expect and how to deal with them.
  • Do not forget to inform your doctor about the medications you are taking as some medicines may interfere with the effectiveness of the birth control pill.
  • Avoid taking any birth control pills that contain only progesterone (and not estrogen and progesterone) as they can worsen your breakouts.

Do not rely solely on birth control pills for treating your acne. These pills work best when taken along with topical treatments for acne. You have to be patient with the results as birth control pills take months before you see any actual result. But the result is definitely worth the wait.

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Have any more doubts? Let us know in the comments section.


1. “ A Review of hormone-based..”, International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, NCBI
2. “Effectiveness of norgestimate..”, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, NCBI
3. “Treatment of Acne Using..”, Obstetrics And Gynecology, NCBI
4. “Impact of Long-Term Antibiotic..”, Current Dermatology Reports, Springer Link
5. “Meta-analysis comparing efficacy..”, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, AAD Journals

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