If you thought that birth control only prevented pregnancy, think again. In fact, there are ways to take a contraceptive that will also give you clearer skin, too. So which birth control is best for acne? Here's how to know which methods could help give you a fresh-faced complexion — and which might make breakouts more likely.
To understand how birth control, well, "controls" acne, you have to know why acne occurs in the first place. It all comes down to male hormones, called androgens, which are found in both men and women. Androgens aren’t a big deal, except that they can cause the size of the skin’s sebum glands to grow along with an increased secretion of oil, according to HealthyWomen.org. This oil, along with dead skin cells, causes blackheads, sores, and plain old pimples, Healthline reported.
That’s where the birth control pill comes into play. “The best form of birth control for acne is the combination oral contraceptive,” OB/GYN Renee Wellenstein M.D. tells Romper. “A combination oral contraceptive is one that contains an estradiol (a synthetic form of estrogen) and a progestin (a synthetic form of the female hormone, progesterone).” It works by decreasing the amount of testosterone, which in turn lowers the production of sebum. And less sebum equals fewer acne breakouts.
Thing is, you have to be certain that you get the combination birth control pill in order to avoid acne. “Progestin only birth-control pills will not have that anti-androgenic affect,” OB/GYN Delisa Skeete Henry, M.D., FACOG, tells Romper. “Therefore, that type of birth control pill is ineffective in the treatment of acne.” So be sure to tell your doctor that you're hoping to find a birth control that helps to keep skin clear, too.
Of course, every rose has its thorn, and oral contraceptives are no exception. “There are health risks to taking oral contraceptives,” warns Dr. Wellenstein. “They should only be considered for those healthy women who desire contraception in addition to treatment of acne, or in those women who have tried other means of controlling their acne.” After all, birth control pills have serious side effects, such as blood clots, liver tumors, stroke, and even heart attack, Planned Parenthood reported.
Still, the combination birth control pill can be an effective and safe way to keep both babies and breakouts at bay (but always speak to your doctor before starting anything new). And soon, you’ll see clearer skies when it comes to pregnancy prevention — and clearer skin, too.
Dr. Renee Wellenstein, M.D.
Dr. Delisa Skeete Henry, M.D., FACOG