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Birth Control Pills and Acne

Besides preventing pregnancy, there appears to be other benefits of birth control pills. Acne treatment is a common off-label use of oral contraceptives. Certain birth control pills are also approved for treating acne, such as Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yaz, and Estrostep Fe. Talk to your healthcare provider about birth control pills and acne if you have an interest in improving your acne.

Birth Control Pills and Acne: An Introduction

Will birth control pills (oral contraceptives) help your acne? Will they make it worse? Are some birth control pills better than others at controlling acne? This article will attempt to answer these questions about birth control pills and acne.

Approved Birth Control Pills for Acne

Only some birth control pills are approved for treating acne. While this does not mean that the others do not work or cannot be used in an off-label fashion for acne treatment, it does indicate that there is good evidence that the approved ones are effective for this use. Birth control pills approved for acne treatment include:

Which Birth Control Pills Are Best for Acne?

Most people believe that it is the progestin, not the estrogen, in birth control pills that determines whether they are effective or not for acne. Some progestins have androgenic (testosterone-like) effects that would logically be more likely to worsen acne. Others have anti-androgen (anti-testosterone) effects and would be expected to help improve acne. However, one study comparing birth control pills with high androgen effects to pills with no androgen effects showed no difference in terms of effectiveness for acne treatment. This is probably because the estrogen found in almost all birth control pills is a strong anti-androgen. Despite this, most healthcare providers still prefer birth control pills that have a progestin with less androgen activity for women with acne.
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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