Birth Control for Acne

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Benefits of Birth Control for Acne

Several clinical trials have shown that taking combination birth control pills can result in:

  • Decreased acne flare-ups
  • Fewer pimples
  • Less inflammation
  • Less severe acne

Many women with severe acne take oral contraceptives with other acne treatments. For women who also want contraception, taking birth control pills for acne also offers one of the most reliable forms of contraception, as long as the pills are taken on schedule as prescribed.

Risks of Oral Contraceptives

Today's birth control pills contain lower doses of estrogen and progesterone than in the past. This has significantly lowered their medical risks. Still, women taking oral contraceptives do have a higher risk of side effects, including heart attack, stroke, and dangerous blood clots in the legs or lungs.

Other risks include:

Who Should Avoid Birth Control Pills

A decision to take birth control pills needs to take into account your medical history. Certain medical conditions could become worse if you use an oral contraceptive. Birth control pills are usually not advised if you have any of the following conditions:

You also shouldn't take oral contraceptives if:

Tips for Maximum Benefit

Here are tips for getting the most benefit from your acne treatment:

  • Continue taking other acne treatment prescribed by your doctor. An oral contraceptive targets only part of the acne problem.
  • Be sure to precisely follow the schedule for taking birth control pills. Doing so provides the maximum benefit and safety.
  • Talk with your doctor about possible side effects of the birth control you're considering. These can include breast tenderness, headaches, breakthrough bleeding, or an initial, temporary flare-up of acne. It's important to know what to expect.
  • Tell your doctor about any other medications you're taking. Some can interfere with the effectiveness of an oral contraceptive and lead to an unwanted pregnancy. Taking some types of birth control pill together with oral tetracycline (an antibiotic) may make it necessary to use a back-up form of contraception.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on November 22, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

Ebede T., Arch E, Berson D. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, December 2009.

Tan J, Ediriweera C. International Journal of Women's Health, August 2009.

O'Connell K., Westhoff, C. Cutis, January 2008.

Salvaggio H., Zaenglein, A. International Journal of Women's Health, August 2010.

American Academy of Dermatology: "The Truth about Oral Contraceptives and Acne" and "Treating Severe Acne."

George R., Clarke S., Thiboutot D. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery,September 2008.

James, W. New England Journal of Medicine, Apr 7, 2005.

News release, FDA.

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