Sofie Wise

Jillian Stenzel

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About Author — A Nevada-bred traveler & food nerd who dances & eats spinach, sometimes simultaneously. She writes from wherever her curiosity demands, and is passionate about spreading the wisdom of better health.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog.

Acne occurs when some combination of oil, dead skin cells and bacteria get trapped in the hair follicle. Exact causes of acne can be hard to pin down, as triggers range from stress to diet and even sometimes certain medications. The most common factor, however, is hormones. Particularly in teens, the body’s production of hormones called androgens is high, causing the enlargement of sebaceous glands in the face and the production of more oil.

What causes adult acne?

While acne typically disappears when a person reaches adulthood, many women still suffer from breakouts for decades thereafter, especially in the week leading up to menstruation. Apart from natural cycles and hormone changes, a hormone imbalance may be causing you to have an abnormal amount of acne. Because of how difficult it can be to identify the root cause of a hormonal imbalance, women often use birth control to regulate their hormones, thereby controlling acne outbreaks.

What birth control can I take to treat acne?

Combination birth control pills containing both estrogen and some form of progesterone are the best birth control pills for managing acne symptoms. This is because estrogen and progesterone work together to lower the circulation of androgens (the acne-causing hormone) in your bloodstream. Your skin then produces less oil in the sebaceous glands, meaning fewer zits!

Make sure the pill you choose has both estrogen and progesterone to be effective. Avoid the minpill, Depo-Provera shot and IUDs, as they only contain progesterone. In fact, types of birth control containing only progesterone can sometimes worsen acne.
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What are the best brands of birth control for acne?

Currently, the only three birth control brands approved by the FDA to treat acne are Yaz, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Estrostep. These brands all contain the same form of estrogen in a low dosage, but have different forms of progesterone that may be responsible for slightly different side effects. Ortho Tri-Cyclen is available with different doses of progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone), and Estrostep with different doses of estrogen. These differences may be worth considering for other reasons, but studies haven’t shown there to be a great difference in how effective each pill is in treating acne.

While these three brands are the only ones approved by the FDA to treat acne, doctors may still prescribe other oral contraceptives for the same purpose. Yasmin and Alesse are two other popular choices for treating acne which have been proven effective in clinical studies, but don’t have official FDA approval. Your doctor might also prescribe topical creams or antibiotics to use in conjunction with your birth control for best results. If you don’t see clearer skin after a few months, you might want to switch pills or look into another form of acne treatment.

Who can take birth control for acne?

Birth control for acne is not for everyone. You are eligible to take birth control for your acne if you meet the following qualifications:

  • Women over the age of 14
  • Women who have entered puberty (started menstruating)
  • Women who are not currently pregnant

If you’re interested taking birth control for acne, or would like to change your current prescription, set up an appointment with one of PlushCare’s doctors online or by phone. You can discuss your birth control options with a doctor and get started on an acne treatment program that’s right for you.

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