Many women swear by this, but here’s what doctors say.
You’ve probably heard at least one friend swear that her acne cleared up once she started on the Pill. Then again, many women start taking birth control around the same time that they would naturally start having less acne. Is it fact, fiction, or just a coincidence?
Yup, it tends to be true. “Clearer skin is one of the perks of taking birth control other than preventing pregnancy,” says Kecia Gaither, MD, Ob/Gyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist of the Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in New York City.
It goes a step further: The FDA actually approves the use of some contraception brands specifically to treat acne. Some types of birth control can also treat other hormonal issues, like irregular periods or painful cramps.
How Birth Control Can Help Acne
“Birth control can lower levels of testosterone in your bloodstream,” says Dr. Gaither. Different contraceptive options have different kinds and amounts of hormones. However, the ones that contain both estrogen and progesterone are the most likely to improve acne.
You might be thinking, “Um, but I know someone whose acne got worse when they started birth control.” Yeah, unfortunately, that’s a thing, too. Any hormone therapy has the potential to affect the skin, and there are many formulations of hormone-containing birth control which may affect different people in different ways.
Some options are more potent than others, though. For example, the Mirena IUD uses a small level of progesterone, so it’s unlikely to affect skin health one way or another.
Of course, non-hormonal options, like the copper IUD or condoms, should have no impact on acne. If you’re using a non-hormonal birth control but wish to take control over your acne, check out these tips for preventing acne.
Dr. Gaither, an ob-gyn and maternal fetal medicine specialist, is director of perinatal services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, a member of NYC Health + Hospitals System in Bronx, New York.
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I'm just wondering if birth
control can help with acne.
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Absolutatively, clearer skin is one
of the few perks of taking birth control
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other than preventing pregnancy.
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A few brands of birth control are actually
FDA approved to help treat acne.
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But many women report skin clearing
benefits from other kinds as well.
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Birth control can lower levels of
testosterone in your blood stream,
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which can make your acne better.
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In general, birth control that has
both estrogen and progesterone,
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different pills, the patch, the ring,
may improve acne and pimples.
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On the other hand, some progesterone
only options like the birth control shot
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may actually make your acne worse.
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And remember, just to be a little patient.
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If you just started a new birth control
type, it can take a few weeks or
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months to see the skin clearing up.
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It's not gonna happen overnight.
- Trivedi MK, Shinkai K, Murase JE. A Review of hormone-based therapies to treat adult acne vulgaris in women. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2017;3(1):44-52. Published 2017 Mar 30
- I just started taking the pill, and now I’m breaking out. Doesn’t the pill help with acne? Planned Parenthood. (Accessed on September 27, 2021)
Can birth control make my acne better? Washington, DC: Bedsider. (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at https://www.bedsider.org/features/980-can-birth-control-make-my-acne-better.)Which birth control pills can help reduce acne? Washington, DC: PubMed Health, 2013. (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072393/.)