Does Birth Control Actually Clear Up Acne? An Ob/Gyn Explains

Many women swear by this, but here’s what doctors say.

Loading the player...

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.