The Pill and Acne: What You Need to Know

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The Pill and Acne: Your Questions Answered

The Pill and Acne: This guide explores how birth control pills can impact acne and which types might be beneficial.

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Understanding How Birth Control Pills Affect Acne

The Role of Sebum and Androgens

  • Acne can worsen when your skin produces too much sebum, an oil made by tiny glands.
  • Androgens, a type of hormone, stimulate sebum production.

How Birth Control Pills Work

  • Birth control pills come in two main types:
    • Combined pills: Contain both estrogen and progesterone.
    • Progestin-only pills (mini-pills): Contain only progesterone.

Estrogen vs. Progesterone: Impact on Acne

  • Estrogen: Lowers androgen levels, potentially reducing acne.
  • Progesterone: Weak androgen can worsen acne (especially in high doses).

Choosing the Right Birth Control Pill for Acne

Combined Pills for Acne

  • Generally, it is a better choice for acne due to the presence of estrogen.
  • Newer combined pills often contain acne-friendly progestins like drospirenone or norgestimate.

Important Considerations

  • Combined pills have side effects and risks that need to be weighed against acne benefits.
  • Consult a doctor to discuss your specific situation and find the best option.

Birth Control Pills and Acne: Brand Breakdown (UK)

Combined OCPs (Oral Contraceptive Pills) for Acne

  • Eloine (drospirenone & ethinylestradiol)
  • Yasmin (drospirenone & ethinylestradiol) – Consider alternatives for a lower thrombosis risk.
  • Marvelon (desogestrel & ethinylestradiol)
  • Cilique (norgestimate & ethinylestradiol)

Combined OCP NOT Recommended for Acne

  • Dianette/Clairette (cyproterone acetate & ethinylestradiol) – More effective than Yasmin but not licensed for contraception and has a higher thrombosis risk. Only for severe acne under strict supervision.

Progestin-Only Pills (Mini-Pills) and Acne

  • These mini-pills may worsen acne. Avoid these if you have acne-prone skin:
    • Cerazette (desogestrel)
    • Mircette (desogestrel)
    • Cerelle (desogestrel)
    • Noriday (norethisterone)
    • Norgeston (levonorgestrel)

Side Effects and Risks of Birth Control Pills

Common Side Effects

  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea

Potential Risks

  • Breast cancer: Slightly increased risk while taking the pill, returns to normal after stopping.
  • Ovarian cancer: Risk may be reduced.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Increased risk, especially with newer pills containing drospirenone. Discuss this risk with your doctor.

Important Note: The risk of DVT is still very low. For comparison:

  • 12 in 10,000 pill users develop DVT.
  • 2 in 10,000 non-users develop DVT.
  • The risk of DVT during pregnancy is similar to the pill.

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ section explores the different ways the pill can impact acne, why results vary, and how to find the right birth control option for your skin.

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