Can Birth Control Cause Acne?

    Can Birth Control Cause Acne?
    Updated 15 February 2022 |
    Published 11 March 2019
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Anna Klepchukova
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
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    For many people, having clearer skin is just one positive side effect of using birth control, other people seem to experience breakouts when they start taking birth control pills. Understanding how hormonal birth control works can provide some clarity about why both outcomes are possible.

    Why some birth control is bad for your skin 

    Different pills have different chemical formulations, and the side effects these chemicals can have can vary from person to person. This is why you might have a friend who loves their birth control pill, but when you took it you experienced lots of negative side effects. Here’s a deeper look into the ways birth control pills can differ and what effect that may have on your body.

    There are many different birth control choices on the market. While they all prevent pregnancy, not all birth control choices contain the same ingredients. Most hormonal birth control contains estrogen and progestin. Different contraceptives use different types of progestin, and each type of progestin can affect your body differently. There are some contraceptives choices that can increase the chances of acne breakouts by containing a progestin that has an androgenic effect on your body. 

    What are Androgens? 

    Androgens are male sex hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands and the ovaries. Female bodies also produce these hormones, but in much smaller amounts. However, there are some types of birth control methods that use synthetic progestin that has an androgenic effect. This means they increase the amount of androgens in your body, which can cause balding, unwanted hair growth, and acne. 

    An increase in androgens can trigger the excess production of sebum, which is an oily or waxy substance produced by our skin for protection. Excess sebum can clog our pores, trapping dead skin and dirt and causing the formation of pimples. 

    Acne after stopping birth control 

    Some people don’t get acne while they’re on birth control, but they begin experiencing breakouts when they stop taking it. This is because of the way their birth control was regulating their hormones.

    Hormonal birth control pills like the combination birth control pill suppress your natural hormones, including testosterone. When you stop taking these pills, androgen rebound can happen, and this can result in acne breakouts.

    When choosing a birth control pill, it can be helpful to do your own research. Visiting each medication’s website and reading the ingredients can help you avoid a contraceptive with an androgenic effect. Being frank with your doctor about your concerns can help as well. 

    What types of birth control can help to treat acne?  

    Although some types of hormonal birth control can cause acne, there are also pills that can help treat acne. 

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several types of birth control pills to treat acne. All of them are combination oral contraceptives that contain both estrogen and progestin, which means you don’t have to take them at exactly the same time each day. 

    There are lots of birth control options out there. Choosing the one best for you may require some research on your part and a conversation with your doctor or gynecologist. If you experience negative side effects from your birth control, you might want to switch medications. Finding the one that works best with your body may take some time, but you deserve a method of birth control that doesn’t make you feel worse. If you can’t seem to find a pill that works for you, non-hormonal methods of birth control like the copper IUD or condoms are also options to consider.

    History of updates
    Current version (15 February 2022)
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
    Published (11 March 2019)
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