Birth Control: Acne Treatment Or Acne Trigger?

Of all the things that make it to our blacklist, acne probably ranks first. Besides wreaking havoc on our face and ruining our complexion, what makes pimples even more frustrating is the fact that they appear overnight, yet take simply forever to go away.

If you’re someone who suffers from frequent pimple attacks and painfully stubborn blackheads, you’ve probably tried everything – from antihistamines and antibiotics to over-the-counter creams and several home remedies. It turns out, however, that birth control may be just as potent as these other methods in treating acne breakouts.


For the last few decades, birth control pills have given women ample freedom to take control of their bodies and plan childbirth. Today, research declares that these pills may even help you put an end to your acne problems. But how safe exactly is it to pop birth control pills? Does taking these pills always cure acne, or could it backfire?

Before you head to your chemist’s, take a little time to understand what goes on inside your body when you take the pill and how it affects your skin.


What Happens To Your Skin When You Go On The Pill

Birth control pills suppress acne-triggering androgens in your bloodstream that gives you clear skin.

The reason why dermatologists sometimes prescribe birth control pills to a woman as a cure for her acne is to bring down the level of androgens. Androgens are male sex hormones such as testosterone, that are found in a woman’s bloodstream. These androgens have a tendency to trigger an overproduction of sebum oil. All this oil ends up clogging the pores of your skin, attracting dirt, causing acne-causing bacteria to flourish. When you take birth control pills, you’re actually ingesting a dose of female sex hormones – namely estrogen and progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone. These hormones trick the body into thinking that you are pregnant, thus, in turn, suppressing the androgen levels. This automatically brings down the excess oil in your body and what you’re left with after three months is clear acne-free skin.


All Birth Control Pills Do Not Work The Same

Androgenic birth control pills only aggravate the androgens in your bloodstream, and can therefore trigger acne

All birth control pills do not work as effective remedies for acne. There are also androgenic pills that actually contain androgen-based progestin instead of an anti-androgenic progestin. These will only increase the androgen level in your bloodstream, leading to an even greater production of oil that can make your acne nightmares so much more worse. When buying birth control pills especially for your acne, read the composition carefully and look out for progestins like norethindrone acetate, norgestrel, and levonorgestrel. These pills are usually potent cures for your acne.


What Happens To Your Skin When You Go Off The Pill

Unless you were already acne-prone before taking birth control, you won’t experience a break out just by stopping the pill.

Depending on what your skin was like before you hopped on board the birth control bus, things may get a little tricky. When you go off the pill, you’re basically stopping your intake of progestin and estrogen, which means there’s nothing to lower those androgen levels in your blood. Therefore, it is only logical that your skin will go back to the way it was before you got onto birth control. So unless you were already acne-prone before taking birth control, you won’t experience a break out just by stopping the pill.


For those who were susceptible to acne before taking birth control, remember that even a little shift in your hormones will stimulate acne. Therefore, you can expect to suffer from zits for up to three months after you stop taking the pill until your body has had enough time to normalize your hormone levels again.

How To Avoid Acne While Transitioning Off The Pill

A low-glycemic diet is the best long term cure for your acne problem.


No one really escapes the wrath of hormonal changes, and usually, both men and women find themselves struggling with the repercussions from birth to death. For women, specifically, the most pronounced hormonal changes are evident once they reach their 40s and 50s i.e. their menopause years. However, these changes can also be seen in women as early as their mid-30s, sometimes even sooner. This has plenty to do with our lifestyle and diet, as well as the toxins, pollution, and xenoestrogens (synthetic chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen in our bodies) that we expose ourselves to every day.

Since maintaining hormone balance is such a delicate affair, it is necessary that we do as much as we can to help our bodies keep our hormones in the right levels. The best thing to do to nip your acne in the bud is to stick to a low-glycemic diet that eliminates refined carbohydrates, dairy, and gluten – all of which triggers a spike in your insulin levels, and, in turn, your androgen levels.


Doctors also recommend certain diuretics that help block male hormone receptors in the female body. This, in turn, stops the cells from absorbing the testosterone, an androgen that promotes acne. If you are prone to cystic acne, you may take antibiotics and intralesional cortisone injections or apply topical anti-inflammatory creams to prevent sudden massive acne breakouts in that three month adjustment period once you get off the pill.

It is important to realize that birth control pills are only a temporary fix for acne and don’t really address the underlying cause, which is mandatory if you want a long term cure. Ignore the main cause, and your acne will only return with a vengeance after you get off the pill.

Therefore, focus on cleaning up your diet and your lifestyle if you want a hassle-free transition from going off the pill, and to tackle your acne problem head on.