The Contraceptive Pill and Acne

The effects of the contraceptive pill on acne

Woman looking in a bathroom mirror checking her face for signs on acne

Key takeaways

  • The combined contraceptive pill (and the combined contraceptive patch and vaginal ring) can often improve acne caused by hormonal changes as it keeps hormone levels regular

  • Taking the mini-pill, or progestogen-only pill, has actually been proven in some cases to make skin conditions such as acne worse

  • The combined pill is not affected by most antibiotics or topical treatments for acne and can be used in combination with most acne treatments

Contents of this article

Does the pill help treat acne?

Acne can be caused by a lot of different factors and is not limited to teenagers going through puberty. A common cause of acne in both teenagers and adults is hormonal fluctuation.

The combined contraceptive pill can often be effective for women in the treatment of acne caused by hormonal changes as it keeps hormone levels regular. This does not mean the pill will be effective for all acne sufferers, or that it will make acne disappear completely.

How does taking the pill help acne sufferers?

The hormones which cause acne to develop are known as androgens. Androgens increase the production of sebum, an oil made in your glands. When too much sebum is made, it can clog your pores and make it easier for hair follicles to get infected. This can lead to acne spots. The combined pill regulates the androgen levels in your body, so that the production of sebum is not excessive. This helps keep the pores clearer and reduce the symptoms of acne.

How long will it take for the pill to improve acne symptoms?

It normally takes several months for the pill to have an effect on acne. You may even have a flare-up when you begin taking the combined pill, but your hormone levels should become more regulated over time. You should begin to see improvement after a couple of months. If your acne doesn't improve in that time or it seems to be getting worse, you should return to your doctor. He or she will be able to help you work out why, or prescribe a more appropriate pill.

Are all contraceptive pills good for acne?

No. Different combined pills contain different amounts and types of oestrogen and progesterone hormones, and some combined pills may be more effective than others in the management of acne.

Taking the mini-pill, or progestogen-only pill, has actually been proven in some cases to make skin conditions such as acne worse. Side effects of the mini pill include acne and skin rashes.

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When is the pill prescribed to treat acne?

The pill is usually not prescribed solely for acne. The combined pill is prescribed when a sexually active woman requires contraception or menstrual cycle regulation, but also happens to suffer from acne. In some women who suffer from acne which has not been helped by treatments such as antibiotics, a contraceptive pill called Co-cyprindiol may prescribed by their doctor. Due to the increased risk of blood clots with this pill compared with other combined pills it may not be suitable for all women and is only used as acne treatment for short periods of time.

Can other forms of acne treatment be used at the same time as the pill?

The combined pill is not affected by most antibiotics or topical treatments for acne and can be used in combination with most acne treatments. If you suffer with vomiting or diarrhoea as a side effect of any of your acne treatments this can affect the ability of your pill to prevent unwanted pregnancy. If you’re started by your dermatologist on a medication which contains Isotretinoin you will be given advice on the extra contraception recommended whilst you’re taking this. You should discuss any and all acne treatments you plan to use alongside the combined pill with your doctor, just in case.

Can other forms of contraception be causing acne?

Yes. There is some evidence to indicate that certain types of contraception, such as the progesterone-only injection, implant, and coil, may actually contribute to acne. You should always discuss the potential side effects of any contraceptive with your doctor before you begin taking it. If you think a form of hormonal contraception you are using is causing acne, your doctor may be able to offer you an alternative type of contraception.

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Contraceptive pills are a reliable way of reducing your risk of getting pregnant from sex. Zava offers most common brands of pill, so you can order your preferred brand by visiting our contraceptive pill service page.




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