Acne is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages but is more common in teenagers and younger adults. It occurs when the pores on your skin become clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
Hormonal changes, stress, and genetics are some factors that can contribute to acne breakouts. Birth control pills have been shown to be an effective way to manage acne for many women.
In this guide, we’ll explore how birth control pills work on acne, the best birth control pills for acne, and the pros and cons of using birth control pills for acne.
We also discuss things to consider before starting birth control pills for acne, side effects of birth control pills for acne-prone skin, how to take them, and alternatives to birth control pills for acne treatment.
The Best Birth Control for Acne
- Hers – Best birth control for acne overall
- Medzino – Best birth control pills for acne and weight loss
- Nurx – Best birth control pills for acne with the least side effects
The best birth control pills for acne are unique to your particular hormonal imbalances and how well you metabolize both hormones and medications. That’s why our favorites are all telehealth services with a wide range of options.
Hers – Best Birth Control for Acne Overall
Hers is our winner when it comes to providing the best birth control for acne. Not only can you get birth control pills for acne, but also skincare products to remove excess oil and sebum, a protective wax that can block pores.
Who Should Try Hers?
Hers provides the best birth control for hormonal acne. Generally, it’s best to find combination pills that contain norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol (EE/NGM), or ethinyl estradiol with desogestrel (EE/DSG).
EE reduces the effects of testosterone, which prevents it from triggering the excess production of oils and waxes. Additionally, NGM and DSG won’t stimulate your testosterone receptors like older progestins. This also makes them the best birth control pills for PCOS.
Together, these pharmaceutical forms of estrogen and progesterone are ideal in cases of acne. There was a 74.4% decrease in acne for EE/NGM formulations, and 65.5% for EE/DSG brands, in a trial of over 200 women. Choose EE/NGM if you struggle with oily skin more than anything else .
Pros of Using Hers
- Starts from $12 per month, which is $144 per year!
- Buy birth control pills for acne without the need for a day off work
- Add skincare products to your order
Cons of Using Hers
- The brief online consultation may miss underlying, undiagnosed conditions such as PCOS
Medzino – Best Birth Control Pills for Acne and Weight Loss
If both weight gain and acne bother you, consider Medzino.
Who Should Try Medzino?
Medzino provides the best contraceptive pills for acne if your previous prescription caused weight gain, but you saw a return of your acne after stopping birth control.
The best birth control pills for weight loss have little to no estrogen. High doses of estrogen cause true weight gain (an increase in body fat). A “high” dose may mean something different for every woman, considering individual differences in hormone metabolism.
Otherwise, most “weight gain” on the pill is fluid retention, caused by moderately high estrogen .
With Medzino, you have a range of progestin-only minipills and those with low-dose estrogen. Some are triphasic, which copy a real menstrual cycle more closely so you’re less at risk of taking too much estrogen.
Pros of Using Medzino
- Explains ingredients and contraindications for all formulations
- A real healthcare professional reviews your quiz answers
- Provides other medications, such as those for eczema or migraines.
Cons of Using Medzino
- The consultation is very short, with a two-minute quiz that may miss underlying issues.
Nurx – Best Birth Control Pills for Acne with the Least Side Effects
Nurx is a telehealth provider that supplies the best birth control pills for acne, plus skincare and other forms of contraception. With options that have low side effect profiles, it has the best birth control for teens, who are at their most fertile.
Who Should Try Nurx?
Nurx stocks the best birth control for acne if you are tired of your current pill’s side effects. For example, some have drospirenone, a progestin with diuretic properties. If you have bloating, water retention, breast swelling, or painful breasts, we recommend you ask your healthcare provider about it .
Nurx offers progestin-only minipills such as the Errin for women who suffer headaches, nausea, or otherwise can’t tolerate estrogen. If you don’t want a menstrual cycle, some of the pills containing 35-microgram doses of EE could safely prevent breakthrough bleeding .
Related: Nurx Review
Pros of Using Nurx
- One of the few telehealth providers to accept health insurance
- Provides skincare for acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, melasma, and dark spots.
- Delivers you a three-month supply of the best birth control for acne each time.
Cons of Using Nurx
- Not available in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Vermont, or West Virginia.
How Birth Control Pills Work on Acne
Birth control pills contain synthetic hormones, made to mimic estrogen and progesterone, that can help regulate the levels of androgens in your body. Androgens are hormones that can cause acne breakouts by increasing the production of sebum, the oil that clogs your pores.
Estrogen helps to lower the levels of androgens in your body, while progestin helps to reduce the production of sebum.
It’s important to note that even the best birth control pills for acne shouldn’t be used as the only treatment.
Many women should use them in combination with other acne-fighting products, such as topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid. It can take several months for birth control pills to start working on acne, so it’s important to be patient and consistent with your use.
Types of Birth Control Pills for Acne-Prone Skin
There are many different types of birth control pills on the market, but not all of them are effective at treating acne. The best birth control pills for acne-prone skin are those that contain both estrogen and progestin. Some of the most common types of birth control pills for acne-prone skin include:
Combination pills contain both estrogen and progestin. They come in different formulations, including monophasic, biphasic, and triphasic. Monophasic pills contain the same amount of hormones in each active pill.
Biphasic pills contain two different doses of hormones, while triphasic pills contain three different doses of hormones. Some examples of combination pills that are among the best birth control for acne include Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, Yaz, and Yasmin.
Progestin-only pills, also known as mini-pills, contain only progestin. They are less effective at treating acne than combination pills, at least when used as the only treatment. Some examples of progestin-only pills include Micronor, Nor-QD, and Errin.
Extended-cycle pills allow you to have fewer periods each year. They contain both estrogen and progestin, and you take them for 84 days before taking a break for 7 days.
Some examples of extended-cycle pills that are effective at treating acne include Seasonique, Seasonale, and Lybrel. If your skin is worse during your period, these may be the best birth control for acne.
Pros and Cons of Birth Control Pills as a Hormonal Acne Treatment
Like any medication, birth control pills have pros and cons as an acne treatment. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider before deciding to use birth control pills for acne:
- Effective at reducing acne breakouts
- Can regulate menstrual cycles
- Can reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Can reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer
- Can improve bone health
- Can have side effects, such as headaches, nausea, and breast tenderness
- Can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, or heart attack, especially in women who smoke or have a history of blood clots
- Can cause mood changes, such as depression and anxiety
- Can cause weight gain or weight loss
Things to Consider Before Starting Birth Control Pills for Acne
Before finding the best birth control pills for acne, there are some things to consider. First, talk to your healthcare provider to determine if birth control pills are right for you. They can help you determine which type of birth control pill is best for your unique needs and medical history.
You should also consider any potential side effects and risks associated with birth control pills. If you have a history of blood clots, stroke, or cardiovascular disease, even the best birth control for acne may not be safe for you.
It’s also important to consider the cost of birth control pills, as they can be expensive without insurance. Fortunately, Hers, Nurx, and Medzino are affordable telehealth options that can provide you with savings greater than what you may get with insurance.
Side Effects of Birth Control Pills for Acne-Prone Skin
Like any medication, birth control pills can have side effects. Some common side effects of birth control pills for acne-prone skin include:
- Breast tenderness
- Mood changes
- Weight gain, which is now predominantly water retention
- Spotting or breakthrough bleeding
- Decreased libido
It’s important to note that not everyone will experience these side effects, and they may go away after a few months of use. If you experience any severe or persistent side effects, talk to your healthcare provider.
There are many brands of birth control pills on the market today, including low-dose formulations. Nurx lists the active ingredients and their dosages on its website, so you can compare your current and potential new pills.
How to Take Birth Control Pills for Acne
To benefit the most from birth control pills for acne, it’s important to take them as directed by your healthcare provider. Most birth control pills come in a 28-day pack, with 21 active pills and 7 inactive pills.
If your acne is a symptom of PMS or appears upon ovulation, take one active pill each day for 21 days, followed by the inactive pills for 7 days. During the inactive pill week, you will have your period. You must take the pills at the same time every day to maintain their efficacy. If you experience acne during your period, extended use may be best.
In the case of acne that appears around ovulation, you can still benefit if you need low-dose birth control pills to avoid side effects. New research shows that the estrogen dose of common pills can be reduced by 90%, and progestins by half, and you will still see suppression of ovulation .
Tips for Using the Best Contraceptive Pills for Acne-Prone Skin
Here are some tips for using birth control pills for acne-prone skin:
- Be patient. It can take several months for birth control pills to start working on acne.
- Use other acne-fighting products in combination with birth control pills, including a quality cleanser and toner.
- Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience any side effects.
- Take your birth control pills at the same time every day to maintain their effectiveness.
- Consider using a pill reminder app or simply a phone alarm to help you remember to take your pills.
Alternatives to Birth Control Pills for Acne Treatment
If birth control pills aren’t the right option for you, there are other acne treatments available. Some alternatives to birth control pills for acne treatment include:
- Topical retinoids
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid
Besides birth control pills, Hers also stocks treatments for acne. They’re available by prescription, too, so you can be assured of a health professional’s clearance.
Dietary changes, such as reducing non-fermented dairy intake, may also be beneficial.
Skin cells that contain keratin or produce sebum, a protective waxy substance, are all stimulated by insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).
Milk consumption increases IGF-1. If birth control pills and topical treatments aren’t enough alone, consider finding non-dairy alternative sources of calcium and protein. Fermented dairy, such as yogurt or kefir, may also be superior .
Here are common questions you may have when weighing up your birth control options for acne.
What Is the Best Contraceptive Pill for Acne?
Contraceptive pills that contain drospirenone or norgestimate as the progestins are the best birth control pill brands for acne. Minipills, which only have progestins, are more likely to be ineffective.
How Long Does Birth Control Take to Clear Acne?
As your menstrual cycle involves a pattern of hormones extending over a one-month period, it may take one to three months to see the full benefits of birth control for acne.
Is It OK to Take Birth Control for Acne?
Many thousands of women safely take birth control pills for acne, whether it is inflammatory or non-inflammatory. If you’re worried about side effects, low-dose options are available.
Best Birth Control for Acne: Conclusion
Acne-prone skin can be frustrating and challenging to deal with, but birth control pills can be an effective way to manage this condition. Combination pills are best but may be unsafe if you are at risk of blood clots or other cardiovascular issues.
As every woman is different, the best birth control for acne is unique to you. Hers, Medzino, and Nurx give you a wide range of options, and can conveniently help you switch pills if your first prescription isn’t right.
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