Friday, February 8, 2013

Acne Treatment - Are Oral Contraceptives Effective?

We all know that hormones are responsible for the appearance of pimples in adolescence and sometimes in adulthood. One way to control hormones is to use oral contraceptives, which are popularly known as birth control pills. They have become a popular acne treatment option for women. The big question is whether they work.

How Oral Contraceptives Work

There is a group of hormones called androgens, which cause an increased production of sebum (skin oil). The extra sebum cannot get fully released through the skin pores and it clogs them. The clogged pores contain a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells so they are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This results in zits and the need for acne treatment.

The ovaries and the adrenal gland of women produce a fairly small amount of androgens. However, this amount can increase during adolescence, before menstrual periods and during pregnancy. This can lead to the appearance of pimples.

The oral contraceptives contain the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. They work to reduce the amount of androgens produced in the body. As a result, the production of sebum is also reduced and so is acne.

It is worth pointing out that oral contraceptives can be used for acne treatment only by women, who require them for contraception. Basically, the skin treatment is just a side effect. Furthermore, only three types of birth pills have been approved for this type of side treatment by the US FDA. They are typically used for treating moderate to severe cases of acne.

Possible Side Effects

Just like all pills, the oral contraceptives have side effects. The main immediate ones include breast tenderness, spotting, nausea, dizziness and mood swings. In the long term, there is a higher risk of hypertension, migraine, liver disease, gallbladder disease and depression.

It should be noted that the modern birth control pills are designed to cause minimal side effects. When they are taken as required under the supervision of a doctor, the risks associated with them are reduced to the possible minimum.


According to doctors, patients and researchers, oral contraceptives are a good acne treatment. They help to reduce the frequency and the degree of severity of flare-ups. Even when pimples appear, they are fewer in number.

A recent study has revealed that the number of pimples is reduced by 30% to 60%. The inflammation is considerably reduced. As a result, the healing process is quicker and the risk of scars is lower.

Oral contraceptives will reduce the severity of the condition, but it takes time for the hormonal changes which they induce to take place. Hence, you will have to wait for some time to see the desired results. Furthermore, while this acne treatment targets one of the causes of the condition, it does not affect the pimples directly. This means that you will still have to use topical remedies to get rid of any pimples that appear.


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