Birth Control Pills Approved for Acne

Evidence continues to mount that birth control pills help with acne. Interestingly, it has become apparent that just because a birth control pill is approved for acne, however, does not mean it will produce superior results.

First, it’s important to understand how oral contraceptives (OCs) help with acne. Almost all OCs contain an estrogen component and a progestin component.† The estrogen component helps reduce the production and expression of male hormones which can lead to acne. Depending on the progestin used, the effects of the progestin component can range from relatively inert to theoretically leading to increased male hormone levels. But the estrogen component is much stronger and outweighs progestin, thereby allowing all OCs to help with acne.

An article published in the International Journal of Women’s Health in 2010 took a look at all of the different options and research to date. As it turns out, no matter what OC you take, it will likely produce a 30-60% reduction in acne lesion count. According to the article, “Studies comparing oral contraceptives did not convincingly show superiority of one oral contraceptive to another in the treatment of acne.” They went on to note, “Compilation of evidence was difficult due to variable study designs.  More research needs to be done to draw conclusions about the comparative efficacy of different [oral contraceptives].”

In other words, it appears women who are looking for acne symptom relief with their oral contraceptive are not constrained to “approved” brands.


Important: Whether or not to embark upon hormonal acne therapy requires careful physician screening with a focus on risks and benefits.

†Note: Cyproterone Acetate (Diane, Dianette), which is a synthetic derivative of 17-hydroxyprogesterone approved for contraception in Europe and Canada but not the United States, and which can be used on its own or in combination with an estrogen component, was also considered as authors in this article drew their conclusions.



Leave a Reply

  • Acneggone

    I’d like to share my story of acne and tell you that I think I have finally found a cheap and natural way of controlling my hormones. I am a 32 year old woman and have suffered with acne since I was 19. Funnily enough I developed acne not long after cutting out red meat from my diet and sometimes I wonder if this is the reason. Anyway, like all of you, I hated my acne and it got me really down, so I took Dianette for about seven years and then Yasmin for 6. I had breaks in between but my acne always came back after a month or two, families of spots around my chin, lips and sometimes huge ones on my forehead.

    About a month ago I came off the pill yet again, mainly because my husband and I want a baby. I thought we could use protection until my body got back to normal. I started taking folic acid (as this is strongly recommended for mums to be) and was terrfied of my acne coming back, so did lots of research on acne forums and found that fish oil (not cod liver oil) is supposed to help regulate oil production. So I bought this too, which made my skin so soft and made me feel great. However, after 2 weeks I woke up with a huge spot on my chin and notoced my skin was really oily and that lots of tiny little spots under my skin were ready to pop up in the usual places.

    Frantically I researched more and more and bought some zinc and vitamin B5 (panthenoic acid) the next day. I didn’t take mega doses of B5, only 500mg (which is already 8,333% RDA), even though others recommend a mega dose. This is because I only had a few zits so far. The next day my skin was far less oily and since I’ve been taking this, my acne hasn’t come back at all! I have been taking panthenoic acid for tow weeks and my skin is clear. I still have a redd mark from that bog spot on my chin, but so what? I think for anyone who has acne and wants a more natural way of overcoming it should clear their skin first through either taking antibiotics or the pill and while their skin is clear take the following:

    Vitamin B5
    Fish oil (omega3)
    (I take Iron with vitamin C and folic acid too, but this is because I am preparing my body for pregnancy and am a pescatarian)

    I wouldn’t recommend taking more than 500mg of B5 though, maybe better do it how I did. I’m so happy, I’ve never liked taking the pill, it gives me cellulite, makes me down and physically slower. If you have acne, please take my advice. By the way, you might be thinking my skin is clear because I am pregnant, well I’m not because my period finished today (1 month after stopping the pill).

  • Ashley

    I just want to say that birth control pills vastly improved my skin. I had tried just about everything out there, including changes in diet and lifestyle, and still struggled with moderate to severe acne. I had decided fairly early on that my acne most likely was a hormonal problem, but it wasn’t until I started taking ortho-cyclen that my skin began to clear drastically. Now, more than a year later, my skin is in fabulous shape. I realize that bcps are not the solution for every woman– they can cause some negative side effects that may not be worth the positive ones– but I think that if you haven’t tried them, it’s worth a shot.

  • Kendra

    It may be true that birth control can help with acne. But be careful!!! When I stopped taking birth control pills, my skin went crazy and I have been struggling with this for 5 years. This same thing has happened to tons of girls that I know. Remember, you cant expect to be on birth control forever. At some point, you may want to become pregnant or want to stop taking synthetic hormones. So just be aware of this reality. Once you mess with your hormones, it is a difficult process to get them back in check. You may be clear not, but you also may be committing yourself to years of bad skin in the future.

  • jess

    I have polycystic ovarian syndrome and getting off birth control was the worst decision I ever made my hormones went crazy and my skin has never been worse. The only thing that has worked is alpha hydroxy face wash but I am getting more birth control ASAP

  • Lauren

    Yes, I too found that Yaz kept my skin pretty much clear until I tried going off of it…Six months later I developed severe acne and the only thing that got me clear again was Birth Control….Now I am 30 years old and STILL on Yaz. I am terrified to go off of it, however I will be starting The Regimen soon and I am really hoping that after 6 months or so on The Regimen that I can get off Yaz once again. Yaz is causing me Melasma, which I do not like, however severe cystic acne is far worse and more painful than Melasma in my opinion.

  • Melissa

    I’ve been on ortho-tri cyclen for about 6 years now starting when I was 18. I had mild acne before I went on the pill but when I started taking it, it quickly turned into horrible painful acne all over. This lasted about 2 or 3 months and then my skin cleared up beautifully and I only had occasional breakouts for the next 5 years. When I turned 23, I started getting big painful breakouts mostly around my jawline and cheeks even though I had been on ortho tri cyclen for so long. It’s been a year and it’s just getting worse so I started the regimen this week to see how it goes! It’s no fun to have been acne free through my teens and early twenties just to have problems with my skin now! I’m still on ortho tri cyclen though since I’ve been on it for 6 years now.

  • Raquel M.

    I’m from Portugal and I’ve taken Diane 35. For a year it worked but then my organism got used to it so some pimples started to appear… When I realized I was already halfway my before-the-pill acne. The kick is I gained 12 pounds… I even tried an extra supplement to the pill but it did next to nothing and I gained even more weight so I got off of everything. Not worth it, at all!

    Also tried specific pill for acne but cause me getting into a mild depression so… yeah, I don’t really trust pills for acne anymore :\

  • Erin

    I always had pretty clear skin (other than maybe a pimple or two before my period), so when I started the pill I actually broke out for the first time. I’ve tried 3 different birth control pills and have ended up with cystic acne each time and it’s been a terrible experience! I’m wondering if the patch will have better results because of the lower hormone dose because it can’t be healthy to have to take Spiro to cancel out my birth control side effects…

  • Bianca

    Someone should point out that they are not smarties. I feel as if people tout birth control pills around as if they are this cool life style product that has no side effects whatsoever. I’m probably sour grapes here because it gave me thrombosis.
    Specifically those pills that are approved to help with acne carry a significantly higher thrombosis risk, which is why there was a discussion in France not to long ago to prohibit one of them because of too many deaths for comfort. I wasn’t even on any of these approved for acne pills, and still got it. As far as the article goes, yes, they work for as long as you take them IF your acne is caused by hormonal shifts. When you come off them though, you are back to or worse off compared to before. And sometimes you come off of them without planning to, because the side effects take over your life.