Hormonal Acne Help
Acne, the most common skin disease in the United States, is not just a teenage problem. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people can experience pimple breakouts in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. In women, these breakouts often are linked to hormones, and many women say they get acne at the same time each month, in sync with their menstrual cycles. For women who experience hormonal acne, oral contraceptives can help.
Acne has several possible causes, according to MayoClinic.com. In the case of hormonal acne, hormones known as androgens stimulate the skin's oil-producing glands to make too much oil. This oil then clogs follicles and pores, causing pimples to erupt. The extra oil also provides acne-causing bacteria with the perfect atmosphere in which to grow, which leads to infection.
Oral contraceptives contain estrogen compounds, which can counter the androgen's stimulating effect on the skin's oil-producing glands and lead to less skin oil production. Oral contraceptives also tend to level out hormonal swings, which can help women who experience acne at the same time in their menstrual cycles each month due to shifts in their hormone levels.
Only three oral contraceptive brands hold U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to treat acne: Yaz, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, and Estrostep. But other oral contraceptives have the same effect, and dermatologists often have a preferred brand they use to treat acne. Regardless of brand, women who use oral contraceptives for acne treatment should not expect instant results. The medication takes up to six months to clear acne, and the condition could worsen initially.
Medical studies show that oral contraceptives are effective in clearing hormonal acne. In one study, led by Dr. Gerd Plewig and published in the journal "Contraception" in 2009, researchers compared oral contraceptives to a placebo. A total of 251 women took the oral contraceptives, while 126 took the placebo. The researchers found that women who had taken the oral contraceptives were far more satisfied with their acne clearance than the women who got the placebo; in fact, nearly 40 percent of the oral contraceptive group reported excellent results or even complete clearance of their acne.
Because oral contraceptives don't clear clogged pores or kill acne-causing bacteria, dermatologists often recommend that patients take a multi-pronged approach to their acne problem by using topical agents such as acne treatment mainstay benzoyl peroxide along with oral contraceptives. In addition, some women are not good candidates for oral contraceptives, especially if they are older or have a medical history that includes certain health conditions.
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