Recommended Oral Contraceptive for Acne
Over half of all women between ages 20 and 29 suffer from acne, and for some it continues into their 40s, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports. It is a much more common problem in adult women than in their male counterparts, and hormones are often to blame. Traditional treatments such as medicated creams and lotions usually help, but some women use an additional weapon against acne: oral contraceptives.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved several oral contraceptives for treating acne. Normally they are used for women who want to prevent pregnancy with birth control pills and who are also having acne problems. The approved pills are Yaz, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Estrostep. However, most low-dose oral contraceptives will help acne, so doctors may prescribe another type that does not have specific approval.
Oral contraceptives are most effective at fighting acne that is worsened by hormones, so this is their main recommended use. Acne.com explains that doctors look for certain symptoms to see if hormones are playing a role. These include outbreaks that start or worsen just before a woman's period, a high androgen level in the blood, irregular periods and hair growth in strange places.
Oral contraceptives fight acne by suppressing androgens that are produced by the ovaries during the menstrual cycle, Acne.com states. This is done by the low doses of estrogen in the pills. Some newer pill types, like Yaz, also have progestins that are less androgenic than those found in older formulations. This makes them even more effective as an acne treatment so they are the most frequently recommended type.
The AAD advises that oral contraceptives only treat one specific acne cause so they may not be completely effective. They help reduce excess oil production, but do not slow down skin cell production or kill bacteria. They are often used in combination with other treatments that attack multiple causes, like benzoyl peroxide or retinoids, for maximum acne control.
All of the oral contraceptives recommended for acne treatment have certain risks and should not be used by some women. The AAD explains they are used most often for women under age 35 and those who do not smoke. They are also best for women who do not suffer from migraine headaches or have high blood pressure. Risks posed by birth control pills include an increased incidence of breast, cervical or liver cancer, elevated blood pressure and heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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