Hormonal Adult Acne
Although acne most commonly occurs in teenagers, adults can get pimples too, even into their 40s, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Hormones often drive adult acne, especially in women, who experience hormonal shifts each month as part of their normal menstrual cycles. Women plagued with this type of hormonal adult acne can turn to oral contraceptives for help in taming their hormones and curbing their pimples.
Acne generally results from a combination of factors, including overactive oil glands in the skin, too much turnover in skin cells and proliferation of bacteria beneath the skin's surface, according to MayoClinic.com. In the case of hormonal adult acne, the main culprit is androgen hormones, which stimulate the skin's oil glands to produce too much oil. The oil then plugs pores and allows bacterial colonies to grow, leading to acne breakouts and inflammation.
Oral contraceptives, which contain a form of the hormone estrogen, cause the body to produce less androgen hormone, which then calms the overactive oil-producing glands in the skin, leading them to produce less oil. They also tend to make hormone swings associated with the menstrual cycle less severe, which helps to slow skin oil production. However, oral contraceptives don't curb the shedding of dead skin cells, nor do they kill bacteria, so most hormonal acne patients need an additional medication to address these problems.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has OK'd three particular oral contraceptive brands for use in treating acne, including Estrostep, Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Yaz. Dermatologists often prescribe these three brands for acne treatment in women with hormonal acne, but other types will treat acne as well, says dermatologist
Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic.
Medical research shows that oral contraceptives can treat acne effectively. For example, a 2009 study led by dermatologist Dr. James M. Maloney and reported in the "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology" compared 270 women with moderate acne who took oral contraceptives to a control group of women with similar acne. After six months, the study found a significant improvement in acne lesion counts in the women taking the oral contraceptives compared to the women taking the placebo.
Dermatologists will not prescribe oral contraceptives for every woman who suffers from hormonal acne. Poor candidates for treatment with oral contraceptives include women older than age 35, those who have a history of high blood pressure, blood clots or migraine, or those who have had breast, liver or uterine cancer, according to Dr. Gibson of the Mayo Clinic. Oral contraceptives also can cause side effects, including headaches and changes in menstrual flow. Patients considering oral contraceptives to control their hormonal adult acne should speak with their physician to determine if they are good candidates for treatment.
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