The use of birth control pills to control acne flare ups may or may not be an effective method for you.
Usually, the first signs of acne develop during adolescence, when hormone levels begin to rise. When hormone levels surge, the sebaceous glands located at the base of each hair follicle, produce excess oil. This oil combined with dead skin cells and dirt becomes trapped within the skin's pores and acne develops.
Since acne can be triggered by fluctuating hormone levels within the body, it stands to reason that acne can appear at the various 'stages' in life when hormone levels are changing such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause. It also makes sense that controlling hormone levels may help to reduce acne outbreaks.
The use of birth control pills for the treatment of acne is an attempt to regulate hormones. It is important to understand that every human body contains both male and female hormones.
Overactive sebaceous glands are the result of rising levels of the male hormones - testosterone and androgens. Birth control pills contain artificial female hormones - estrogen and/or progestin. The theory is that birth control pills shut down the ovaries which are producing inappropriate male hormones allowing a more balanced male/female hormone mixture.
There are problems with using birth control pills to control acne. Some women may actually notice their acne worsen with the use of birth control pills until the estrogen levels become dominant.
Women who do take the birth control pill and who notice that their acne is getting worse should discuss the situation with their doctor. Different brands of oral contraception have different levels of hormones. Switching to another brand may bring acne back under control. There are several brands that may help clear up acne, but only Ortho Tri-cyclen has been approved by the FDA for treating acne.
[Update: August 2008: YAZ becomes the first and only oral contraceptive ever approved by the FDA for three distinct indications. YAZ received FDA approval as an oral contraceptive in March, 2006, and as a treatment for the emotional and physical symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in October, 2006.
YAZ also has demonstrated statistical and clinical significance in treating mood swings, irritability, headaches, feeling anxious, bloating and food cravings caused by PMDD that impact a woman’s life. YAZ has also been shown by Bayer Schering Pharma to significantly treat acne].
Keep in mind that using birth control pills for acne control is only a temporary solution. Many women find that once they stop using birth control pills, their acne returns - often worse than before.
Birth control pills can have undesirable side effects including nausea, weight gain, water retention and mood swings. There are also other more serious health risks than acne to consider. Prolonged use may increase your chances of heart attack or stroke if you are a smoker and over the age of 35.
It is for these reasons that using birth control pills for acne control should be considered only after all other treatment options have failed and always with the guidance of your physician.
Cindy English publishes informative articles and product reviews of today's most popular acne treatments. Visit the Acne Skin Care Guide. It's the first step to a clearer complexion and greater self-esteem!