Most people are aware of what causes acne; pores are clogged, usually by an excess of oil, the oil traps bacteria in the pore, and that causes redness and swelling. However, the causes that trigger acne are not the same for every person. This is why a product may work wonders on one person’s acne, and has no impact on another person’s acne.
One of the major causes of acne in adults, especially women, is a hormonal imbalance. Because hormones are not balanced, this causes an excess of oil to be produced, which leads to breakouts. In addition to balancing hormones, birth control pills are known for limiting androgens, which also lead to increased oil production. Because birth control pills can help balance hormones, and reduce androgens, they are now being commonly prescribed to help combat acne in adult women. Many times when they are being prescribed for women needing acne treatment, rather than to prevent pregnancy, they can be prescribed in lower doses, which reduces the risk and severity of side effects.
Two of the most popular birth control acne medications are Yazmin and Ortho Tri-Cyclin. Both types of birth control are taken daily in the form of a pill, for twenty-one days a month, and then for seven days, a placebo is taken. It is recommended that this be taken at the same time every day for the medication to be most effective.
What are side effects?
The downside of taking birth control pills to treat acne is that there is a risk of side effects, and birth control methods tend to have a lot of them. While they are usually prescribed in lower dosages in cases when they are being used to treat acne, rather than prevent a woman from getting pregnant, side effects can still be an issue. Birth control generally tricks the body into believing it is already pregnant, which means the body stops trying to get pregnant. However, this can create a lot of changes in the way the body behaves, once it believes it is carrying a child.
Common side effects of most acne treating birth control methods include: stomach sensitivity and nausea, fluid retention and swelling of feet and ankles, weight gain, and spotting or irregular periods.
More serious, but rare, side effects are: blood clot related medical issues (stroke, heart attack, or a pulmonary embolism), coughing up blood, fainting, vision changes, and severe headaches. If any of these symptoms occur, you should get medical attention immediately.
Depending on the medication you are prescribed, and the dosage, you may also experience diminished (or non-existent) sex drive, increased appetite, mood swings, and mild depression. (These, as mentioned above, are related to the way your body changes to accommodate the fact that it believes you are pregnant.)
Does it work?
In most cases, birth control as an acne treatment is successful. The level of success tends to change from person to person, but most people saw a lessening of their acne. The issue that many people have, that keep them from continuing to use a birth control prescription as an acne medication, is that side effects often are worse than the issue they are treating.
I personally saw a reduction of my acne after taking Ortho Tri-Cyclin, but I also saw a twenty pound water weight gain, and started having wild mood swings. The Ortho Tri-Cyclin did work for my acne as it said it would, but I was miserable with my weight, and no one wanted to be around me because I was so grouchy.
Many people who had the best results from a birth control prescription as an acne treatment said they stuck with the birth control for several months, and then their body started to regulate, and many side effects went away. I will be honest, I couldn’t stand the side effects, but if you stick with it, this can be a very effective acne treatment.
As with any prescription medication, talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you. Take things like family medical history in mind, and make sure you are prepared to deal with some side effects that may last for several months.