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The Truth About Birth Control For Acne

Updated: Feb 9

If you are a female with acne you’ve heard the notion that diving into the realm of birth control might just be the savior for your acne-ridden woes. 

It will be great, they say…just take this cocktailed pill of progestin and estrogen.They claim it's the ultimate fix for your hormonal chaos and the troublesome oil factory known as androgens. 

Don’t fall prey to this misconception of flawless skin through hormone manipulation! 

What causes Acne?

Relying on a pill as a quick fix for skin issues presents numerous problems. To kick things off, hormones may indeed spark breakouts, but they're not the sole origin of acne. Acne can be triggered by various factors like an unhealthy diet, poor gut health, hormonal fluctuations, or using low quality products, it's important to note that these are not the fundamental causes. 

The primary culprit and underlying cause of acne is follicular hyperkeratinization. Follicular hyperkeratinization is when the lining of your pores hyper-shed dead skin cells. 

What creates the acne response is when these rapidly shedding cells are mixed with an overproduction of sebum (oil), creating a problematic keratin-sebaceous plug in the pore. 

So, where does the excess oil come from? 

This is where hormones come in. Androgens (testosterone) have been identified as primary drivers for increased sebum (oil) production from the sebaceous glands. This explains how acne may worsen during puberty, menstrual cycles, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) - when hormones are raging. 

Listen up: Follicular hyperkeratosis, sebum, propionibacteria, and inflammatory reactions are the most important factors leading to acne.

Now when the clogged pores full of dead skin cells and oil get affected with multiple other factors such as bacteria, gut inflammation, poor diet, eating dairy, pore clogging skincare, we get inflammation leading to severe acne. It's a recipe for disaster.  

As we have discussed on this blog before, acne can either be inflamed (i.e. with pus, like pimples, pustules, cystic, hormonal, etc.) or not (i.e. blackheads, clogged pores). You can read more about types of acne here.

The type of acne you have all starts with follicular hyperkeratinization and then other factors come into play: hormonal triggers, oil production, bacteria, gut health, dietary factors, irritation, ect. 

Addressing only a single factor behind acne, such as hormones with birth control, isn't sufficient. Achieving lasting freedom from acne and maintaining clear skin requires a comprehensive approach, encompassing clean eating, skin treatments, a diligent home care routine, reducing oil production, an overall healthy lifestyle, and balancing hormones.

Birth Control is a Band-aid Approach

Whenever a client mentions that her dermatologist has solely recommended contraceptives to combat acne, especially if she's a teenager, it makes me cringe because it’s routinely used as a band-aid approach. The pill is a great tool for contraception if you are sexually active, but it should not be used solely to treat acne. 

The birth control pill doesn't actually balance hormones; it merely conceals the symptoms they are causing. (The symptom being androgens (testosterone) producing excess oil.) The root cause of the acne, follicular hyperkeratinization continues on.

Oral contraceptives function by interrupting your body's natural hormone cycle, effectively regulating oil production by suppressing testosterone temporarily. Upon deciding to stop taking the pill, women often discover themselves once again contending with excess oil production that had been concealed by the pill. 

When you stop taking the pill an androgen rebound takes place. The androgens, particularly testosterone, come roaring back after being suppressed for an extended period. The surge in androgens prompts an overproduction of sebum, ultimately leading to the redevelopment of acne. Yes, post-pill acne is a real thing. 

Get Clear and Stay Clear. For Good.

By now, you likely understand that there's no miraculous pill you can take to permanently banish your acne. Getting clear is a balance. I’m not saying don’t take the pill. I just want you to understand that the pill is not a long term solution. The Clear Skin Solution Acne Program is all about getting you clear, for good. 

My approach varies by patient but can include: a strong daily at-home regimen with active ingredients like retinol to normalize follicular keratinization, Linder Health chemical peels to shed extra skin cells, LightWave LED Light Therapy to calm inflammation, and more. I work with a variety of patients - many who opt not to take medications and some taking the pill or other medications. Whatever you choose, when working with me, you gain a partner on your acne journey!

If you have inquiries about getting your acne under control with or without the pill book the Acne Clear Skin Solution (New Patient) appointment.  Together we can achieve lasting results.

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