Does birth control cause acne?

The links between acne and contraception have long been documented, but what exactly is the relationship?
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Team Kin
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Last updated on
June 4, 2024
min read
Does Contraception Cause Acne? | Kin Fertility
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Most modern combined oral contraceptives, like the birth control pill, can actually improve acne [1].

In fact, dermatologists work with contraceptives in 3 common ways:

  • Prescribing combined oral contraceptives for the treatment of acne.
  • Making sure women who are being treated for any skin-related health issues are not compromising their contraception effectiveness.
  • Providing counsel to female patients on the types of birth control that can worsen acne.

While there is proof that progestin-only contraception can cause breakouts, there's also strong evidence that the use of combined oral contraceptive pills can effectively help treat acne [1]. So why is that? Read as we explain the connection between birth control and acne.

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition and it is estimated that 85% of Australians aged 15-24 will experience it at some point [2]. It happens when your hair follicles become clogged with dead skin cells, oil, and other residue, leading to whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules, and more.

It typically appears on the face — though it can also pop up on the chest, arms, back, and legs — and can be triggered by several factors, including hormonal changes, which is what we'll focus on in today's article.

What are androgens and how do they relate to acne?

Androgens are reproductive hormones. They're typically thought of as male hormones, but women also naturally produce a small amount.

The link between androgens and acne is clear, with studies showing that high levels of this hormone can lead to breakouts [3].

In excess, the androgen hormone makes your body produce more sebum than it needs to through the sebaceous glands, which secrete the oily substance — otherwise known as sebum — that blocks your pores and can cause hormonal acne.

Problem areas — where the sebaceous glands are most dense — include the scalp, face, neck, and shoulders.

How does contraception help acne?

When it comes to treating acne, studies suggest that you need to block the androgen receptors in your body’s sebaceous glands and ovaries [4].

Hormonal birth control pills contain 2 ingredients: estrogen and progestin. Put simply, these ingredients work together by reducing the production of androgens and blocking the hormone's action in the ovaries and adrenal glands [1]. As a result, your skin produces less oil, which should lead to fewer breakouts.

This shouldn’t, of course, be the only thing you focus on when choosing the right contraception for you and it's always important to speak with your doctor before making a decision.

But if you're keen to start using birth control for acne treatment, you should give Kin's pill subscription a try. With it, you get ongoing support from a health practitioner who will create a personalised prescription plan just for you. From there, you get your contraception delivered straight to your door 2 weeks before you run out (or earlier, if you prefer) — at no extra cost.

Simply complete a digital consult with our Aussie practitioners and you'll have your pill in no time.

Can contraception make acne worse?

Although there's a large body of evidence to show that combination birth control pills are more likely to benefit acne, this isn't the case for all hormonal contraceptives [5]:

  • A 2008 review found that hormonal IUDs, such as the Mirena, could make the user more likely to get acne due to the main ingredient, levonorgestrel [6].
  • A more recent study backed these findings with 35% of patients reporting their acne has worsened after getting the IUD inserted compared with 4% who reported their acne improved [7].

Additionally, ditching the pill can also lead to breakouts. Post-birth control acne happens as your body gets used to the hormonal changes it is going through and, as a result, ends up producing too much sebum. This type of acne can last up to 12 months and it should start getting better after the 6-month mark, though you can accelerate the process with the right skincare routine.

What's the best acne treatment?

Understanding how to treat acne might seem overwhelming at first, but the best option is a personalised treatment that uses medical-grade prescription ingredients. Say hello to Software's acne treatment.

With ingredients like retinoids to stimulate cell turnover, niacinamide to strengthen the skin barrier, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump the skin, Software's acne treatments are developed by dermatologists to target acne at the source. Simply complete an online consult and an Australian health practitioner will create a formula based on your individual skin needs and goals.

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