Birth Control For Acne: How It Works

If you’ve ever had acne, you know how frustrating it can be to find the right treatment. Acne is a common condition that occurs when the hair follicles in the skin become clogged with oil or dead skin cells.

Acne affects almost everyone at some point and usually goes away by the time people hit their 30s. Acne often appears on the face, chest, back and shoulders. Teenagers are at the highest risk of developing acne.

Some birth control pills (oral contraceptives) have been approved to treat acne in women. Since acne is affected by hormones in the body, stabilizing these hormone levels with oral contraceptives can be beneficial.

This article describes how birth control pills can reduce acne and which ones to try.

Virojt Changyencham

How birth control pills work

Birth control pills are oral medications that prevent pregnancy. These drugs contain the hormones progestin and sometimes estrogen. The pill works by stopping or reducing ovulation (the release of an egg from an ovary) to prevent pregnancy. These drugs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Birth control pills are commonly used in the United States. From 2015 to 2017, an estimated 12.6% of women aged 15 to 49 used oral contraceptives.

In addition to preventing pregnancy and helping with acne, oral contraceptives can also help treat:

All birth control methods have both benefits and risks. Never change the method you use without first talking to your doctor.

hormones and acne

The hormones in our body can have a major impact on our skin. Hormone-related acne can occur when hormonal changes increase the amount of oil produced in your skin. Acne occurs when the pores are clogged and an excess amount of oil quickly clogs the pores.

In women, hormone levels change naturally over time. Your hormones change during menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and every time you start or stop birth control pills.

Approved pills for acne

There are four brands of oral contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of acne. All of these pills are combination drugs that contain both progestin and estrogen. The progestogen-only pill (the mini-pill) has not been shown to be effective for acne.

FDA-approved birth control pills for acne include:

  • Yaz (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol)
  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen (ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate)
  • Beyaz (drospirenone, ethinyl estradiol, and levomefolate)
  • Estrostep FE (ethinyl estradiol, norethindrone acetate and ferrous fumarate)

side effects

Oral contraceptives have potential side effects and complications that need to be considered before starting a new routine. Common side effects are:

  • breast tenderness
  • spotting between periods
  • a headache
  • nausea
  • irritability

More serious complications can include:

When to talk to your healthcare provider

If you’re curious about whether birth control pills might work well for you and your skin, talk to your doctor. They can make specific recommendations and discuss your risk of side effects or complications.

Keep in touch with your doctor once you start taking birth control pills regularly. Tell them if you have any side effects. Keep in mind that it may take about two to three months before you see any improvement in your acne.


Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point in their lives. Birth control pills are oral medications that use hormones to prevent pregnancy. Because hormones play a role in the development of acne, combination contraceptive pills that contain both progestin and estrogen have been shown to be effective in treating acne.

A word from Verywell

If you’ve been struggling with acne for a few weeks or years, you most likely want to get rid of it as soon as possible. This common skin condition can affect your self-image and quality of life, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. Ask if an oral contraceptive can be helpful and what types of side effects to expect.

frequently asked Questions

  • How long does it take for birth control to clear up acne?

    Birth control pills usually take about two to three months to clear up acne and improve the appearance of your skin.

  • Can Other Birth Control Methods Treat Acne?

    Currently, only combined oral contraceptives (containing both progestin and estrogen) are approved for the treatment of acne.

  • How effective are birth control pills?

    Birth control pills have been shown to be effective in improving blackheads, blackheads, pimples, and acne bumps.

  • What home remedies are there for acne?

    There are several steps you can take at home to treat or even prevent acne, including:

    • Wash your face twice a day.
    • Use a gentle cleanser that won’t irritate your skin.
    • Never scrub or rub your skin too hard.
    • Avoid touching your face as much as possible.

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