I have acne that doesn't clear up when I use medications or creams. Could birth control pills help?
Answer From Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.
Yes, birth control pills (oral contraceptives) can improve acne in women.
Though typically safe and effective, birth control pills for acne (combination estrogen-progestin pills) aren't for everyone. Side effects can include headache, breast tenderness, nausea, weight gain, breakthrough bleeding and a slightly increased risk of blood clots.
Talk to your doctor about how your health history and age may affect your risks with birth control pills for acne.
Don't take birth control pills for acne if you:
- Are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
- Haven't reached puberty
- Are over age 35 and smoke
- Have a history of migraines
- Have high blood pressure and vascular disease
- Have a history of heart disease
- Have a history of breast cancer, undiagnosed abnormal uterine bleeding or liver disease
- Have a history of blood clots
July 27, 2017
- Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo (norgestimate/ethinyl estradiol) tablets (prescribing information). Beerse, Belgium: Janssen Pharmaceuticals; 2017. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2015/021241s025lbl.pdf. Accessed July 24, 2017.
- Which birth control pills can help reduce acne? PubMed Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072393/. Accessed June 28, 2017.
- Habif TP. Acne, rosacea, and related disorders. In: Clinical Dermatology: A Color Atlas Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 28, 2017.