Birth control hormones may worsen acne, finds study

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A groundbreaking study published in the June issue of the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that certain contraceptives will help people suffering from acne vulgaris but others may make it worse. The study, the largest of its kind to date, discovered that the types of hormones in any given contraceptive will determine its effect on acne.

Dermatologists have been prescribing contraceptives to treat acne for several decades, and it has been generally accepted that “the pill” helps with breakouts. However, the authors found the pre-existing research to be lacking given that there are many different hormone combinations in commonly used contraceptives. The present study examined the impact of several agents, including hormonal intrauterine devices, the vaginal ring, depot injections and birth control pills. Each of the 2,147 study participants were using a hormonal contraceptive at the time of their initial consultation for acne.

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“Our research revealed the efficacy of birth control as a treatment for acne largely depends on the specific hormones in those contraceptives,” stated lead author, Dr. David Lortscher, dermatologist and CEO of Curology. “We learned that some contraceptives can actually cause a person’s acne to worsen while others may improve it.”


  • Hormonal intrauterine devices (such as Mirena) and depot injections (like Depo Provera) worsened acne on average.
  • Participants taking oral contraceptives, such as Yaz or Ortho Tri-Cyclen, reported improvement with their acne.
  • Other oral contraceptives (such as Levora, Previfem, and Seasonale) more often did not help with acne or, in some cases, worsened acne.

“Many women make decisions about contraception without knowing the potential effects on their skin,” said Dr. Lortscher. “These results will provide better information to patients and their doctors as they make decisions about which birth control is right for them, whether they access their birth control prescriptions online via emerging technologies or in a doctor’s office.” – PRNewswire

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