Woman holding a birth control pill

Acne is one of those common skin conditions that nobody likes to discuss. It's annoying and embarrassing, but it can be challenging to treat and even figure out what’s causing it! 

That’s why many women turn to birth control as a potential solution for their acne woes — if it helps protect against pregnancy, maybe it could also help with clearing up your complexion. But how reliable is this method really? 

Let’s explore together all the doubts surrounding birth control pills as an acne remedy — from myths, and misconceptions, to real recommendations from doctors — so you can make an informed decision about whether or not they are right for you.

What is acne?

Ah, acne. That pesky little thing seems to only target our faces when we have important events coming up. 

But what exactly is acne? Well, acne vulgaris (fancy term for common acne) is a skin condition that affects women of all ages. It's caused by a mixture of things like genetics, hormones, and even stress. 

Acne likes to manifest itself as those little bumps and blemishes we all dread, but it can also come in the form of blackheads, whiteheads, and even painful cysts.

What is birth control?

Ah, the miracle of modern medicine - birth control. For women who want to take charge of their reproductive health, the little pill packs a big punch. But what does birth control do to your body and how exactly birth control pills work? Well, let's dive in. 

Most hormonal pills are combination birth control pills, which contain estrogen and progestin, and they work together to prevent pregnancy. The hormones suppress ovulation, which means no egg is released from the ovaries to be fertilized by sperm.

Additionally, a combination birth control pill thickens the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to swim upstream. It's like a hormone-powered fortress protecting your baby-making parts.

However, birth control pills should typically be used as part of a comprehensive acne treatment plan, possibly including topical treatments or other medications, rather than as a standalone solution. Also, birth control pills aren't suitable for everyone and can have side effects, which we are exploring later in this article. 

Always consult with a healthcare provider to discuss the best acne treatment options for you.

When does my doctor prescribe oral contraceptives to treat acne?

Are you asking yourself, “When is the right time for my doctor to prescribe birth control pills as a treatment for acne?” This is a common question that many women who experience the frustration and insecurity of acne will ask. 

Well, have no fear because we are here to answer all your questions about when it’s time to use oral contraceptives as an effective treatment option for acne. It can be daunting even considering taking hormonal medications and you want to make sure you make the best decision possible with your body in mind.

Read on to discover when your doctor prescribes oral contraceptives to help treat acne

1. Ineffectiveness of Other Treatments

If topical treatments or oral antibiotics have not been effective in managing your acne, your doctor might consider prescribing oral contraceptives as a next step.

Oral contraceptives, commonly known as birth control pills, can be an effective treatment for acne in some cases due to their impact on hormones. 

Acne is often caused or exacerbated by hormonal fluctuations, particularly those involving androgens like testosterone. These hormones stimulate the production of sebum, an oily substance that can clog pores and lead to acne when produced in excess.

Birth control pills contain estrogen and progestin, two hormones that can help balance out androgens in the body. By reducing the levels of androgens, birth control pills can decrease sebum production and thus help manage acne.

Moreover, oral contraceptives can also reduce inflammation, another major factor in the development of acne.

2. Hormonal Acne

This type of acne is directly linked to hormonal fluctuations, which commonly occur during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, or due to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Hormonal acne often presents as deep and painful cysts or nodules around the chin, neck, and back.

3. Moderate to Severe Acne

Oral contraceptive pills can be an option for individuals with moderate to severe acne, particularly when it's causing physical discomfort or emotional distress.

4. Inflammatory Acne

Birth control pills can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial for inflammatory acne. This type of acne includes pimples that are red and swollen, such as papules and pustules.

5. Acne Vulgaris

This is the medical term for common acne, which includes whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Hormonal birth control can help regulate hormones and decrease the production of sebum, helping to prevent these types of breakouts.

Other benefits of birth control pills

No matter your reasoning, it’s important to be aware of how something as simple as a pill every day can dramatically affect your life – both positively and negatively. From reducing acne breakouts to decreasing cramps, there are tons of ways that “the pill” can be beneficial if used properly. 

Let us tell you more about the benefits of taking birth control pills!

  • Regulation of Menstrual Cycles: Birth control pills can help regulate menstrual cycles, making them more predictable.
  • Lighter and Less Painful Periods: The pills can often reduce the amount of bleeding and the level of pain associated with menstruation.
  • Control Acne: Certain types of birth control pills can help control acne and result in clearer skin.
  • Lower Risk of Certain Cancers: According to America’s National Cancer Institute, long-term use of birth control pills has been associated with a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.
  • Relief from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): The hormonal regulation provided by birth control pills can reduce physical and emotional PMS symptoms.
  • Treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Birth control pills can help manage symptoms of PCOS, such as heavy periods and excess hair growth.
  • Prevention of Ovarian Cysts: By preventing ovulation, birth control pills can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cysts.
  • Reduced Risk of Anemia: By leading to lighter periods, birth control pills can lower the risk of anemia caused by heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • Treatment for Endometriosis: Birth control pills can help manage pain and reduce the severity of symptoms related to endometriosis.

Potential side effects of taking birth control pills for acne

While the studies are clear that hormone therapy is highly beneficial for hormonal imbalances associated with acne, let's take an honest and decidedly female look at what else might come up along the way—because we owe it to ourselves and our skin to understand all sides of this story!

  • Nausea: This is typically a short-term issue that usually resolves as your body adjusts to the new medication.
  • Breast Tenderness: Hormonal changes caused by birth control pills can lead to increased sensitivity or discomfort in the breasts.
  • Headaches: Some people may experience headaches, which can range from mild to severe.
  • Changes in Mood: Hormonal changes can also affect mood. Some people may experience mood swings, depression, or anxiety.
  • Weight Changes: Some people may notice weight gain or loss when taking birth control pills. However, significant weight changes are uncommon and may be related to other factors.
  • Changes in Menstrual Cycle: Birth control pills might cause lighter periods, irregular bleeding, or missed periods.
  • Bloating and Stomach Cramps: These can occur as your body adjusts to the hormones in the birth control pills.
  • Increase the risk of developing blood clots:  Birth control pills contain hormones (either a combination of estrogen and progestin, or progestin-only) that can increase the clotting factors in your blood. This increased clotting factor can potentially lead to the formation of clots, although this is rare. Certain factors can elevate your risk of developing a blood clot while on birth control pills, such as smoking, being over age 35, obesity, and having a personal or family history of blood clots.

Remember, not everyone will experience these side effects, and many people use birth control pills without any issues. 

However, if you're concerned about potential side effects or if you're experiencing severe or persistent side effects, it's important to speak with your healthcare provider. They can help you weigh the benefits against the potential risks and explore other acne treatment options if necessary.

Can birth control cause acne?

It's a common question among women. Scouring the internet for answers typically leads to articles that are either frenzied and sensationalized, or super medical-y and complicated. The truth is, not all types of birth control affect everyone in the same way; it really depends on you.

The thing is, birth control can sometimes cause acne, but it's not a universal effect and largely depends on the type of birth control and your individual hormone balance.

Birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin often help decrease acne because they can lower the amount of androgens in your body, reducing oil production in your skin, which can help prevent acne. In fact, some types of birth control pills are even approved by the FDA for acne treatment.

However, birth control methods that contain only progestin (like the mini-pill or hormonal IUDs) could potentially worsen acne in some individuals as progestin can have androgenic effects, which means it can stimulate oil production and lead to breakouts.

When you stop taking hormonal birth control, your body may experience an androgen rebound, which can also lead to a temporary flare-up of acne.

It's important to note that everyone's body reacts differently to hormonal changes, so what causes acne in one person might not cause it in another. If you're considering starting or stopping birth control and are concerned about acne, it's a good idea to discuss these concerns with your healthcare provider or a dermatologist.

Combine oral treatment with a proper skincare routine

Combining oral contraceptives for treating acne with a proper skincare routine can drastically reduce breakouts. Let us tell you the basics you MUST have for an ideal skincare routine for acne-prone skin while taking the pill!

AM Routine


Start your day by cleansing your face with a gentle cleanser to remove all the dead skin cells. If your skin is very oily or if you have active acne, a salicylic acid cleanser can be beneficial.

Gel cleanser
Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser - Asian Beauty Essentials
Gel cleanser Low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Sale price$18.00

Tone (Optional)

Toning is a step that some people find beneficial, but it's not necessary for everyone. If you choose to use a toner, look for one with AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) to help exfoliate the skin and prevent clogged pores.

Exfoliating toner
AHA BHA PHA 30Days Miracle Toner
Sale price$22.00
Exfoliating pad tone
One Step Original Clear Pad - Asian Beauty Essentials
Exfoliating pad tone One Step Original Clear Pad
Sale price$22.00


Apply any prescribed or over-the-counter acne treatment. This could be a product containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or a topical retinoid.


Even if your skin is oily, it still needs moisture. Look for a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer that won't clog your pores.

Apply Sunscreen

Sun protection is crucial every day. Look for a sunscreen that's at least SPF 30 and is labeled non-comedogenic.

Chemical sunscreen
Mermaid Skin Gel UV SPF 50+ PA++++ 01 Clear
Chemical sunscreen Mermaid Skin Gel UV SPF 50+ PA++++
Sale price$18.00
Physical sunscreen
Super Air Fit Mild Sunscreen Daily - Asian Beauty Essentials
Sale price$28.00

PM Routine


Wash your face to remove makeup, dirt, and excess oil from the day.

Cleansing foam
Matcha Biome Amino Acne Cleansing Foam - Asian Beauty Essentials
Cleansing foam Matcha Biome Amino Acne Cleansing Foam
Sale price$16.00
Cleansing foam
Wonder Pore Deep Foaming Cleanser - Asian Beauty Essentials
Cleansing foam Wonder Pore Deep Foaming Cleanser
Sale price$15.00


The process of exfoliation removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, which can clog pores and lead to breakouts. By gently scrubbing away these cells, the skin is able to better absorb any acne-fighting products you may use. 

Additionally, exfoliating can help to reduce the appearance of acne scars by encouraging new cell growth. It's important to note, however, that exfoliating should be done with care, as over-exfoliating can actually do more harm than good.

Chemical exfoliator
BHA Blackhead Power Liquid - Asian Beauty Essentials
Chemical exfoliator BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
Sale price$25.00
Chemical exfoliator
AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid
Chemical exfoliator AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid
Sale price$25.00


Apply your acne treatment product again, unless it makes your skin too sensitive. Some treatments, such as retinoids, are often recommended for use only at night.


Finish with a good moisturizer. If your skin is very dry, you might want to use a heavier moisturizer at night.

Centella Calming Gel Cream - Asian Beauty Essentials
Sale price$17.00

Find more skincare products for your acne-prone skin right here!

Acne and skincare go hand in hand. You need to have the right products to keep your skin looking its best and prevent blemishes from acting up. Keeping this in mind, our product recommendations can help you power through your acne-prone skin. 

With our selection of natural, gentle, and effective options, you can rest easy knowing that you are treating your skin kindly while also keeping those pesky pimples away.

So don't let acne get the better of you – take control today with our easy-to-navigate collection of products designed to improve your skin's health from the get-go. Ready? Set? Shop! Check out Asian Beauty Essential page now!

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