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Birth Control for Acne: Is it Safe & When to Use It

Your body is amazing, but experiencing cyclic acne, or acne that shows up around your period, can make you feel less than stellar. 

Eliminating acne is challenging, and it can be tempting to reach for any solution that promises to make it go away. One solution is birth control. 

Birth control is often given to help regulate hormones and help you experience less breakouts around your period. If you’ve been considering it for your own acne, we’ll give you the information you need about how it works, whether or not it’s safe, and other options you have to battle your bumps. 

Why Am I Getting Acne?

Acne can be caused by many different stressors:

  • Bad skin care. We’re all a little guilty of not giving our skin the top shelf treatment it deserves. Whether we forget to take our makeup off at the end of a long day, or skip products that can help clarify and soothe irritation, bad skin care can set the stage for acne bumps to form. 
  • Genetics. Experts say your acne troubles could be in your DNA. If one or both of your parents had acne, your chances of developing pimples is higher. 
  • Hormones. Hormones are what set many of the processes in our bodies in motion. Without them, your body wouldn’t even be able to convert the calories you eat into energy. Hormones play a vital role in growth and development, but they are also responsible for how much sebum our skin produces. 

    Before your period, during your period, and during ovulation, your hormone levels change, which can leave your skin drier than normal. When your skin is dry, your sebaceous glands produce more oil to lubricate your skin. Additional oil can clog pores, causing breakouts that happen around the same time as your cycle. 

There are other causes of acne, but these are some of the most common offenders. You can experience acne at any age, not just as a teenager. In fact, experiencing acne just before menopause is very common. 

Breakouts that occur at the same time each month are usually the result of the hormones that control your period. Taking birth control might be a solution to help you deal with hormonal acne. Here’s what you should know. 

How Birth Control Works

Hormonal birth control works by changing the hormone levels in your body by giving your body synthetic hormones. Birth control pills contain either estrogen or progestin, or a combination of both. 

  • Estrogen containing birth control prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg during a monthly cycle. It can also reduce the amount of testosterone in your body. Testosterone can make skin more oily, so less testosterone may lead to fewer breakouts. 
  • Progestin containing birth control also prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg, and also makes the lining of the cervix thick and sticky. This helps prevent sperm from entering the uterus. 

Hormonal birth control has been circulating since the 1960’s. Originally developed as contraception, the birth control pill was later approved by the FDA as a treatment for acne. Birth control also helped users experience less cramps, more regulated periods, and in some cases a lower flow. 

Is Birth Control Safe to Use for Acne?

All hormonal birth control has side effects and carries a risk for serious health problems. 

Some of the most common known side effects are:

  • Spotting between periods
  • Nausea and stomach ache
  • Weight gain
  • Missed periods
  • Worsening acne and breakouts
  • Headaches

Most of these side effects dissipate over time. 

Taking synthetic hormones does carry a risk for more serious, life-threatening conditions like:

  • Blood clots. Numerous hormonal birth control pills and devices have been taken off the market because of reports of blood clots. 

  • High blood pressure. Having high blood pressure can place you at a higher chance of having a stroke.

  • Heart problems 

Generally, the pill is well tolerated by most. Your healthcare provider should know your medical history before helping you decide if hormonal birth control is right for you, especially if you are taking it solely to control your acne. 

When to use Birth Control for Acne

You can use birth control for acne at any age, however younger users may want to wait until their periods are well established before starting a hormonal birth control regimen. 

Because birth control carries some pretty serious health risks, you may decide that it’s not the best option for you. In addition to the immediate side effects, some studies suggest there may be a link between birth control and breast cancer. 

If you have decided that birth control isn’t a good fit for you, you should know you have other options for managing your acne. 

Other Options for Managing Acne

At Rael, we focus our efforts on supporting your body holistically. We believe the more we let our bodies do their thing, the healthier and happier they’ll be. We think periods are empowering, but experiencing breakouts can definitely put you in a big mood. 

Here are some natural ways you can deal with hormonal breakouts. 

Level Up Your Skin Care

Taking better care of yourself by using natural products and being intentional about cleansing and hydrating your skin can help you experience less breakouts. 

When your skin produces more oil, the oil mixes with dirt, makeup, and dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your skin, resulting in bumps, blackheads, and whiteheads. Keep your skin as clean as possible by using a skin care regimen that includes a cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer. 

Take a Zinc Supplement

Taking zinc may help you reveal clearer skin. Zinc is an important compound that helps your cells stay healthy and even encourages hormone production. Studies show that people who have higher levels of zinc in their bodies generally have clearer skin.

Before you start any supplement, you should speak to your healthcare provider to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

De-Stress

Work deadlines, social commitments, and navigating life mid-pandemic can give you some pretty intense feelings. You know the importance of self-care, but if you’ve been slacking on your favorite ways to de-stress, it could be causing your acne. 

Stress causes your body to produce cortisol, a hormone that can cause breakouts and make acne worse. Whether you decide to take a yoga class, spend a few minutes in meditation each day, or schedule a weekend getaway, your skin will thank you for lightening your load. 

Use a Mask

Hormonal acne sufferers can usually tell when a breakout is coming. When you know it’s on the way, you can play defense before it has a chance to start. 

Using an ultra-hydrating and soothing facial mask can help calm your skin, prevent excessive oil production, and treat it to pore cleansing ingredients that help decrease them from getting clogged. Look for masks that contain tea tree oil, a natural ingredient known for its clarifying properties. 

How to Deal with Acne When it Happens

Sometimes no matter how proactive you are, you’re going to get a blemish. Breathe deep, it’s nothing you can’t handle. When you get a spot, thank your body for reminding you how hard it is working. Then, stop that pimple in its tracks with one of these proven methods. 

  • For under the skin bumps. Under the skin bumps can be painful, red, and swollen. Resist the urge to pick or poke and instead cover the bump with a Microcrystal Spot Cover. Rael’s spot covers contain Totarol, a natural ingredient that helps fight germs and reduce a bump before it has the chance to form. 

    Tea tree oil and white willow bark help to keep the pore clean while hydrocolloid technology gently pulls out pus and oil, making your bump yesterday’s news. 
  • For visible whiteheads and red bumps. They’re unsightly, but picking them makes them worse. Cover them up with an Invisible Spot Cover designed to conceal your blemish (and protect it from your fingers) while hydrocolloid technology removes the pimple and leaves you with more clarified skin. 

Got a bump that left a scar? We can help with that, too. We’ve got solutions for dealing with acne scars that aren’t invasive and are natural and safe for your skin. 

The Takeaway

Birth control is a way of dealing with hormonal acne by regulating the hormones that cause acne so you experience less breakouts. Taking birth control comes with risks, and those risks may not make birth control the best option for everyone battling acne. 

There are holistic methods of dealing with your period-related acne that are workable and gentle on your body and your skin. You trust Rael as your holistic period care provider, and we can help you take care of your skin and deal with blemishes holistically, too. 

Be kind to your body, and your body will be kind to you. 




Sources:

Acne: Who Gets and Causes | American Academy of Dermatology 

Endocrine Function - Hormonal and Metabolic Disorders | Merck Manuals 

A Brief History of the Birth Control Pill | PBS 

Oral Contraceptive Use and Breast Cancer: A Prospective Study of Young Women | NCBI 

Evaluation of Serum Vitamins A and E and Zinc levels According to the Severity of Acne Vulgaris | NCBI 

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