Clear Up Acne By Taking Birth Control Pills (Oral Contraceptive Pills)

Clear Up Acne By Taking Birth Control Pills (Oral Contraceptive Pills)

I have talked about many ways to clear up acne and one particular ‘unnatural’ way to clear up acne is becoming popular especially among teenagers and young women. When you have tried natural ways to treat acne, over-the-counter acne treatment products and topical prescriptive acne treatment but all in vain – you may want to go for birth control pills (oral contraceptive pills) to clear up acne and prevent future acne break outs. 

In some cases, women who are already taking birth control pills and although they may or may not notice, these women are most likely enjoying clear, smooth, acne–free skin. Research is still ongoing but since hormone levels are affected by birth control pills, they also affect your skin or acne condition.

How is acne related to birth control pills to clear up acne?

The changes in hormonal levels in us women can usually trigger or cause acne to break out. It can also make existing acne better or worse. Hormonal changes are experienced during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation and menopause. Now, all these hormonal ‘wackiness’ affect the oil glands in our skin. This ‘hormonal wackiness’ can make our oil glands produce too much oil (sebum) which in turn blocks our pores and eventually cause acne to flare up.clear up acne birth control pills

So how exactly can birth control pills clear up acne in this case? Birth control pills have hormones. Other than preventing us women getting pregnant, these ‘handy’ pills slow down sebum production in our skin glands. Less oil means less clogging in our pores. And this is exactly how these pills clear up acne – leaving us with smooth, clear skin.

Although birth control pills may work great to clear up acne effectively, these pills are usually prescribed with other acne treatment like retinoid, benzoyl  peroxide, salicylic acid or maybe an oral antibiotic.

What ingredients can you find in oral contraceptive pills that clear up acne?

Most oral contraceptive pills have synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone (hormones) and a few have just progesterone.


Estrogen builds up the lining of the uterus every month. In case we women do not get pregnant this lining ‘sheds’ during our monthly period. FSH is a hormone that ‘gets the egg released’ from our ovaries during ovulation. This pill keeps our estrogen at a level that ‘stops’ FSH from being released. Most birth control pills contain the estrogen ethinyl estradiol. Norinyl 1/50, Ortho-Novum 1/50 and their generics contain the estrogen mestranol.


Progesterone main role is to suppress ovulation. When progesterone levels take a dip, this releases FSH and leutinizing hormone – these 2 hormones cause ovulation. But synthetic progesterone or progestin found in these pills keep progesterone at a level sufficient enough to stop ovulation. Then when progestin thickens the mucus in our cervix, this makes it hard for sperms to enter our uterus.

Most birth control pills have the progestins norethindrone or norgestrel. Ortho-Tri-Cyclen and its generics contain norgestimate. Ethynodiol diacetate is found in Demulen. Desogen, Ortho-Cept and their generics contain desogestrel. Drospirenone is the progestin in Yaz and Yasmin.

Combination of Estrogen and Progestin

Most birth control pills work by combining the above two female hormones, estrogen and progestin. When both are combined, it stops ovulation, changes the uterus lining and thickens the cervical mucus.

Progestin-only Pills – Mini Pills

These progestin-only birth control pills are also called Mini Pills. These mini pills work a little differently from combination pills. Some women who are breastfeeding or have certain health conditions may not be able to take the ingredient estrogen. This is where mini pills come in handy. The main function of the mini pill is to change the uterine lining and thicken the cervical mucus (so sperms cannot enter easily). Although this may prevent ovulation, it may not be consistent – at least, not as consistent as combination pills. Some mini pills are Micronor, Nor-QD and Ovrette.

Which Birth Control Pills Work Best To Clear Up Acne?

There are many types of birth control pills out there. However, 3 types of oral contraceptives have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat acne – for women who do not have health risks that would prevent them from being able to take birth control pills.

In all cases, consult your doctor and follow your doctor’s instructions in taking these birth control pills. The FDA-approved pills are:

Estrostep 21 (norethindrone acetate and ethinyl estradiol)

Estrostep 21 can be safely taken by women as young as 15 years old and who have begun having their period. This is taken to protect against getting pregnant and to clear up acne fast. As the name suggests, there are 21 pills to be taken for 3 weeks. But this stops during week 4 so menstruation starts. Then at the end of 7 days, she starts a new pack.

Some side effects of this pill are vomiting, nausea, yeast infections, spotting and temporary infertility. The good points are less painful periods and fewer cancers of the uterine lining.

Ortho Tri-Cyclen (norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol)

Same as Estrostep 21, this pill can be taken by young women from age 15 if they have started their menstruation. They can take this pill to clear up acne and to prevent pregnancy. Each pack has 28 pills – 21 active pills for the first 3 weeks and 7 inactive pills for week 4. By the way, inactive means these pills have no hormones in them.

Some side effects of taking Ortho Tri-Cyclen are nausea, vomiting, spotting, getting head pains, feeling depressed and temporary infertility. On the flip side, this pill decreases the risk of inflammatory disease, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer.

Yasmin (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol)

Yasmin or Yaz has the above (in brackets) ingredients to clear up acne and premenstrual dysphoric disorder as well as prevent getting pregnant. Yaz has been approved for young women who are at least 14 years old and have had their first period. There is no exact or standard dosage to take for Yasmin as the doctor has to monitor and change or ‘adjust’ the dosage accordingly. And this pill also helps clear up acne.

Yasmin side effects are anxiety, chills, fevers, stomach pains, shortness of breath, nervousness, fingertips feeling numb, coughing up blood, pain in the leg, groin or chest. As these side effects are severe, do consider taking other alternatives that also work to clear up acne, with less severe side effects. 

A note, women taking Yaz who smoke and are over the age of 35, have higher risks of blood clots and high blood pressure.

Important Note

For your further information, birth control pills are not advised if you have these health conditions:

  • [list style=”cross”]
    • Blood clotting disorders
    • History of heart disease, hypertension or blood clots in your lungs or legs
    • History of cancer (breast, uterine or liver)
    • Liver disease, diabetes or migraines
    • You are a smoker and above 35 years old
    • You are currently pregnant or breastfeeding
    • You are severely obese, overweight or physically immobilized


For all cases, please consult your doctor and follow careful instructions.

You may also need to ‘prepare yourself’ to take these birth control pills which may make you feel uncomfortable due to its many side effects.

Otherwise, although ‘unnatural’ and comes with many uncomfortable and some even severe side effects, you may try taking birth control pills or oral contraceptive pills to clear up acne.

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