Skin Care

Birth Control and Acne – Hormonal Birth Control

The other day I received a comment on a previous post and it encouraged me to do some research on birth control and acne. I’m sure if you ever had acne as a teenage girl and went to your doctor, he or she gave you three options: topical medication, oral antibiotics, or birth control. The former options were clear to me while the latter felt obscured.

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Contraceptive methods can be roughly divided into five categories: hormonal methods, barrier methods, intrauterine device, natural methods, and emergency contraception. However, I will focus on hormonal methods and how some help while others worsen your acne.

Deciding What’s Right for You.

If you have never been on birth control and are experiencing acne, consult your doctor and ask about alternative treatments available. However, if you think this is the best option for you please be informed of the side effects it may cause you.

Birth control is not the only method available for treating acne, however, that is a personal decision that you will have to make for yourself.


Hormonal Birth Control.

Hormonal birth control use hormones to regulate or stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy. How are hormones introduced into the body? There are various methods for how hormones may be introduced into the body. Such methods include:

  • pills,
  • injections,
  • skin patches,
  • transdermal gels,
  • vaginal rings,
  • intrauterine systems, and
  • implantable rods.

The Pill.

Keep in mind that acne is triggered by an excess production of sebum. Sebum is an oil produced by glands in your skin. Androgens are a group of hormones that include testosterone, which stimulate your skin to produce sebum.

Most of the people that I know that use birth control to reduce their acne are usually on the pill. Why does the pill help in reducing acne? The reason is that the hormones in certain pills decrease the circulation of androgens, which decreases the production of sebum. However, for the pill to be effective, it must contain both estrogen and progestin. If it only contains progestin, it will more than likely not improve acne.

The Implant.

The birth control implant (Nexplanon) is a tiny, thin rod about the size of a matchstick. The implant releases progestin, a hormone that keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens your cervical mucus—which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. For more information please visit: Planned Parenthood.

The common side effects of Nexplanon consist of:

  • Acne
  • Depression and other mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Abdominal pain or nausea
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding
  • Breast pain, back pain, or headache
  • Vaginitis
  • Dizziness

Why is acne is common side effect of Nexplanon when birth control is suppose to help reduce acne? The reason is that Nexplanon contains the active ingredient etonogestrel, which is mainly progestin. However, if you recall the pill contains both estrogen and progestin. In order for birth control to be effective for acne it must contain both ingredients.

Both hormones may effect the amount of oil produced by the glands on the face. Therefore, if a woman is prescribed Nexplanon it will be to prevent pregnancy rather than to prevent acne. However, because of its side effect she may begin to experience acne.

Most birth control methods take time for you to see if it works for you or if it is not working. You will also hear, “it could get worse before it gets better.” However, if acne continues after six months you will need to go back to your doctor and ask about other alternatives.

When One Side Doesn’t Fit All.

You can explore other options if you aren’t interested in birth control. Talking to your doctor can help you determine various treatment plans for your skin condition. A few recommendations:

  • drink lots of water,
  • decrease your level of stress,
  • remove your makeup at night, and
  • don’t be ashamed of how you look.

One thing I was told during this phase of my life was that acne comes and goes. What you eat matters, genetics matters, how you handle stress matters, but at the end of the day it’s not an incurable disease. One day you will wake up and acne will be over, for good! Learn to appreciate how you look and know that acne will eventually go away!

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If you have any questions or would like to offer any insight you have gotten over the years, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear all about it!

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  1. Tama says:

    I’m happy I found your post! I’ve been looking for an alternative to the pill to help with my acne. Thank you!

    1. Hi Tama,

      However, the implant is not an alternative for the pill. In fact, the implant may actually cause acne. Please let me know if you have any questions.

  2. Matt's Mom says:

    So great to know there are other choices that don’t give me acne. I had honestly not heard of all these options. Wondering where I have been lately, LOL. Great information, thank you!

    1. Hi Matt’s Mom,

      Thank you for reading my article. There are so many options nowadays, I learned about a few as I wrote this article. Furthermore, the pills are best prescribed to treat acne while the implant is prescribed to avoid pregnancies. Which may actually cause acne. There are many reason why women get on birth control nowadays.

  3. Mira says:

    Hey Nia!

    Thanks for this great article! I have fought with my acne about a year now and it is coming from implantable rods. I have noticed that since I stopped eating sugar, my skin has been better. Also cleaning and hydrating my skin properly has helped a lot 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Mira! I’m glad you were able to figure out a way to prevent acne after getting the implant.

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