Can Birth Control Cause Acne?

Persistent acne can be one of the most frustrating health conditions, putting a damper on both your confidence and appearance. If you're a woman with acne that just can't be controlled, you're likely looking for solutions to clear up your face and get that confidence back. Fortunately, one of birth control's key benefits is clearer skin and acne control. Birth control is able to prevent acne by lowering the amount of androgens in the female body. In this article we answer the common question does birth control acne and compare the efficacy of birth control pills to that of other acne medications.

Birth Control Pill Basics

Oral contraceptives, commonly referred to as birth control pills, are popular medications that are often referred to as birth control pills. These pills contain hormones that help prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg, or help prevent sperm from reaching the egg after sex. Common side effects of the birth control pill include:

  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Lighter periods
  • Mood changes

For more information on how birth control pills work, you can visit our blog here.

Can Birth Control Cause Acne?

Birth control and acne are related, but in most cases, they are for primarily positive reasons. Birth control has been known to prevent acne by disrupting the hormone cycles that cause it. One of the primary causes of acne is androgens, hormones which exist in both women and men. Acne is very common among teenagers, with more than 70% of people in this age group experiencing some form of acne.

Birth control can cause acne in some women, although it is rare and should disappear within a few days.

Birth Control As An Acne Treatment

Birth control is a popular acne treatment because it helps regulate hormones in women. This means that it can significantly reduce the amount of androgens in the body that cause and contribute to acne. The American Academy Of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends that when trying to treat acne with birth control pills, it is best to treat it with a low androgen pill. Examples of low androgen birth control pills include the following:

  • Estrostep FE
  • Yaz
  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen

Birth Control For Mild To Severe Acne

Birth control has been shown to be effective in treating mild to severe acne in many women. You may need to take an oral contraceptive for a few months before your acne begins to clear up completely. Birth control pills are most effective on treating acne by reducing the production of serum, a substance that makes skin oily and increases acne.

If you have mild to severe acne along with other conditions such as  irregular periods, excess facial hair, or obesity, your doctor may do further testing for a medical condition called polycystic ovary syndrome or other hormonal condition.

Acne After Stopping Birth Control

Some people don't see any acne while taking birth control, but rather develop it after they stop taking birth control. This is somewhat common and should not be a cause for concern. This occurs because of the unique ways in which birth control interacts with each person's individual hormones.

Hormonal birth control pills suppress naturally-occurring hormones like estrogen and testosterone. When you stop taking birth control, these hormones come back in full force and may temporarily cause acne.

How To Treat Acne Caused By Birth Control

There are several ways to fight acne caused by birth control. The best treatment option for you can vary depending on your personal conditions, as well as the type of birth control that caused the breakout. The most common treatments for acne caused by birth control are listed below:

  • Antibiotics
  • Topical treatments
  • Laser Acne Therapy
  • Light Therapy

Check out our blog on acne treatment for a full description of all available, proven acne treatments.

The Best Birth Control Pills For Treating Acne

Although there are numerous birth control pills, some are better equipped to treat acne than others. The FDA has currently approved three popular and commonly available birth control pills for acne treatment. These include Estrostep, Yaz and Ortho Tri-Cyclen.


Estrostep is a type of birth control that contains ethinyl estradiol (an estrogen) and norethindrone (a progestin). Estrostep reduces acne breakouts by increasing sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which decreases testosterone levels in your body.


YAZ is a type of birth control that contains estrogen and a hormone called drospirenone.  Drospirenone has anti-androgenic activity, allowing it to lower testosterone and other androgen levels.

Ortho Tri-Cyclen 

Ortho Tri-Cyclen contains estrogen and norgestimate which helps to decerase acne. Like other progestins, norgestimate is shown to lower the levels of androgens like testosterone in the body, helping it to treat, prevent and control hormonal acne.

Tretinoin As An Acne Treatment

The most popular and effective prescription medication for treating acne is tretinoin. This medication is a topical cream that can be used to remove wrinkles, decrease scarring, and clear up acne. If you're looking to treat your acne, tretinoin is the medication you need. Learn more about this skin treatment in our comprehensive tretinoin blog here. 


Birth control can temporarily cause acne, although they usually do not produce severe scarring or breakouts. In other cases, birth control can actually treat acne by balancing out hormones. Other popular treatment options for birth control include the prescription medication tretinoin.


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