Which contraceptive pill is best for acne?

Dr Kathryn Basford

Medically reviewed by

Dr Kathryn Basford

Last reviewed: 18 Feb 2022

You can use the contraceptive pill to treat different conditions, but which contraceptive pill is best for acne?

Many contraceptive pills will help clear up acne within a few months. Taking the time to understand the difference between each type of pill will help you choose the right treatment for you.

There are also acne treatments you can use alongside the contraceptive pill to clear your skin faster. You can speak to a doctor for advice on the best combination to use.

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Does the contraceptive pill help with acne?

The contraceptive pill can help with acne. You might see acne come up as pimples, spots, blackheads or whiteheads on your face. Acne can sometimes affect your chest or back too.

These spots are caused by an imbalance in hormones called androgens. Testosterone is a type of androgen that can lead to acne, and the contraceptive pill can help control how much of it you produce.

When there’s too much testosterone present in your skin cells, your oil glands will make more sebum (oil). The extra sebum can mix with natural bacteria found on your skin, as well as dead skin cells, and block your hair follicles. This leads to inflammation, pain, and swollen or red skin that you see as acne.

The contraceptive pill treats acne by reducing the level of androgens in your skin. As a result, your skin cells will make less sebum, so your skin will feel less greasy and you’ll have fewer spots.

This is why it takes a few months for the contraceptive pill to help with acne, but it’s worth the wait.

Which contraceptive pill is best for acne?

The combined pill is the best contraceptive pill for acne. The active ingredients are man made hormones similar to the natural hormones in your body.

The combined pill contains a type of oestrogen and progestogen. This differs to the mini pill which contains only progestogen.

As the mini pill does not contain oestrogen, this is what makes the combined pill more effective at treating acne.

Your skin and body may respond differently from one contraceptive pill to another. You may need to try more than one type of pill, and we recommend you use a pill for at least 3 months to see how you get on with it.

If you feel the pill is not helping with your acne, you can easily switch to another pill. Another alternative is to use acne treatments, like creams or antibiotics, to resurface your skin and kill bacteria.

How the combined pill helps with acne

The hormones in the combined pill help with acne in 2 different ways:

  • oestrogen blocks the production of sebum
  • progestogen reduces the amount of testosterone

Research shows that some combined pills have a slightly better effect on acne than others. These include pills that contain drospirenone, such as Lucette and Yasmin, or norgestimate, such as Cilique.

Combined pills that contain the progestogen called levonorgestrel may cause acne as a side effect. This is because levonorgestrel has a higher androgenic activity than other progestogens. So levonorgestrel can cause an increase in testosterone in your skin that leads to more oil production and spots forming.

Levest and Microgynon 30 both contain levonorgestrel. If you’re currently taking these combined pills and are struggling with acne, consider switching to a different pill.

How long will it take for the pill to clear up acne?

It will take around 2 to 3 months for the pill to clear up your acne. This is because levels of hormones in your body need time to adjust, so you have less testosterone in your skin.

You can support your skin by keeping up a good skin care routine, eating healthily and drinking enough water each day. If you want to see faster results, you can use other acne treatments at the same time.

Using other acne treatments at the same time

You can use other acne treatments at the same time while using the contraceptive pill for acne. Other acne treatments are available as creams, gels, lotions, and antibiotics.

Taking an antibiotic acne treatment can help kill bacteria that may be causing acne on your skin. For more effective treatment, you can combine an antibiotic, such as lymecycline or erythromycin, with a retinoid.

Adapalene and tretinoin are examples of retinoids that help you reduce oil production to prevent spots. And to even out your skin, you can use a peeling agent, like benzoyl peroxide, to reduce acne scarring.

If you’re unsure about taking the pill at the same time as other acne treatments, speak to a doctor or pharmacist.

dr-kathryn-basford.png
Medically reviewed by:
Dr Kathryn Basford

Dr Kathryn Basford is a qualified GP who works as a GP in London, as well as with ZAVA. She graduated from the University of Manchester and completed her GP training through Whipps Cross Hospital in London.

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Article created: 12 Nov 2021

Last reviewed: 18 Feb 2022

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