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The Must-Read Guide Before Trying Birth Control for Acne

Acne isn't just a part of growing up; it affects people of all ages. Unfortunately, birth control for acne has been marketed as a safe and effective treatment option for those dealing with hormonal imbalances and outbreaks.

It's not.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Taking birth control for the sole purpose of treating acne is a bad idea.

  • Birth control pills often have side effects, including weight gain, mood changes, blood pressure fluctuations, breakthrough bleeding, headaches, decreased libido, and breast tenderness. Although rare, blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and increased risk of breast cancer are among the most severe adverse effects.

  • Birth control pills can also cause acne or make it worse.

  • Skincare products like Exposed Skin Care can effectively treat acne without the costs and side effects of prescribed birth control.

When it comes to taking care of your skin, why take chances with even a 1% risk of serious side-effects from hormonal birth control pills when you can get clear and glowing complexion quickly, safely, and for a fraction of the price?

Cleansers, serums, and moisturizers combine to make an effective solution - no birth control pills required! Taking time for yourself is the perfect (and affordable) way to revamp your complexion without any unwelcome side effects.

Acne on a woman's cheek

What Causes Hormonal Acne?

An increase in androgens like testosterone can lead to increased oil production, one of the three main contributing factors to pimples. Your hormone levels may shift on their own during processes like puberty, menopause, the menstrual cycle, etc., or due to introduced hormones from something like a contraceptive method or gender-affirming hormone therapy,

Hormonal treatments against acne work to inhibit these androgens or block the receptors, decreasing sebum production. In other words, birth control for acne works by changing the levels of hormones in your body,decreasing the testosterone that impacts the production of sebum.

Here's how we see it: In order to treat acne, you don't need to change your androgen levels. If your hormones are increasing the production of oil on your face, then you don't need to change your hormones, you only need to clean up that excess oil.

Changing your hormone levels by taking birth control pills to treat excess oil and acne would be like noticing that your floor is dusty, so instead of sweeping it, you tear up all the floorboards and build a different foundation. Sure, you may end up with a cleaner floor afterward, but it was far more expensive and unnecessary than just grabbing a broom.

Instead of fighting hormonal acne by adding in other hormones via medication, change the effects on your skin causing you to get acne. Pro-Vitamin B5, which regulates oil production, can be found in the Exposed Facial Cleanser (and doesn't require entirely new floorboards).

Birth control on a yellow surface

Do I Have Hormonal Acne?

Some of the signs that your acne may be hormonal include:

  • Breakouts that occur about a week before menstruation

  • Breakouts that occur along the chin and jawline

  • Acne onset after a change in birth control method, during pregnancy, or during menopause

  • Acne that is resistant to other treatments

  • Acne that started during puberty when teenagers' bodies begin to produce androgen for the first time

If any of these apply to you, it could mean that hormonal imbalance is a leading cause of your acne.

While someone taking birth control who is also experiencing hormonal acne could experience improvement in their acne, you do not need to start taking birth control solely to treat acne. Many potential drawbacks of new medication can be avoided by trying a topical skincare regimen formulated for acne first.

Consider the Side Effects

The birth control pill comes with some serious side effects. And while the pill is effective in preventing pregnancy and treating other health problems, you should always be aware of unwanted side effects that are unfortunately quite common.

Combination birth control pills are associated with the following side effects:

  • significant weight gain

  • heightened anxiety and mood swings

  • blood pressure fluctuations

  • breast tenderness

  • potential blood clots

  • increased risk of breast cancer

  • breakthrough bleeding (bleeding throughout your cycle, not just during menstruation)

  • headaches

  • decreased libido

Many women only experience a few of these effects or none at all. However, if you have a condition that could be exacerbated by these side effects, like migraines, high blood pressure, heart disease, or an anxiety disorder, you should talk with your neurologist, psychiatrist, or another medical specialist about other contraceptive methods.

One can avoid these side effects and risks by first trying a skincare regimen designed to get rid of existing and future breakouts, like Exposed.

Millennials Are Becoming More Careful About Birth Control

Millennial patients seeking more information about hormonal contraception and control over their health landscape are coming up against a frustrating narrative in the medical field.

Without extensive data on potential side effects, some doctors ignore patient concerns instead of engaging them with adequate knowledge or resources. This leaves countless women feeling dismissed without answers at one of life's most important junctures; making informed decisions regarding birth control use.

Nevertheless, an incredible 65% of females between 15-49 years old used contraceptives from 2017-2019 according to the National Center for Health Statistics - proving that access isn't necessarily the issue: it is our lack of understanding and research surrounding what these prescriptions can do longterm if misused.

It's in large part because of this lack of understanding of the long-term effects that we think birth control for acne is not only completely unnecessary but also risky.


If you take the time and money to go see a doctor, they will most likely put you on medication even if you don't need it.

Stay Safe

If you are considering taking birth control to fight acne, you should first try an over-the-counter treatment. Exposed can be more effective than birth control without any of the unwanted side effects that can accompany prescriptions.

Don't Use Birth Control For Acne

Anti-contraceptive medications have helped millions of women treat painful medical conditions and take control of their lives by deciding when, how, and if they want to have children.

But anti-contraceptive medications are not acne medications. And it is too often that we see young women, women who are not sexually active, or women who weren't completely aware of all the side effects, taking birth control pills to treat acne when a consistent skincare routine would have been far more effective. Sure, birth control may improve acne, but it could also make you feel very bad or severely ill.

Talk To Your Doctor

With that being said, if you are already taking medication, do not stop taking it without talking to a doctor first. You may need to taper off instead of just stopping abruptly.

What Exposed Offers

To treat hormonal acne, look into Exposed Skincare. We offer Basic, Expanded, and Ultimate Kits that use a delicate balance of soothing and acne-fighting ingredients. Gentle Exposed products can keep your skin healthy and nourished as part of a comprehensive acne treatment approach.

Birth Control For Acne F.A.Q.

Can birth control pills cause or worsen acne?

Those who decide to start on birth control as an acne treatment despite the potential side effects, should be aware that birth control is not a quick fix. Your skin might even take a turn for the worse before finally improving after about six months.

Birth control pills.

What diet and lifestyle changes may help balance hormones?

  • Your hormones play an important role in your overall health. To keep hormones balanced, eat a diet full of nourishing foods like fruits and veggies or lean proteins - plus avoid overly processed or sugary snacks!

  • Exercise is also key for healthy hormone balance, with just thirty minutes most days getting you moving closer to equilibrium.

  • Throw in enough sleep (7-9 hours per night).

  • Practice stress reduction methods, including meditation and yoga.

  • Avoid environmental toxins like pesticides and heavy metals. This means choosing natural or organic products wherever possible.

  • Reducing alcohol intake can also positively impact hormone balance - moderation is key!

  • Quitting smoking isn't just good for your health; it could also be great news for maintaining healthy hormone levels.

  • Support your hormones. Consider supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, or probiotics.

What are the most common complaints from women on birth control pills?

Though OCPs, oral contraceptive pills, are often prescribed for their reproductive health benefits, some common side effects include breakthrough bleeding, nausea, and headaches.

Worse still is the risk of hypertension in healthy women or those with pre-existing high blood pressure levels who take them - on top of an increased chance of developing a stroke or heart attack, as seen in several studies.

Progestogen-only oral contraceptives could be more forgiving, but until longer-term analysis become available, it won't fully demonstrate how they affect our well-being.

Are there any situations when taking birth control for acne makes good sense?

Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are more than just a means of contraception - they can also help those with dysmenorrhea, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, premenstrual dysphoric disorder(PMDD), menorrhagia, and anemia.

For instance, OCPs may reduce the severity of menstrual cramps associated with dysmenorrhea and alleviate symptoms related to PMDD and PCOS, such as mood changes or fertility problems. In addition, by reducing the amount of blood loss during menstruation, OCPs can also lessen the risk for iron deficiency anemia!

Woman with stomach pain.

Are OCPs The Best Birth Control?

IUDs are often a better and safer option compared to birth control pills when it comes to contraception. Regarding its effects on the skin, IUDs do not make acne worse.

IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are inserted into the uterus and contain either progestin or copper in order to prevent pregnancy. Compared to other birth control methods, such as taking birth control pills regularly, IUDs have several benefits.

Firstly, they are long-term and require minimal maintenance – once inserted, an IUD can last for up to ten years, with some types lasting longer.

Additionally, since there is no need for daily action such as remembering to take a pill at the same time every day, this helps reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy due to forgetting or not having access to medication.

Furthermore, recent studies have found that IUDs are much more effective than birth control pills, with lower rates of unintended pregnancies as well as a reduction in certain health risks due to hormones.