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Many women experience monthly acne breakouts right before or during their menstrual periods. Others may have pimples all month but watch them get significantly worse as their periods approach. According to the Mayo Clinic, birth control pills can help control these breakouts and curb acne significantly 234. Some physicians prescribe Seasonique, a birth control pill that gives you one period every three months, as an acne treatment 4.**
Pimples pop up when your body's hormones tell your skin to produce too much sebum, an oil your skin uses to lubricate itself. Hormones called androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands within the skin to produce this sebum, which can clog your pores. Most women with acne don't have high levels of androgens, but their sebaceous glands might be particularly sensitive to the hormones.
Alesse & Acne
Seasonique, which contains the synthetic female hormones ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel, can lower your body's androgen levels, potentially resulting in fewer acne outbreaks. Seasonique, a relatively new form of birth control that received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 2006, gives you only four periods each year, instead of the normal 12. When you're on Seasonique, you take hormones every day for 84 days, and then take lower-dose pills for the next six days. The three-month combination can eliminate monthly acne breakouts and reduce your acne lesions overall.
- Seasonique, which contains the synthetic female hormones ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel, can lower your body's androgen levels, potentially resulting in fewer acne outbreaks.
The FDA hasn't approved Seasonique to treat acne, but many physicians use it for that purpose. If your doctor places you on Seasonique to control your pimples, don't expect quick results. In fact, the Mayo Clinic warns that women who go on oral contraceptives to curb their acne may see their complexions get significantly worse first 23. Birth control pills take about six months to show positive effects on acne 4.
- The FDA hasn't approved Seasonique to treat acne, but many physicians use it for that purpose.
- If your doctor places you on Seasonique to control your pimples, don't expect quick results.
Loestrin 24 for Acne
Some women experience breakthrough bleeding while on Seasonique and others complain of weight gain and depression. Women with a history of medical problems including stroke, blood clots, severe high blood pressure, migraines and certain cancers should avoid all oral contraceptives, including Seasonique. Women older than age 35 or those who smoke should consult with their physician about their risks on the drug.
Medical research indicates that oral contraceptives such as Seasonique can improve acne lesion counts. A study reported in the "Journal of Drugs in Dermatology" concluded that oral contraceptives significantly reduced acne in women after six months 15.** However, some women report on online acne forums that Seasonique made their acne much worse. If this happens to you, talk to your physician about your options. You may get better results with another type of medication.
- Medical research indicates that oral contraceptives such as Seasonique can improve acne lesion counts.
- However, some women report on online acne forums that Seasonique made their acne much worse.
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- American Academy of Dermatology: Common Acne
- Cleveland Clinic: Acne
- Mayo Clinic: Adult Acne
- Mayo Clinic: Birth Control Pills for Acne?
- American Academy of Dermatology/Skin Care Physicians: Oral Contraceptives and Acne
- Practical Dermatology. The role of oral contraceptive pills in the acne treatment plan. Updated May 2018.
- Makrantonaki E, Ganceviciene R, Zouboulis C. An update on the role of the sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne. Dermatoendocrinol. 2011;3(1):41–49. doi:10.4161/derm.3.1.13900
- Mathur R, Levin O, Azziz R. Use of ethinylestradiol/drospirenone combination in patients with the polycystic ovary syndrome. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2008;4(2):487–492. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s6864
- Słopień R, Milewska E, Rynio P, Męczekalski B. Use of oral contraceptives for management of acne vulgaris and hirsutism in women of reproductive and late reproductive age. Prz Menopauzalny. 2018;17(1):1–4. doi:10.5114/pm.2018.74895
- MedlinePlus. Estrogen and progestin (oral contraceptives). Updated September 15, 2015.
J.M. Andrews has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years. She specializes in health and medical content for consumers and health professionals. Andrews' background in medicine and science has earned her credits in a wide range of online and print publications, including "Young Physicians" magazine.