About 50 million Americans get pimples every year, so many people are searching for a way to conquer their acne, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Americans spend upward of $1.2 billion annually on various acne treatments. If you're a woman, you have an advantage over men with acne: You can take oral contraceptives such as Loestrin 24 to help control your acne.
Dermatologists consider acne a hormonal condition, and male hormones such as testosterone are the problem, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These hormones make the skin produce too much oil, which then causes acne. Loestrin 24, a newer type of birth control pill, contains female hormones, and these tend to counter the effects of male hormones on the skin, leading to less oil.
Loestrin 24 contains the hormones ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone, which researchers have studied to treat acne as well as for use in birth control. You should only take this pill for acne if you don't plan to become pregnant anytime soon, as its main purpose is to prevent pregnancy. Women must take oral contraceptives once a day, and many find it helpful to develop a routine around them to remember to take them.
Although millions of women take birth control pills, they do carry some potential risks and side effects, according to Drugs.com. Most important, you shouldn't take Loestrin 24 if you've ever had breast or uterine cancer, blood clots or other cardiovascular disorders. When you start the pills, side effects can include breast tenderness or nausea. Some women develop freckles or even find their skin darkens when they take Loestrin 24 for acne treatment.
Medical research has found that ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone, the two hormones in Loestrin 24, can help to reduce acne lesions in patients. Researchers compared birth control pill treatment to treatment with a placebo in women with moderate acne for a 2009 study from the firm Cherry Creek Research, Inc., published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. After six months, the women taking the birth control pill had a significant reduction in their pimples.
Dermatologists don't consider oral contraceptives such as Loestrin 24 to be the first line of defense against bad acne, even for women whose pimples worsen every month right before their periods. So your doctor may recommend other acne treatments before giving you a Loestrin 24 prescription. In addition, many women taking birth control pills for acne find their zits worsen initially, and it can take about six months to see an improvement in skin when you're taking Loestrin 24 or another oral contraceptive for acne.