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Once they're in adulthood, women tend to get acne more often than men, usually because of normal hormonal swings throughout monthly menstrual cycles. But women also have an extra tool they can use to tame their acne if it gets out-of-control: oral contraceptives. The oral contraceptive Marvelon, which is not sold in the United States but is marketed in Europe, South America and Asia, potentially can help you control your breakouts.
Acne occurs when the pores in hair follicles clog with cellular debris and oil from the skin. In many cases, you can blame overproduction of oil, which occurs when hormones tell your skin to produce that oil 3. The hormones involved are androgens, or male hormones, which are present in women in small amounts throughout their monthly cycles 3. Directly before your period, the levels of female hormones fall, giving androgen hormones a chance to influence the skin's oil production levels 3. As a result, many women break out in the week before they get their periods.
Alesse & Acne
Oral contraceptives help to treat acne by decreasing the amount of circulating androgen hormones in the body, according to the American Academy of Dermatology 35. Lower levels of these male hormones leads to less oil production in the skin 3. Marvelon contains the active ingredients desogestrel and ethinylestradiol, both of which are versions of female hormones 3. As with other oral contraceptives, you'll take a pill once a day at the same time every day.
Marvelon Side Effects
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns strongly that women taking birth control pills containing desogestrel and ethinyl estradiol, such as Marvelon, should not smoke, because smoking increases their risk of serious heart problems 4. In addition, Marvelon users risk dizziness or changes in their vision, a problem that can become worse with alcohol consumption. In addition, Marvelon can cause dark patches on your face, which will become even darker if you're exposed to the sun.
Seasonique and Acne
Medical researchers report that oral contraceptives such as Marvelon can effectively treat acne outbreaks in women. In the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, Dr. H.T. Kranzlin and colleagues reported in March 2006 on a study involving 177 women who took a desogestrel-ethinyl estradiol contraceptive for four menstrual cycles 4. Compared to a control group, these women saw reduced skin oil production and fewer acne lesions at the end of the study.
- Medical researchers report that oral contraceptives such as Marvelon can effectively treat acne outbreaks in women.
- In the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, Dr. H.T.
- Kranzlin and colleagues reported in March 2006 on a study involving 177 women who took a desogestrel-ethinyl estradiol contraceptive for four menstrual cycles 4.
Dermatologists generally don't prescribe oral contraceptives to treat acne unless more conventional medications have failed to clear the skin. According to the AAD, dermatologists prefer acne treatment with benzoyl peroxide and the topical acne treatment tretinoin, sold as Avita, Renova and Retin-A, among other brands. However, if you're a woman with acne who's also seeking to prevent unplanned pregnancies, you might be a good candidate for oral contraceptives such as Marvelon.
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- Acne.org: Adult Acne
- MayoClinic.com: Acne Causes
- Acne.org: Hormones
- Drugs.com: Desogestrel-Ethinyl Estradiol
- 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.