Hormonal treatments are extremely effective for treating acne. These pills – spironolactone and the oral contraceptive pill – can work apart or together to clear the skin of hormonal acne. They work by inhibiting the amount of sebum produced on the skin, thus limiting the chance for pores to clog.
Hormonal treatments can require several months to take effect – typically about three months. Additionally, they are only available for women, and patients must be of a certain age and physical maturation to start these treatments. But while there are more limitations on hormonal treatments for acne than on other methods, these can be extremely effective at clearing skin. If you’re interested in finding out whether you’re a good candidate for hormonal acne treatments, talk to your doctor.
How Do Hormonal Acne Treatments Work?
Hormonal treatments for acne work on only one acne cause: excess sebum. Because hormonal treatments limit excess oil production through the sebaceous glands, they will not work as well against contact-caused acne (acne mechanica) or acne that has become infected. If you have other acne causes, your doctor may prescribe another form of treatment – like topical medications or antibiotics – alongside hormonal treatments.
Still, hormonal acne includes a variety of mild, moderate, and severe forms of the condition. Hormonal therapies have been shown to improve whiteheads, blackheads, cystic acne, and nodular acne. This can be a great treatment option for those looking for most types of acne relief.
Spironolactone Treatment for Acne
Spironolactone, a medication used to treat high blood pressure, can effectively treat deep-seated acne, especially that on the lower face, neck, and jawline. The hormonal treatment is extremely effective; in 85 women who used this acne treatment method, researchers found that one third of women had complete clearing and one third had noticeably less acne. Only around 7 percent of the sample saw no improvement.
Spironolactone is an androgen blocker, which means it blocks the male sex hormone responsible for creating some forms of hormonal acne. Additionally, it delivers a small amount of progestin, which has been shown to improve acne. When combined, these hormonal changes can work to block excess sebum production – a main cause of acne.
Taking spironolactone alongside the birth control pill can increase effectiveness, but it is also typically required. If you get pregnant while taking spironolactone, the baby may have serious birth defects. However, if you are over 35 years old, you should be clear to take spironolactone without the birth control pill. Talk to your doctor about your options.
Birth Control Treatment for Acne
Several studies have found birth control pills to be effective at treating acne. Specifically, the pill has been proven to effectively treat whiteheads, blackheads, nodular acne, and cystic acne. The birth control pill is so effective at treating acne that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved some oral contraceptives for the treatment of acne.
The oral contraceptive pills approved for acne treatment are “combination” contraceptives. These pills include both progesterone and estrogen. Interestingly, pills that contain only progesterone have been shown to worsen acne. It is therefore important to use a combination pill, like YAZ, Estrostep, or Ortho Tri-Cyclen. However, to receive an oral contraceptive for acne treatment, patients must meet certain criteria. This includes:
- Being at least 14 or 15 years old
- Having already begun menstruation
- Needing contraception
Like spironolactone, birth control pills can take several months to impact acne development. Still, this can be a great treatment option for people needing contraception while wanting to clear their skin.
Visiting the Doctor for Hormonal Treatments
Hormonal treatments for acne are only available with a doctor’s prescription. If any of these treatment options interest you, you’ll need to visit the doctor. The Skin Care Center of Southern Illinois is uniquely equipped to help you make this decision. Our dermatologists are well-versed in all kinds of acne treatments – from antibiotics and topical treatments to birth control pills and tretinoin. Hormonal treatments for acne are not perfect for everybody, but only a doctor can make that determination. Contact us to schedule your appointment today.