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Is Birth Control Ruining Your Skin?

For the portion of the population for which a prescription birth control exists, we know that it can be a love/hate relationship. On the plus side, you can plan and prepare for pregnancy and the lifetime broke best friend(s) that it comes with, but then you also have to deal with a world of side effects like mood swings, weight gain/loss, and a side of skin care troubles. Decisions, decisions. Ugh, having ovaries! Am I right?

Some of the reasons for the drastic experiences those of us may have with birth control, specifically as it relates to skin care, are largely due to the type of hormones we are given. It’s important to note that birth control isn’t always prescribed as a means to prevent pregnancy. Many people take birth control to help manage hormone imbalances, female reproductive issues like endometriosis, painful periods, and even to help clear their skin!

How Birth Control Affects Your Skin

There are several different forms of prescription birth control (pill, IUD, implant, patch, etc.) but generally only two types: estrogen dominant or progestin dominant. The addition of either type of hormone can have a varying effect of the androgenic (testosterone) hormones. Higher androgenic activity is one of the triggers for acne so, when discussing your birth control options with your doctor, you want to select a form that is higher in estrogen and lower in androgen potency. This is true not just for oilier, acne-prone skin types but also for those of us who may be diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) as well.

The Best Prescription BC for your Skin Care Concerns

Below is a list of commonly prescribed birth control that is higher in estrogen and lower in androgen potency. These are the BC brands you want. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor and am providing this information to you as a resource. Please consult your physician before making any changes based on this information.

BreviconNeconTri-Nessa
DemulanOrtho TricyclenTri-Previferm
FemconOrtho-NovumTri-Sprintec
KelnorOvconXulane
ModiconPrevifermZovia
MonoNessaSprintec

Okay, so you may have been doing some sleuthing and noticed that there is only pills and the patch in the table above. Welp, that’s because those are the only forms that meet the requirements. Nexplanon (the implant) doesn’t include estrogen at all and most hormonal IUDs contain levonorgestrel, a progestin hormone that isn’t recommended for acne-prone skin at all. Copper IUDs do not have an effect on your skin. Lastly, the Nuva Ring and the Depo shot does not contain enough estrogen to help with clearing blemishes.

When talking with your doctor about birth control options, please have a thorough conversation with them. There are many factors to consider before going on birth control like potential for weight gain, understanding any and all side effects, how it may interact with your lifestyle (alcohol/wine drinkers and smokers, I’m looking at you), what your skin care concerns are, etc.

If you are currently on a form of prescription birth control that isn’t listed in the table above, consider asking your doctor if you may be a good candidate to switching to a form listed within the table. Prescription birth control doesn’t ruin your skin exactly, but it can be a trigger for breakouts. Again, this information is likely more relevant to acne-prone individuals and those with a hormonal imbalance.