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Do Progestin-Only Pills Help Acne?

Acne can cause serious trouble, especially in women, as it leads to anxiety, social embarrassment, and permanent skin scarring. Many dermatologists prescribe birth control medicines as a treatment to cure acne in women. And, it has been in practice for many years. Regardless of the treatment, FDA approves only three birth control medicines for treating acne.

Do Progestin-Only Pills Help Acne?

Do Progestin-Only Pills Help Acne?

The use of progestin-only pills can help or hurt acne in women. Doctor’s usually prescribe progestin-only pills for a complete cycle of acne, which is from mild acne to severe acne.

Speaking generally, use of birth control pills such as progestin for curing acne is prescribed by a dermatologist for a healthy woman. Use of the tablets became a common activity after using other treatments such as antibiotics and topical creams. We will be addressing the benefits and limitations associated with birth control pills that have progestin component in acne treatment.

As everybody knows, acne occurs due to excessive secretion of oil by the oil glands that reside beneath the skin layer. The benefit of the oil glands is that they help in the removal of dead skin cells along with dirt and grime from the hair follicles. However, when excessive oil forms, it becomes difficult for the hair follicle to remove dirt, causing the growth of bacteria, which turn to acne over a period of time. They appear as pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, and nodules. The reason behind the over-production of the sebum is a group of hormones called as androgens.

How Does a Progestin Pill Act in a Woman with Acne?

In women, the ovaries produce lower levels of androgens. For cases where there is excessive secretion, a birth control pill will be of help because of the presence of progesterone and estrogen. These two hormones fight back and assist in the reduction of androgens produced by the ovaries. Therefore, there is a reduction is the production of the oil and acne.

When we speak about the treatment of acne using birth control pills that contain progestin, then the past decade saw a massive explosion of drugs into the market. However, only three variants received the official approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where a dermatologist can use any one of the approved birth control pills to treat acne. All the medications are combinations of different components that also have progesterone and estrogen.

On the other hand, contraceptive pills those have only progestin content can worsen the acne situation. The reason for this is because of the same level of estrogen used in different medications of birth control pills. However, the percentage of progesterone changes from one medicine to other. The variation in the amount worsens the situation or cures in some cases, which solely depends on the body type of the person suffering from acne.

The three medicines that received approval from FDA are Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Estrostep, and YAZ. All the three have progestin content and are available in different doses. A Progestin is the synthetic form of the actual progesterone released by the body. When we speak about the cure of acne using the pill containing only progestin, a doctor prescribes it for a complete cycle of acne, which is from mild-to-severe.

Is it Preferable to Switch to Progestin-Only Pills to Get Rid of Acne?

If you are already using birth control pills and they are working out fine for you, then you can skip the possibility of switching to the progestin-only medicines. However, if you are using these medications for the first time, then you can begin with the above mentioned progestin pills. However, acquiring knowledge about dosage levels is essential for effective treatment of acne.

An important factor to remember is that progestin-only pills for acne treatment can prove beneficial or worsen the situation depending on the excessive secretion of sebum. It is desirable to discuss with a dermatologist, as you would not like to leave a scar behind.


  1. “Birth Control Pills for Acne: How Hormones Affect Your Skin” – WebMD Link: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/birth-control-for-acne-treatment
  2. “Acne Treatment: Birth Control Pills” – American Academy of Dermatology Association Link: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/acne#treatment

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 19, 2023

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