Using birth control pills to control pimples suit women with endocrine abnormalities. This method also suits women who do not respond or are unable to tolerate more conventional therapies such as oral antibiotics, topical antibiotics and retinoids. The use of birth control pills for adult acne is also useful for women who require medical treatment to control irregular periods or who would like contraception.
The goal of hormonal therapy is to block the effects of androgens on the sebaceous glands and probably the skin cells that are lining the pores as well. This can be accomplished with the use of estrogens or a class of drugs known as antiandrogens (androgen receptor blockers).
The best birth control pills for acne contain estrogen which has been demonstrated to reduce sebum production. Oral contraceptives containing only progrestins, such as levongestrel and mederoxyprogesterone, can potentially worsen acne.
Hormonal therapy is most effective when used in conjunction with other therapies such as oral or topical antibiotics, topical retinoids, azelaic acid and salicylic acid. Birth control pills or oral contraceptives should only be used in women over the age of 16 because in younger women, birth control pills can suppress growth.
Side effects of using birth control pills to treat acne include clotting and high blood pressure. For women on estrogen therapy, breast examinations and pap smears should be done at least annually.