Women who are dealing with acne can look to an unconventional source of relief: birth control pills. Not only can oral contraceptives help regulate menstrual cycles and prevent pregnancy, a prescription for these once-a-day pills may also be your ticket to clearer skin.
The reason our skin goes crazy during adolescence (this is true for both genders) is that our bodies are cranking out high levels of hormones such as androgen and testosterone. These sex hormones prompt glands in the skin to produce higher levels of an oil called sebum. Acne results when this excess sebum clogs up the pore along with dead skin cells.
The FDA has approved three different birth control pills for treatment of acne. All three contain a mix of the hormones estrogen and progestin. These hormones seem to lower sebum production in women, resulting in less acne. This form of treatment is usually only considered once other treatments -- such as topical options -- have failed.
There are drawbacks, however. For one, there's no guarantee it will work. Also, anyone on birth control pills runs the risk of potential side effects, from headache to nausea to high blood pressure. Women with certain health conditions (heart diseases and trouble with blood clots, for example) shouldn't take oral contraceptives at all.
If you're not into hormone treatments, we have a more natural remedy on the next page.