We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Acne is a widespread skin condition that can affect anyone. Some people develop acne due to hormonal changes. Birth control pills influence hormones and could reduce acne in some people.

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the United States, affecting more than 70% of Americans at some point in their lives.

There are many ways to treat acne, and the American Academy of Dermatology states that anyone can experience clearer skin with effective acne treatment.

Birth control can be effective for treating acne in some people. This article provides information on how a person can find the best birth control for acne.

Combined hormonal contraceptives (CHCs) are a type of birth control pill containing the active ingredients estrogen and progestin. These hormones can prevent pregnancy by:

  • promoting thicker mucus around the cervix to keep sperm from reaching the egg
  • stopping ovulation, so there is no egg for sperm to fertilize
  • making the womb a less welcoming place for a fertilized egg

Hormonal acne is the result of hormonal changes in the body. This means it may occur at times when hormones fluctuate, such as puberty or menopause.

Clogged pores are one of the main reasons for the blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts of hormonal acne. Excessive levels of sebum oil on the skin are typically a cause of clogged pores. Changing hormone levels can lead to excess sebum production.

Birth control pills can stabilize hormones at levels that help reduce acne.

Birth control can benefit the skin by lowering androgen levels, which decreases sebum production and can reduce acne.

Along with reducing androgen production in the ovaries and adrenal glands, CHCs lower the amount of testosterone in the bloodstream. The estrogen in birth control pills also helps lower oil production by the sebaceous glands.

CHCs are effective at reducing inflammatory and noninflammatory acne.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for treating acne vulgaris:

  • Ortho Tri-Cyclen
  • Estrostep
  • Yaz

In addition, Yasmin 28 and Alessa are alternative treatments for acne. However, they currently lack formal FDA approval.

According to some studies, pills that contain ethinyl estradiol and cyproterone may be more effective at reducing acne than others.

The following are CHCs, meaning they contain progestin and estrogen and can help a person reduce acne:

Ortho Tri-Cyclen

This prescription drug is made from a combination of norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol. The amount of these hormones present in each pill varies each week. The FDA has approved it to treat acne vulgaris in menstruating people at least 15 years old.

Estrostep

This is a prescription drug with active ingredients that include norethindrone acetate and ethinyl estradiol. It has FDA approval to treat acne.

Yaz

This is another prescription combination birth control pill with FDA approval for treating acne. Its active ingredients are drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol. In addition to preventing pregnancy and reducing acne, Yaz may help treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Yasmin 28

The active ingredients in this prescription medication are drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol. People with a history of blood clotting problems should use caution if taking this medication. It currently lacks FDA approval for treating acne.

Alesse

Levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol are the active ingredients in this prescription combination birth control pill. It currently lacks FDA approval for treating acne.

The table below compares the five birth control medications listed above.

Ortho Tri-CyclenEstrostepYazYasmin 28Alesse
Ingredientsnorgestimate and ethinyl estradiolnorethindrone acetate and ethinyl estradioldrospirenone and ethinyl estradiol drospirenone and ethinyl estradiollevonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol
FDA-approved for acne yesyesyesnono
Contraindi-cations having cardiovascular problems or smoking having cardiovascular problems, diabetes, or other chronic conditionshaving blood clots having blood clotshaving cardiovascular problems or smoking

Although a prescription is necessary to purchase the best birth control for acne, it is possible to buy it through some online retailers. In addition to convenience and privacy, purchasing birth control online can sometimes be much cheaper.

These e-commerce sites typically require a person to share their health history and may include a telehealth session with a licensed medical professional. A professional will write a prescription if appropriate. The following are some of the leading websites for birth control pills:

Even the best birth control for acne has the potential to cause side effects, such as:

  • weight gain
  • tender breasts
  • nausea
  • irregular bleeding

If a person does not want to use birth control to treat their acne, they have other options. Depending on the type of acne a person has and the other treatments they have tried, a dermatologist could recommend:

Lifestyle management techniques can also help people manage acne. They include:

  • regularly using gentle, noncomedogenic skin care products
  • lowering stress
  • following a healthy diet and minimizing intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars
  • getting enough sleep

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about acne and birth control.

Does birth control help acne?

Research has found that birth control pills containing estrogen and progestin can reduce inflammatory and noninflammatory acne.

How long does it take for birth control to work?

A person may need to take birth control pills for several weeks or months before their skin improves.

When should someone speak with a doctor?

It is best to treat acne breakouts as soon as they appear. If recurring acne breakouts cause social, emotional, or psychological discomfort, speak with a doctor for evaluation and treatment options.

Acne is a common problem that can cause significant distress. Combination birth control pills are effective for preventing pregnancy and can also help reduce acne. Three CHCs currently have FDA approval for use as an acne treatment.

Although CHCs are prescription drugs, many are available online through telemedicine.