A young woman who I saw in clinic this week was on birth control pills for contraception. She had acne and I suggested we start minocycline, an oral antibiotic, to treat her. “Won’t that stop my birth control pill from working?” she asked. Good question.
The only antibiotic that has been shown to reduce the concentration and the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills) is rifampin. Rifampin is a rarely used antibiotic used to treat tuberculosis and methicillin resistant staphlococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.
Antibiotics commonly used for acne such as minocycline, doxycycline, tetracycline, and erythromycin have not been shown to reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
Hormones, specifically testosterone, are important contributors to acne; birth control pills can reduce the levels of testosterone in women. When combined with an antibiotic and a topical retinoid, they make a powerful triple threat to defeat acne.
As always, be safe (birth control pills do not protect against STDs) and please consult your physician if you have questions about any of your medications.