Skin Care Myths: Antibiotics Make Your Birth Control Pill Less Effective

birth-control-pills.JPGA 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.

5 thoughts on “Skin Care Myths: Antibiotics Make Your Birth Control Pill Less Effective”

  1. This is good to know. Thanks for the info!

  2. It’s understandable that patients would be confused about this, since the package inserts read:

    “Pregnancy while taking combined hormonal contraceptives has been reported when the combined hormonal contraceptives were administered with anti-microbials such as ampicillin, tetracycline, and griseofulvin. However, clinical pharmacokinetic studies have not demonstrated any consistent effects of antibiotics (other than rifampin) on plasma concentrations of synthetic steroids.”

    I guess a few case reports still have to be mentioned, and it’s hard to prove beyond all doubt that there’s no correlation…

  3. Dr Val,
    Thanks!I didn’t realize this statement is in the insert; no doubt it is to protect the manufacturer. Obviously a few people will get pregnant while on birth control pills. Some of them might also have been taking antibiotics. There is no good data to support that there is any relationship between the two.

  4. Plastic Surgery Forum says:

    Found this post very useful, thanks

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