Many factors are involved in the development of acne, including hormones, sticky skin cells that block follicles, and bacteria.
Testosterone (an androgen or male sex hormone) is the primary hormonal culprit in causing acne. It increases the production of sebum (a natural oil) from your hair follicles, leading to acne. Although men have much higher levels of testosterone, women also produce a small amount.
An effective way to control acne in women, therefore, is to block this testosterone by taking birth control pills. The estrogen in birth control pills causes your body to increase sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that binds to and soaks up testosterone. Increased levels of SHGB can lower your testosterone and improve your acne.
In addition to increasing SHGB, some birth control pills, such as Yasmine and YAZ contain an anti-androgen component. YAZ and Yasmine contain drospirenone which binds to androgen receptors, blocking testosterone. A few oral contraceptives including Ortho-Tricylin and YAZ are actually FDA approved for acne treatment, but many others would likely work as well.
Birth control pills are not for everyone and can have serious side effects. You should discuss your options with your physician.
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