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Contraception & acne


Birth control, skin control and risk control. The true story behind the pill.

The Pill. Like Beyoncé, Pink and Adele, this little superstar goes by one name only and it's not hard to see why. As well as being super effective at stopping pregnancy, it offers attractive side-benefits, like getting rid of hormonal acne. But just how does it work?

How the pill stops acne

The triggers for acne are essentially hormonal. Testosterone (yup, girls have it too) and other similar hormones tell the skin to produce lots of acne-promoting oil. The oestrogen found in the OCP counterbalances that effect to treat hormonal acne.

Dianette, aka Diane 35, is even more effective because it combines oestrogen with a medicine called cyproterone acetate, which specifically counteracts spot-making hormones (androgens), keeping sebum over-production and blocked pores at bay.

Why your prescription might change

Despite going by the catchy moniker "the pill", there are actually 4 generations of OCP available. Recently, scientists discovered that the 2nd generation pill is actually safer than the newer generations and Dianette when it comes to potential risks like DVT (a clot forming in the leg).

No matter which pill you're on, the risk is still very, very low, but since so many women take these meds, doctors can't be too cautious. As a result, lots of women have been recommended to switch to the 2nd generation pill.

So, what does the great pill switch mean for my skin?

Dianette is a stronger anti-acne medication than the 2nd generation pill, so you might notice a rebound effect when you first make the change.

If you've swapped a 3rd or 4th gen OCP for the safer 2nd gen, you're onto a winner - there's no solid research to say the 3rd or 4th generation pills are any better for skin than our 2nd-gen friends.

What if the pill's off-limits?

If the OCP simply isn't for you, talk to your pharmacist or doctor about alternative skin health strategies - there are some great expert solutions out there! Check out our guide to the top dermo-cosmetic blemish rescues for more details.