Going On The Pill To Treat Acne? Read This First

Original Reporting: Cleo.com.sg | Claire Soong

It clears acne, prevents pregnancy, delivers periods that are lighter and on time but does the do-it-all pill come at a cost? CLEO talked to gynaecologists and a dermatologist to sift through the facts and fiction of using oral contraceptives to control acne.

When a doctor introduced Evonne, now 27, to the possibility of using birth control to clear her acne, she was skeptical: could a pill that prevents unwanted pregnancy also cure the acne that had plagued her since she was 13?

While she didn’t have a full face of acne, she had consistent zits on her forehead and temples with the occasional one on her cheeks. She had tried many topical treatments that would work for a few days before the problem came back with a vengeance. “Most treatments that I used were strong and caused my skin to become dry and flaky. The birth control reduced my acne very quickly and my skin was clear and almost glowy for once.”

“Honestly at first, I didn’t think it would work because it seemed like I’d tried everything from home remedies to expensive facials and nothing worked [prior to the pill].”

Her skin was so clear that she was able to stop using spot treatments and harsh exfoliators completely. “It was a great feeling and gave me such a confidence boost.”

She continued to take oral contraceptives on and off for four years between the ages of 18 to 22, citing a weight gain of five kilograms as the only downside.

“When I stopped taking the pill, my acne returned, but it was a lot more manageable and receptive to topicals. Even though I was originally prescribed birth control for my periods, if my acne turned bad again, I would consider going back on the pill to regulate my hormones.”

Related:

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Does the pill impact fertility in the long-run? 

While birth control pills are known to help clear up acneic skin, many girls, like Evonne, are concerned about the side effects. In fact, a common concern is whether it would affect their fertility in the long run.

The good news is, it doesn’t.

Dr Kelly Loi, an Obstetrician & Gynaecologist who serves as the Medical Director of Mount Elizabeth Fertility Centre, says, “There is a common misconception that oral contraceptives have a negative impact on fertility and that a woman will have difficulty conceiving in the future once she starts using them.”

This belief may stem from … the reduction in fertility levels that is naturally associated with an ageing body.

For women who started taking oral contraceptives many years ago, Dr Kelly Loi cautions that your body’s fertility will not return to what it was prior to taking the pill simply because if a woman started “[in her] twenties and she’s now in her late thirties, her chances of pregnancy would have fallen accordingly. Apart from current age, the level of fertility will be affected by various health and lifestyle factors.”

Dr Tay Eng Hseon, Senior Consultant Gynaecologist & Medical Director Thomson Women Cancer Center, agrees and says that modern pills actually contain very low doses of hormones. “Women return to normal fertility very quickly and almost immediately after stopping the pills. In fact, the hormonal doses are so low that a woman loses the protection against pregnancy when she misses taking more than two consecutive pills.”

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