Birth control pills great for long-term acne treatment, according to study
13th June 2014
birth controlOral contraceptive pills are just as effective as powerful antibiotics in the long-term treatment of acne in women, according to the findings of new review of 226 previously conducted clinical trials, and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Past research has shown how both antibiotics and birth control pills, such as Dianette, work effectively for treating acne in women, but the new review into the two actually compared them side-by-side. Although antibiotics were found to be more effective in reducing acne lesions at three months (48%, vs. 37% for birth control), after six months, both types of treatments worked to decrease acne by over 50%. The birth control pills were actually slightly more effective that the antibiotics after six months. Those taking the pill were found to have a 55% decline in their symptoms, compared a 53% decrease in symptoms for the women taking the antibiotics. Therefore, this has led to dermatologists arguing that the pill is an excellent alternative for some women and a good way to avoid the side effects associated with stronger oral acne medications or long-term antibiotic use. The wonder of the pill at subsiding acne symptoms is due to the presence of hormones like progestin and estrogen, which work to slow down the production of sebum, a naturally occurring oil that can cause outbreaks of acne. “Oral contraceptives (OCPs) take longer to work because they have a different mechanism of action,” said Dr. Kelly H. Tyler, who was not involved in the new review. “Antibiotics have anti-inflammatory properties, and OCPs do not have those same properties, so the reduction in acne is going to be more gradual and less dramatic in the beginning,” said Tyler, a dermatologist at Ohio State University in Columbus. Dr Tyler, told Reuters Health that antibiotics reduce the inflammation associated of existing acne, whilst oral contraceptives reduce free or circulating androgens, decreasing the production of the oily sebum that plugs pores, therefore lowering the chance of new acne sprouting up. The authors involved in the review of the 226 clinical trials do stress that the antibiotic trials they studied did comprise of both men and women, which impacts on the comparison to the results of the trials involving birth control pills as hormones are a key factor in acne. However they write that the findings suggest birth control pills “may have a more important first-line preventive role in chronic acne than previously accepted.”