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The Contraceptive Pill and Acne

Updated on January 9, 2008

It is widely known that the contraceptive pill is often prescribed for the treatment of women's acne and was approved by the FDA in 1997 for this treatment of this condition. However, if you are considering asking your doctor for the popular brand, Desogen , there are some facts you should know, especially if you have certain health problems or inherited medical conditions.

What exactly is Desogen and How does Desogen work in my body?

Desogen is an oral birth control pill that contains a combination of synthetic female hormones to stop an egg being released from a woman's ovary. If an egg is not released, it cannot be fertilized by a male sperm- so the woman cannot become pregnant. Most women take Desogen to prevent them from falling pregnant but others have found it to be extremely effective for clearing up their acne or significantly reducing breakouts.

Desogen does this by controlling the level of androgen (a male hormone) connected with the production of oil in our skin (from our sebaceous glands).

Why does acne occur and what does it look like?

On the surface of our skin are little 'breathing holes' or pores and 'pockets' (follicles) out of which each hair grows. The sebaceous gland in each follicle produces oil or sebum. When too much sebum is produced, these glands become blocked and inflamed which results in pimples, 'zits' and blackheads - a chronic outbreak is known medically as acne. In acute cases, these pustules can result in cysts or abscesses that become infected and scar the skin's surface. If the production of sebum can be decreased then the acne is usually reduced also.

Why is the amount of oil produced by our sebaceous glands important?

Since the hormone, androgen, controls the release of sebum, it is not surprising that if there is an imbalance in hormone levels, especially during adolescence, then there is going to be an imbalance in the level of sebum produced. Even though contraceptive pills work effectively on acne treatment, they are not ideal for teenagers to take if they are not sexually active (unless they have had a thorough talk to their doctor first).

Desogen and acne is a 'balancing act'.

Since Desogen affects the level of the androgen hormone within a woman's body, it follows that every woman's body will be operating on varying levels of hormone production so, to some degree, it is trial and error with a contraceptive medication such as Desogen for controlling the level of sebum produced and therefore controlling the severity of her acne. It is for this reason that Desogen can be extremely effective or in some cases, just not be compatible with the level of androgen being produced in certain women so their acne seems to get worse. Ethinyl etradiol is the synthetic estrogen in contraceptive pills that affects the level of androgen.

The contraceptive pill Desogen resolves acne conditions in many women

Doctors prescribe Desogen specifically for the treatment of acne in woman they consider suitable for this combination of synthetic hormones. Woman who can take Desogen will find that this birth control pill balances their hormones effectively and is the ideal drug for helping them to manage their acne. It should be noted though, that no single treatment for acne, including Desogen, should be relied upon to treat this severe skin condition. A dirty skin, make up and bacteria also aggravate acne so topical products, such as lotions, creams and anti bacterial skin cleansers should be considered for use in conjunction with Desogen.

Always consult your doctor if you wish to try Desogen for your acne treatment and tell him which other medications/topical products you are also using.

As with many medications, however, some women find they do experience various side effects when taking Desogen.

Some common side effects include nausea, headaches, slight bleeding, weight gain and possible mood changes.

After taking Desogen for three months, many of these effects disappear but you should monitor your body closely and consider a different treatment if they persist or if they worsen.

The clearly documented risks associated with all contraceptive pills must be noted for Desogen also, whether taken for acne or as your preferred birth control method. These risks include stroke, blood clotting and breast cancer (although the contraceptive pill has positive benefits in reducing ovarian and uterine cancer)

Smoking is bad for you anyway but the risks of developing heart disease increase if you are on the 'pill'.

If you do take Desogen to prevent acne, take it as prescribed by your doctor - even if you buy it on line

Missing a dose of Desogen will not have such a bad effect on your acne but it will affect your risk of getting pregnant.

Check the leaflet that comes with the Desogen pack if you miss a pill and of course, if you are unsure as to whether you can two pills on one day, check with your doctor or medical practitioner. To reduce the anxiety or stress further, it would be wise to use additional contraception at this time.

Desogen is ideal for reducing the painful and embarrassing condition of acne in many women but unfortunately it is just not suitable for a certain percentage of woman. It is probably worth trying though as the benefits can be excellent and it is likely that if you keep in contact with your doctor you will eventually find a combination of the 'pill' and a topical skin product that will help you through your acne 'chapter'.


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