How does contraception affect my skin?

Article published at: Agora London Feb 2, 2024
How does contraception affect my skin?
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Conversation on Self-Care 


Many are well aware that contraception can influence not only our mental well-being but also have varied effects on the body, notably on our skin. In exploring the topic, it becomes evident that the choices we make regarding contraception can have significant implications for our skin health.

Here is some advice from our expert, Dr. Anita Sturnham, on the impact of different birth control methods on our skin. We will then explore the optimal skincare regimen to enhance your skin health.

Contraception can have varying effects on the skin, depending on the type of contraception used. Birth control methods include pills, coils, implants, patches, and injections. Most methods utilise synthetic hormones to either inhibit ovulation, prevent the thickening of the uterine lining, or thicken cervical mucus.

We understand that both progestins (progesterone) and androgens (Testosterone and Dihydrotestosterone/DHT) are the primary hormones linked to breakouts, with the former being a component in many forms of contraception.

According to Dr Anita patients may find that the mini pill / progesterone only pill can exacerbate their breakouts. This is thought to be the result of the stimulatory effect that they have on our sebaceous glands, increasing sebum (oil) production in the skin. This creates the perfect breeding ground for the C. Acnes bacteria that live in the skin. The bacteria overgrow and cause inflammation within the skin.

As part of a treatment plan for acne and breakout-prone skin, combined oral contraceptive pills, which contain both oestrogen and progesterone, are often recommended. Certain progestins in these pills exhibit an antiandrogenic effect, meaning they work to lower androgens like testosterone and DHT by suppressing the production of two hormones called LH and FSH. This, in turn, reduces the androgen hormones produced by your ovaries.

Contraception is important to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy. If you need to start a form of contraception or are on contraception and are worried that it is triggering skin issues, I recommend speaking to your GP. They can talk you through the options that are safe and suitable for you and will be able to guide you on other ways to keep your skin health on track.

The best skincare routine for breakout prone skin.

For breakout-prone skin, it is advisable to maintain a simple skincare routine. Avoid overloading or frequently changing products. Also use a gentle cream or gel cleanser in the morning.

Initiate a straightforward, non-comedogenic skincare routine. Non-comedogenic products are formulated to prevent clogged pores, typically being oil-free. Follow these steps to get started:

Morning routine

1: Cleanse: use a gentle cleanser to keep your skin looking fresh and radiant. Avoid non-foaming cleansers, these strip the skin of its essential oils. Use products, which are non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging). For effective management of breakouts, consider using ingredients like Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, and Glycolic Acid in a cream or gel formulation.

2: Treat : an effective prescription option is Duac, a product containing Benzoyl Peroxide and Clindamycin, available only with a prescription. This powerful combination works in synergy to reduce inflammation. It's advisable to consult your doctor for a prescription, especially during the acute phase. If dryness is a concern, use a hydrating serum on top of Duac. Choose serums with nourishing ingredients like squalane, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, while avoiding oils that may clog pores and exacerbate breakouts.

3: Moisturise: apply a protective hydrating and non-pore clogging moisturiser over the top of your serum. This acts as a protective barrier for your skin and locks in moisture, keeping the skin hydrated and its barriers strong.

While we recognise the importance of SPF for preventing UV damage and premature aging, when initiating an acne regimen, it's advisable to temporarily skip SPF for the first six weeks.

Night routine

1: Cleanse: as before.

2: Serum. A prescription strength of Azelaic acid 15-20% will be perfect. This super multitasking ingredient helps to reduce inflammation, regulates oil control and also reduces pigmentation.

3: Moisturise. Often the AM moisturiser is adequate for acne sufferers, avoid heavily oil loaded products and look for natural emollients instead.

We also need to get our make-up into a pore- friendly mindset!

Avoid heavy, long-wear concealers and foundations, as they act like cement, clogging pores and leading to breakouts. Choose mineral-based makeup instead, the fine particles provide good coverage without clogging pores.

Finally, if you have oily skin and prone to breakouts, consider avoiding daily primers. Reserve these products for special occasions, as they can act as occlusive layers, potentially leading to dull and lifeless skin by clogging pores. Instead, look for replenishing moisturisers that can serve as primers while maintaining the health of your skin.

I trust these tips from our expert Dr. Anita will help you in managing your skin and provide valuable insights on what to avoid when dealing with acne and breakouts. Our conversations are dedicated to support women by offering useful information, empowering you to take charge of your body's health and well-being.

As I conclude, know that you are not alone on this path to better health and wellness. Your journey is unique but together we form a community of strength and support.

Let’s thrive together,



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