Acne, an extremely common skin condition that affects nearly everyone at some point, usually begins at the time of puberty, but can occur at any age, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). In addition, acne often strikes teenage girls and adult women at certain times during their menstrual cycles. In those cases, dermatologists might consider turning to Yasmin birth control pills to curb hormonally related acne outbreaks.
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Acne generally stems from three factors that interrelate, according to the Mayo Clinic. First, the skin's sebaceous glands--tiny glands below the skin's surface that produce an oil called sebum--begin to produce too much sebum. Next, the skin itself sloughs off too many dead cells, and these cells combine with the extra sebum to clog hair follicles and pores. Finally, bacteria that's normally found living on the skin starts to multiply too rapidly, leading to infection, swelling and pain.
Acne often is triggered or driven by fluctuating hormone levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, hormones called androgens (a group that includes testosterone) stimulate the sebaceous glands to increase production of oil. Most women who have acne don't have abnormal hormone levels, but instead have sebaceous glands that are especially sensitive to fluctuations in androgen and in the "female" hormone estrogen. Birth control pills appear to work to curb acne by calming hormones, thereby reducing the amount of oil present in the skin.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved Yasmin birth control, which contains a combination of estrogen and progestin compounds, specifically for acne treatment. However, many patients report that it has helped their acne, and several medical studies back this up. For example, one study, reported in 2010 in the journal "Clinical Drug Investigations," compared patients treated with Yasmin to another type of oral contraceptive, and found that acne in the Yasmin patients cleared up. Another study, published in "Cutis" in 2004, looked at Yasmin treatment of patients with mild to moderate acne, and again reported reductions in acne lesion counts.
Yasmin birth control treatment will not clear up acne overnight. In fact, acne treatment with oral contraceptives is a long-term solution. In the medical study published in "Cutis," patients stayed on Yasmin for 6 months before a significant change in their acne occurred. The Mayo Clinic says patients may not notice a positive change until they've been taking Yasmin birth control for several months, and in some, pimples may multiply before they disappear.
Dermatologists believe oral contraceptives such as Yasmin represent second-line defense against acne; in most cases, physicians will start treatment with topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide and try several other medications before recommending birth control pills, the AAD says. In addition, the AAD warns that Yasmin and other birth control pills are not appropriate for everyone; patients who smoke or who are older than 35 might want to consider alternative treatments for their acne.