Although acne mostly affects teens, those in their 20s, 30s and 40s are not immune to the common skin condition. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD, pimples can pop up at any age, especially in women, because of fluctuating hormones. Although most dermatologists recommend benzoyl peroxide-containing skin lotions as the first-line treatment for acne, women can turn to oral contraceptives such as Estrostep to tame hormonal fluctuations and clear their skin.
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Dermatologists don't know exactly what causes acne, but the AAD says it's clear that hormones play a role. Surging hormones, especially the "male" hormones called androgens, stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin to produce too much oil. This oil then combines with dead skin cells to plug pores, providing the perfect environment for bacteria to proliferate. The end result is inflamed skin, whiteheads, blackheads and even cysts.
Estrostep, an oral contraceptive, can stop this process in its tracks by leveling out the hormonal surges that lead to oily skin. Estrostep's hormone combination counters the androgen hormones that lead to skin-oil production, causing the sebaceous glands to produce less oil. The oral contraceptive has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically to treat acne.
Estrostep takes several months, at least, to calm a bad case of acne, according to MayoClinic.com. In fact, acne can get worse before it gets better when treated with Estrostep or another oral contraceptive. Because Estrostep targets only one cause of acne, dermatologists often recommend using it in combination with other acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, that can help clear clogged pores and fight infection.
Studies show that oral contraceptives containing hormones that counter the effects of androgens can effectively treat acne in women. In one study, reported in 1986 in the "British Journal of Dermatology," researchers looked at 90 female patients with acne and reported a better response in patients who took the anti-androgen oral contraceptives. Another study, reported in the "Journal of Drugs for Dermatology" in 2009, compared oral contraceptives with a placebo and found significant reductions in acne lesions in the group of women taking the oral contraceptives.
Dermatologists do not recommend Estrostep for all female acne patients. As MayoClinic.com points out, side effects can include headaches, depression, breast tenderness, nausea and vomiting. Oral contraceptives also slightly increase the risk of more serious conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. Good candidates for Estrostep acne therapy include women under 35 who don't smoke and who do not have a history of migraines or high blood pressure, the AAD says.