Prescription Hormonal Treatments for Acne - Effectivness, Cost & Side Effects


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Hormonal treatments are a reasonably side-effect free treatment for acne. It is often most effective at treating women with all grades of acne.

How do Hormonal Treatments work?

Hormone treatments tackle what is often the root cause of acne, your hormones. They are particularly good for acne caused by hormonal changes (i.e. puberty). The most effective hormonal treatments are anti-androgens and birth control pills.

These medications are effective because, during periods of hormonal change, your body produces high levels of the male hormone, androgen. Androgen is the hormone that triggers your sebaceous glands to start overacting which causes them to overproduce sebum. These circumstances are likely to result in acne. Birth control pills are effective at combating acne because they reduce the level of androgens in your body and can therefore minimise the effect of them on your sebaceous glands.

Anti-androgens like spironolactone actually stop the sebaceous glands from being affected by androgen. These drugs do not get rid of the levels of the hormone in your body but block the effect of it on the production of sebum.

How to use Hormonal Treatments for Acne

Birth control pills are usually given in packs that last one menstrual cycle. You should usually take one tablet a day, starting on the first day of your period. After you have finished each pack you may be required to stop taking them for a week. Not all birth control tablets are the same so make sure your doctor gives you instructions about how to use them and read any information which comes with your medication thoroughly.

Anti-androgens come in a variety of oral medications that may need to be taken differently. Spironolactone, for example, should be taken at night and Cyproterone acetate may need to be taken in a different way. Always ask your practitioner if you have any questions about how to take your prescription.

Side Effects of Using Hormonal Treatments for Acne

There are numerous side effects which are associated with taking oral contraceptives, these, however, are not usually particularly serious but can include weight gain, tender breasts, nausea and depression. Anti-androgens meanwhile can cause irregular periods, weakness, cramps, lack of energy and appetite and have been linked to breast cancer.

Can I use Hormonal Treatments to treat my Acne?

Birth control tablets are not suitable if you are over 35, smoke or have a blood-clotting disorder. Anti-androgens should not be taken if you have had breast cancer or have a history of breast cancer in your family.

Hormonal Treatment for Acne During Pregnancy

Treatment for acne using anti-androgens or birth control pills should absolutely not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The hormones that your body produces during pregnancy are vital to the development of your baby and your body and should not be altered. Some anti-androgens are also thought to cause male babies to develop unwanted female physical characteristics.

Cost of Hormonal Treatment for Acne

Birth control medication is completely free on the NHS and there is no charge for the prescription. In the US they generally cost between $15-$50 per month and you may need to pay for an initial consultation, blood pressure test and medical examination.

Anti-androgens are available by prescription on the NHS but you may have to pay a standardised charge for your prescription. In the US prices vary hugely depending on the medication prescribed and where you buy it. Please consult your doctor or dermatologist for more information.

How Effective are Hormonal Treatments at Treating Acne?

The main downside of this kind of prescription treatment is that it can take over three months for you to see any results and can take even longer for your acne to start noticeably clearing. If your hormones play a very significant part in your acne condition, it is likely that after a few months you should see significant improvement. You should see fewer black and whiteheads and fewer papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. If your hormones are not as significant in your case, you may need to try other medications.


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