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Hormonal Therapy Shown to Fight Adult-onset Acne

Posted: October 5, 2009

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Dr. Schlosser noted that the use of hormonal therapies for acne, including combination oral contraceptives, requires careful screening of patients. For example, there are numerous contraindications that must be considered before hormonal therapy is prescribed for treating acne. Such contraindications for combination oral contraceptives include a personal history of breast cancer, heart attack or stroke, uncontrolled high blood pressure, migraines with neurological symptoms, or abnormal vaginal bleeding, to name a few. Dermatologists will review these factors with patients to determine if hormonal acne therapy poses any potential risks for patients.

Based on a physical examination, a patient’s medical history and the success or failure of previously prescribed acne treatments, dermatologists may recommend hormonal therapy to enhance the results of acne treatment in women. Hormonal therapy in the form of combination oral contraceptive pills has been shown to help treat both inflammatory acne lesions—;the papules, pustules and painful nodules under the skin&mdas;and non-inflammatory acne lesions—blackheads and whiteheads. Dr. Schlosser suggests that hormonal therapy should not be used in isolation but instead recommends that combination oral contraceptives or antiandrogen medications be used in conjunction with topical retinoids for optimal results.

While there are numerous types of oral contraceptives available that can be used to treat acne in women, three combination oral contraceptive pills have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of acne. All combination oral contraceptives contain an estrogen (ethinyl estradiol for most contraceptive pills) and a progestin. The estrogen component decreases the production of testosterone and other androgens by the ovaries and decreases the amount of active testosterone in the body.

Some progestins may actually mimic the activity of testosterone on the oil gland and thereby worsen acne. Therefore, Dr. Schlosser primarily recommends oral contraceptives that contain one of the following progestins: norgestimate, desogestrel or drospirenone, all of which demonstrate low or no risk of increasing the activity of the testosterone receptor.

“Combination oral contraceptives can be very beneficial in the treatment of acne in appropriately selected women, and several different oral contraceptives have been shown to be effective in clinical studies,” said Dr. Schlosser. “But the treatment of acne with combination oral contraceptives needs to be targeted to each patient’s individual needs, and patients should be monitored regularly to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their particular therapy.”

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