According to recent research, adult acne is on the rise. In fact, a 2015 study concluded that women are five times more likely than men to be affected by the skin issue in later life, and this is no surprise when you consider our complex hormonal health. While the menstrual cycle and pregnancy is one thing, it’s the contraceptive pill that often causes women the most trouble, with spots appearing high on the list of side-effects.
"We know that spots are caused by a mixture of sebum and dead skin cells getting trapped in our pores, along with inflammation from a bacterium called P.acnes," explains consultant dermatologist, Dr Justine Kluk, but it seems androgens, a group of hormones which includes the male hormone testosterone, can also contribute. "Androgens stimulate your skin to produce sebum and also make the skin thicker, increasing the risk of pore clogging," says Dr Kluk – which is where the contraceptive pill comes in.
It has been proven to alter our hormone levels, which can be both a good and a bad thing for our skin. On the one hand, the combined pill (in particular brands such as Yasmin and Dianette) can improve skin for acne sufferers but the mini pill (for example, Cerazette and Micronor) can potentially have the opposite effect. "The combined contraceptive pill contains both oestrogen and progesterone and can be an effective way of controlling breakouts by stabilising hormone levels and reducing androgen activity," explains Dr Kluk, "but the mini pill, only containing progesterone, tends to make skin oilier and can sometimes aggravate acne in women who are already prone to spots."