Drugs.com characterises Alesse (generically known as ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel) as a birth control pill typically prescribed to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation. Experts at the Mayo Clinic indicate that birth control pills are also used to treat acne when other treatments don't work. However, of the pill choices on the market, only Ortho Tri-Cyclen (ethinyl estradiol and norgestimate), Yaz (ethinyl estradiol and drospirenone) and Estrostep (ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone) are FDA approved for acne treatment.
Acne Guide indicates that birth control pills like Alesse contain oestrogen and progestins that regulate androgen (male hormones) production in the body. Excessive androgen production causes too much oil in the pores, blocking the pores and trapping acne bacteria on the skin. The excessive oil and bacteria create the perfect environment for red pimples, blackheads, lumps and pustules. So using oral contraceptives like Alesse can help regulate hormones that contribute to acne production on the skin.
In clinical acne studies cited by Acne Guide, the oral contraceptive Alesse was shown to reduce acne patches by 40 to 50 per cent when the consumer used the product for six months. Alesse, along with similar products like Yasmin, Diane-35 and Tri-Cyclen, all contain progestins with minimal androgenic or anti-androgenic activity, which help reduce pore oil production. Continued use of the product is needed to balance the hormones that control androgen production.
Regardless of whether the birth control pills are used for acne or contraception, Drugs.com cautions that side effects of Alesse can include sudden headaches; numbness or weakness; confusion; problems with balance, vision or speech; and pain behind the eyes. In addition, nausea, sweating, chest pain or a heavy feeling, or pain spreading to the arm or shoulder can occur. If you notice any of these symptoms or experience swelling in your extremities or the symptoms of depression, contact your physician.
According to the Mayo Clinic, not all consumers are good candidates for oral contraceptive treatment of acne. They caution patients with a history of blood clots in the lungs or legs; a history of liver, uterine or breast cancer; or a history of cardiovascular disease to consult their physicians before beginning an oral contraceptive regimen. Also, women older than 35 who are currently smoking should not consider oral contraceptive treatment for acne.
The two main ways to treat acne, according to Acne Guide, are topically and orally, but it is also important to know what kind of acne you're treating before choosing the best possible solution. Since oral contraceptives like Alesse are not the most effective treatment for every kind of acne, working with a knowledgeable dermatologist will ensure that your specific skin conditions and health issues are addressed before treatment is prescribed.