Q. Will combined oral contraceptive pills help treat acne and female pattern hair loss?

Answered by
Dr. Sampada Avinash Thakare
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
Published on Jun 06, 2017 and last reviewed on: Oct 09, 2018

Hello doctor,

I am a 38 year old female, and I am currently taking Tetracycline tablets 500 mg, twice a day for my adult acne. I have been taking them since last year. Previous to this, and sometimes still, I use Duac 10 mg or 50 mg topically. I used this on my back and face for about a year before the Tetracycline. I was put on Marvelon when I was 15 years old, for acne as a teenager. I was on it until I was 36 years old, with a couple of small breaks to be put on antibiotics because the acne came back. I resorted to the combined pill when I was 35, and I visited a dermatologist since my hairline was receding. They did a biopsy of my hair and told me I had female pattern baldness. When I came off Marvelon two years ago, I lost about three-fourth of my hair. It is traumatizing since I knew I might lose some but just did not realize how much. I was told by doctor after doctor, that it would grow back, and none of them would refer me to a dermatologist about it. I am still waiting to see one, my appointment is after two months. Some of my hair grew back, but it has since fallen out again. My hair and skin distress me all the time. From the research I have done, going on the pill so young and for so long, with female pattern baldness was one of the worst things I could have done, but of course, this was not known back then.

My dad had acne his whole life, and my sister has PCOS. My dad also has type 2 diabetes, so I am aware we may have issues in our family with excess androgens. There is hair loss on both sides in the family, male and female. My doctor and dermatologist will not prescribe Spironolactone. I am aware my options for my skin and hair are limited. I have had stomach issues since being on the antibiotics as well as candida in my mouth and vaginally. I take probiotics. I do not want to be on the antibiotics much longer if I am honest, my skin does not heal as well as it should while on them. I am wondering if I am not absorbing my nutrients well enough since my hair is still falling out. Could the Tetracycline be causing more hair loss? I have had my iron tested. My ferritin is about 50, and I take iron when I can since I know it needs to be about 80 for supporting my hair. The doctors here would not test for anything else since they deem my iron and thyroid to be at acceptable levels. I am considering going back on Marvelon again simply to have a break from the antibiotics, and other supplements I am taking and also because maybe it will have a good effect on my hair.

What would you recommend? Do you think going back on the combined pill will help my hair grow back or at least stop it from falling out further? Will it fall out again though when I come off of it? I am not in a relationship right now, but it is my hope to still meet someone and have a family. I know my skin was always really good on Marvelon, and my sex drive is not so much. I also wonder, will coming off Tetracycline mean that if I take it in future it would not work again or will take longer to work? Will it cause me problems with building up resistance? I read a lot about how people's acne comes back with a vengeance once they come off. I do not want to start with a treatment such as Minoxidil since there are side effects and it is a lifetime treatment, any gains I make will just fall out again should I decide to have a family. For this reason, I have not tried Accutane, but could not start this until I have seen the dermatologist anyway. I would be concerned with this anyway since I heard it can cause hair loss in itself. I have started derma rolling and use a laser on my hair too. I take silica and MSM for my hair but have not tried Biotin since it can cause acne. I am just very frustrated and sad about the lack of interest or help that is been offered here in my country. Hence, I am asking a question here. Any advice you may have would be really appreciated. Is Marvelon the best to go back? Are there others I could consider, which are also anti-androgen? What are the long term effects of something like Spironolactone? 

Dr. Sampada Avinash Thakare

Cosmetology Dermatology Venereology


Welcome to icliniq.com.

  • You have been on Tetracycline for quite a long time. There are other options also like you said oral Isotretinoin, which gives very good result in patients with acne. But if the patient is on this medication, then it is advised to avoid pregnancy. At least there should be six months of gap. Since you are not planning on family right away, consider this option when you visit your dermatologist. How long will you take oral antibiotics for acne? You should not take for such a long period.
  • You have been on many medications till now, why do not you consider procedure treatments for acne. Like Salicylic acid peel or Glycolic acid peel, they give very good results. Patients can remain stop medication and continue with peels and topical medication. It helps to reduce active acne and also post acne pigmentation. These procedures are performed by a dermatologist.
  • Mostly females with female pattern alopecia are associated with acne, polycystic ovaries, and hirsutism. In many studies, the hormonal levels in FPHL (female pattern hair loss) were seen normal. Patients with hormonal imbalance (androgen excess) can get a blood test for serum testosterone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), and prolactin. Since you are aware of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), I would consider you have done all the tests.
  • Going back to combined pills for FPHL, I would not suggest. You need to accept certain facts your not going to turn complete bald in future. Female pattern alopecia is a genetically determined process like aging, which can only be slowed down. I would not suggest you take any anti-androgens at present. You should consider Minoxidil 2 % lotion application, it will at least help to stop further hair loss. Also, PRP (protein-rich plasma) therapy can be considered.
  • Do not be disheartened due to acne and FPHL. When one thing fails we should always consider options which are available with us. Please consider peeling procedure for acne, at least give it a try minimum 6 to 7 sitting to see results.

For more information consult a dermatologist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/dermatologist

Hi doctor,

Thank you for your very comprehensive answer. It is a lot more helpful than any answer I have had from my own doctor. I have not looked into PRP so I am going to do this and when I talk to my dermatologist, I will consider the other options you mentioned too. I was given the test for PCOS so I know I do not have that. What will the other blood tests show? Is it worth having them anyway?

Dr. Sampada Avinash Thakare

Cosmetology Dermatology Venereology


I am glad my answer was helpful to you.

  • There is no need to do any blood test further if you do not have PCOS.
  • If your dermatologist considers starting oral Isotretinoin, then you will be asked to do blood investigation like fasting lipid profile and liver function test.

For more information consult a dermatologist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/dermatologist

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