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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A birth control pill containing a newer form of the hormone progesterone may fight oily skin and acne in some women, according to researchers.

Some newer, low-dose oral contraceptives are known to help promote clearer skin. One, Ortho Tri-Cyclen, is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of acne in women who are seeking contraception and have not responded to topical acne medications.

In the new study, Russian researchers found that a Pill regimen containing desogestrel, a synthetic version of the female hormone progesterone, reduced oily skin and acne among 60 women ages 18 to 30. After six months on the drug, called DSG-OC, 98 percent of the women said they were satisfied with the treatment, according to findings published in the journal Contraception.

Dr. V. N. Prilepskaya, of the Russian Academy of Medical Science in Moscow, is lead author on the report. Researchers from The Netherlands-based drug company N.V. Organon, which markets DSG-OC under several brand names, including Tri-merci and Laurina, were involved in the study.

The synthetic progesterones used in older forms of the Pill sometimes promoted acne by stimulating the activity of androgens, or "male" hormones. Some newer versions of progesterone, such as desogestrel, are designed to avoid this--and in fact appear to cut blood levels of acne-promoting forms of testosterone.

In the new study, women with mild to moderate acne took DSG-OC for six cycles. A cycle consisted of one dose per day for three weeks, followed by one Pill-free week. The researchers measured the women's facial oiliness, acne and satisfaction with the treatment after cycles one, three and six.

By cycle six, they report, three-quarters of the women either had no acne or only mild breakouts, and most showed only mildly oily skin. Nearly all said they were satisfied with the Pill regimen, and many reported greater self-esteem and confidence, according to the researchers. Side effects included nausea, headache, breast tenderness and weight gain.

Acne in an adult woman often has to do with hormonal changes and imbalances occurring, for example, around the time of her period. So birth control pills may be an option for women who want to use contraception and aren't helped by topical acne medications, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Other treatments for acne include a range of over-the-counter and prescription topical medications, as well as prescription oral drugs.

SOURCE: Contraception, October 2003.

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