From the Editor

Long-acting reversible contraceptives and acne in adolescents

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Acne management for adolescents seeking LARC

Given the data that the LNG-IUD and the etonogestrel implant may worsen acne, it may be wise to preemptively ensure that adolescents with acne who are initiating these contraceptives are also being adequately treated for their acne. Gynecologists should provide anticipatory guidance for adolescents with mild acne who initiate progestin-based LARC. Topical benzoyl peroxide is available over-the-counter and can be recommended to these patients. Follow-up in clinic a few months after initiation also may be helpful to assess side effects.

In moderate and severe cases, coordination with dermatology is recommended. For these patients, gynecologists could consider prescribing a topical retinoid or antibiotic medication in conjunction with a new progestin-based LARC method. Those with severe acne also may benefit from concurrent use of oral contraceptives. In adolescents who do not tolerate progestin-based LARC, the copper IUD is a highly effective alternative and can be paired with estrogen-progestin contraception for acne treatment.

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Acne is but one consideration for contraceptive choice

With the above methods, acne can be managed in adolescents seeking a LNG-IUD or implant and should not be considered a contraindication or reason to avoid progestin-based LARC. Adolescents are more likely to continue LARC than estrogen-progestin contraceptives and LARC methods are associated with substantially lower pregnancy rates in this patient population.11 LARC is recommended as first-line contraception for adolescents by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.12,13

In choosing contraception with your adolescent patient, the risk of unintended pregnancy should be weighed against the risk of acne and other potential side effects. Do not select a contraceptive based on the presence or absence of acne disease. However, be aware that contraceptives can either improve or worsen acne. Patients with mild and moderate acne disease should be considered for treatment with topical retinoids and/or antimicrobial agents.


Dr. Barbieri reports no financial relationships relevant to this article.

Dr. Roe reports receiving grant or research support from the Society of Family Planning.

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