You would think that you wouldn't be combatting acne and fine lines and wrinkles at the same time—but hormonal acne, specifically, can rear its ugly head well beyond puberty. Such is the common experience of Women's Health writer Samantha Lefave, who's been battling acne since age 11.
Finally, at age 27, she decided to take action. "I've tried everything over the years to fix my skin, but nothing has lasted long-term," she writes for the magazine. "That is, until I started getting acne-fighting facials. When I went to visit my dermatologist to find out more about laser and light therapy treatment, he also recommended I start taking one very special prescription medicine."
The prescription medicine in question was spironolactone, a blood pressure medication that dermatologists prescribe "off-label" for hormonal acne. While it's not FDA-approved for this specific treatment, it's been shown to be "very effective" in treating premenstrual breakouts in adult women.
"After three months of popping spironolactone on the reg—along with getting consistent facials and using over-the-counter acne-fighting products in my daily skin-care routine—I noticed a major change in my skin," she shares. "Gone was the cystic acne that plagued my skin on a daily basis. Instead, I now have smooth and healthy skin that doesn't make me feel forced into piling on layers of makeup." She even goes as far as to call it a "miracle pill."
But considering spironolactone is a prescription medication, going on it is a bit of an undertaking. Not only do you have to get bloodwork done beforehand to make sure you're healthy and not pregnant (it can cause fetal birth defects), but you also have to check in with your doctor every three months, as the medication can make potassium levels rise. According to Mayo Clinic, high blood potassium can cause irregular heart rhythms and in severe cases, even death.
Aside from potassium levels, spironolactone can cause side effects like breast tenderness, menstrual irregularities, fatigue, and lightheadedness or dizziness. "Most young, healthy women tolerate the drug well, with no significant side effects, at or below 100 mg. Side effects are more common with higher dosages," clarifies Julia Tzu, MD, founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology. As for Lefave, she's "pretty happy with [her] result," she concludes. "I still get flares of acne, but it's usually only when my period is about to start, and it's only two or three pimples over the course of a week.
Before starting spironolactone, I was getting was two or three per day."
Head over to Women's Health for Lefave's firsthand experience, and share your thoughts or experiences with this medication for acne in the comments.