Did you know?: A blood pressure drug is the most popular treatment for women’s acne

In 2023, researchers at the University of Southampton found that spironolactone, a drug more commonly used for the treatment of high blood pressure, helped soothe symptoms of acne in women. 

Now, it has become one of the most popular treatments for female hormonal acne. But, how does it work? 

The results of a 400-women-strong trial into the effects of spironolactone for reducing acne was published a year ago, the first study of its kind to uncover the beneficial effects of the drug. 

When the study was released, the drug was not recommended for treating persistent acne however it was included in treatment guidelines in the US and Europe. In fact, doctors started using the drug for acne in America in the 1980s. 

Now, the drug is now frequently used as a non-antibiotic treatment for acne reducing the NHS’ reliance on antibiotics and preventing resistance. 

The NHS says: ‘Because it affects hormones, spironolactone is sometimes used to treat acne in women’, here’s why. 

Hormonal acne is usually caused by an increase in androgens in your body, including testosterone. These hormones lead to an increase in the sebum in our skin which makes it more oily and prone to spots and blackheads.

Spironolactone works to reduce these hormones and clears up acne without a reliance on antibiotics - ta da!

If you are living with acne, it's likely that your healthcare provider will put you on a smaller dose, increasing until your skin clears up. And, you are likely to see results after three months of treatment - so be patient. 

But, why is the drug not used for treating acne in men? 

Well, according to the British Medical Journal: ‘Spironolactone is not considered an acceptable treatment option for men with acne. Use of spironolactone reduces blood testosterone levels which can result in gynaecomastia (breast swelling), and concerns have been raised about loss of sexual function.’ 

If you need extra support for your acne, or someone you know does, check out talkhealth's acne hub for lods of tips and advice. 

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 24 May 2024
Next review: 24 May 2027