Everything to Know About Birth Control Rashes

Birth control can be used to treat a variety of gynecological conditions (e.g., irregular periods, endometriosis, menstrual cramps) while also preventing pregnancy, but some types of birth control methods may cause irritating rashes on the body and face.

This article will cover what kinds of rashes are caused by birth control, risk factors, other birth control side effects, and treatment.

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Why Does Birth Control Cause Rashes?

You may have a reaction to hormonal birth control in the form of an itchy rash, or an allergic reaction, caused by hormones in these medications, such as estrogen and progestin, or a combination of both.

In the case of spermicides or condoms, it can be the chemical or latex, respectively, that can cause skin issues.

Most reactions are very treatable and enable you to continue using your preferred birth control methods. Other times, your healthcare provider may recommend that you switch to a different method.

Types of Birth Control Rashes

A hormonal birth control rash is caused by a fluctuation in hormones (estrogen or progestin) in the birth control. An allergic birth control rash is caused by an immune system reaction to chemicals, dyes, or ingredients in the birth control method.

Rashes and Skin Issues Caused by Birth Control

Some birth control rashes and skin issues include erythema nodosum, autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, contact dermatitis, melasma, hormonal acne, and more.

Erythema Nodosum

Erythema nodosum is an inflammatory disorder that causes red, tender bumps on the shins and knees. Other symptoms include fever, joint pain, or enlarged lymph nodes in the chest. It's not a serious condition, but it can be uncomfortable. With treatment, symptoms should disappear within six weeks.

Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis

Autoimmune progesterone dermatitis is a rare disorder caused by oral contraceptives.

Skin symptoms may include:

  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Flaky patches

More severe symptoms can include open sores and, in some cases breathing issues such as wheezing and an asthma-like reaction.

Allergic Reactions/Contact Dermatitis to Birth Control Ingredients

Some people have reactions to the dyes or ingredients in birth control pills, the latex in condoms, or the chemicals in spermicides.

Melasma

People taking oral contraceptive pills that contain estrogen and progesterone may experience melasma, which causes brown or blue-gray patches or spots that look like freckles. It's harmless and treatable.

Hormonal Acne

Due to the fluctuations in hormones when you first start some types of birth control, including oral contraceptives, you experience acne for a period of time. On the flip side, oral contraceptives can also be used to treat acne. It may take some trial and error to figure out which birth control is right for your complexion.

Telangiectasia (Spider Veins)

Some types of hormonal fluctuations caused by birth control can cause spider veins (telangiectasia). They appear like small, twisted threads in the legs and are not usually painful, unlike varicose veins, which can cause throbbing and discomfort. Spider veins are treatable and can be removed with surgery.

What Forms of Birth Control Can Cause Rashes?

Birth control can cause different types of rashes and is often dependent on the types of hormones present in each medication.

Birth Control Pills

Birth control pills contain different variations of estrogen and progestin, depending on which type you use. Not only can they make your skin more sensitive to the sun, but they can also cause a rash on your face or cystic acne, which can be painful.

Many birth control pills have different colored pills to identify the sugar pills (placebo) that represent a monthly period. Women who have a sensitivity to these dyes may also have a reaction.

Birth Control Patch

The estrogen and progestin transdermal (patch) contraceptives can cause skin irritation and itching at the site where the it is placed.

Vaginal Ring

The vaginal ring is a hormonal device inserted directly into the vagina prior to intercourse. The hormones in the ring can cause facial acne. It can also cause additional side effects including:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Vaginal infection

Birth Control Shot

Depo-Provera is a hormonal birth control shot that uses progestin (made from the natural hormone progesterone) to prevent pregnancy for up to three months at a time. This birth control shot can cause skin issues at the injection site, redness, and soreness.

Hormonal IUD

A hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) is an effective device to prevent pregnancy for years at a time. The IUD, because it releases hormones, can cause some skin issues, such as acne. Other allergic reactions like skin rash, itching or hives, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue can occur, as can a fever or flu-like symptoms.

Condoms

Condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can prevent pregnancy. People allergic to latex may have skin reactions to certain types of condoms. If the condom is made from latex or polyurethane, people sensitive to those chemicals may have itching and irritation.

Spermicide

Spermicides are used internally in the vagina prior to intercourse. They can cause vaginal itching and burning.

Why Do Some People Get a Rash From Birth Control?

Some people are most sensitive to dyes, ingredients, and chemicals used in some types of birth control methods. Often these rashes are treatable with over-the-counter (OTC) medications, although sometimes a change in birth control helps prevent further outbreaks.

Other Birth Control Side Effects

You may experience none, one, or several side effects of birth control, which can include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Digestive issues (diarrhea or constipation)
  • Gingivitis (swelling of the gum tissue)
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Weight changes
  • Hair growth in unusual places
  • Bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods
  • Changes in menstrual flow
  • Painful or missed periods
  • Breast tenderness, enlargement, or discharge
  • Swelling, redness, irritation, burning, or itching of the vagina
  • Vaginal discharge

Treatment of Birth Control Rash

There are several ways to treat birth control rashes and keep them under control or prevent them altogether.

Try one or more of these methods to soothe your skin:

  • A cold washcloth
  • Creams with aloe that are soothing
  • Pain relievers and antihistamines to manage itching or skin pain
  • Steroid creams or oral corticosteroids to manage skin inflammation
  • Switching to a different birth control method

Summary

Rashes from birth control methods are common, usually not serious, and treatable. You may need to try different methods to see if you have a hormonal sensitivity or are allergic to one of the ingredients or chemicals in a particular birth control method.

A Word From Verywell

There are many types of birth control available to people who want to prevent pregnancy or are being treated for a gynecological condition. If you are experiencing swelling, trouble breathing, fever, or asthma-like symptoms, get in touch with your healthcare provider right away.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Erythema nodosum.

  3. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Progestogen hypersensitivity.

  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Melasma: diagnosis and treatment.

  5. University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine Department. Spider veins.

  6. MedlinePlus. Estrogen and progestin (oral contraceptives).

  7. MedlinePlus. Estrogen and progestin (transdermal patch contraceptives).

  8. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Depo-Provera.

  9. MedlinePlus. Intrauterine devices (IUD).

  10. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Barrier methods of birth control: spermicide, condom, sponge, diaphragm, and cervical cap.