How to stop taking the pill and not get acne (or go crazy)

The pill has been used for many things. For something that was designed to prevent pregnancy, it is the most prescribed medicine in the world.

It’s used for reproductive disorders, commonly endometriosis and poly cystic ovarian syndrome, it’s now believed to help prevent uterine & cervical cancer (I’ll touch on why this is a fib shortly) and ovarian cysts. It’s used for treatment of pre menstrual symptoms, for irregular periods, heavy periods, painful periods, heavy bleeding and acne. Most women have taken it at one point in their lives, many for most of their ‘fertile’ years. I’ve spoken a lot about the pill here and here and here and here. The feedback from these posts have been phenomenal – my inbox is totally busting.

Here’s what you want to know…

Why do I break out when I stop taking the pill and what can I do to stop it?

Firstly – all those things I mentioned about (endometriosis, PCOS and so on) are all signs your hormones are out of whack big time. They are all treatable. They are signs your body isn’t working and it is about finding somebody to help you get that back in working order and on the road to a better you.

Secondly – before I get into pimple mode, we must know that synthetic hormones like those found in HRT and the pill are now being linked to cancer. If you want to hear more about that – I’ve got a podcast for you here.

So you want to stop taking the pill but you want it to be easy.
I get it.

When you stop taking the pill, one of two things happen. For some, nothing happens. Big fat nothing. No period, no acne, no fertile mucus. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. Not good news – because hormonally you are a wreck. There is nothing going on and until you get that sorted, nothing will.

On the other hand, you body can go into a frenzy as it tries to balance itself out. Remember, the pill was designed to prevent pregnancy – it literally flattens your hormones and disrupts the delicate dance they were designed to do. Imaging a heart monitor like you might get hooked up to in hospital. Now imagine it flatlining. There you go – that’s what is going on when you’re taking the pill.

When acne arises post pill, it is important to establish what part of your body is screaming out. Undoubtedly it is your hormones talking – communicating to you, in the form of the location of your pimples and the nature of them. This helps us decide how to best treat them. For example, large, painful blind type pimples are more of an indication of blockage rather than pussy and infected ones indicating damp (turbidity/toxicity) build up in the body. How we treat these in the clinic will differ from person to person, determined by their presentation. Of course, this works because it is an individualized approach.

That said, there are a few things you can do to help with that transition. Of course, my best advice is to be prepared and well supported when coming off the pill. Find a practitioner who has experience in this area – but these tips are appropriate right across the board.

1. Get onto the best multi vitamin and fish oil money can buy.

The pill zaps the living bajoongers out of you. You must get your body back on track nutrient wise – so topping up with as much vitamins and minerals as possible is key. Look for practitioner grade products, they might cost a little more, but they are well worth it. A general multi is ok when in good health – but it won’t replace what is lost whilst on the pill.

Fish oils is so good for everything. In this case – it takes good care of your skin. If your vegetarian or vegan, there are some great alternatives to fish oil.

2. Clean your diet right up for at least 4 weeks – do a mini cleanse and get your gut happy. This is ultimately the pivot of your health. If it is working and fueling, the rest of your fires on all cylinders. This may mean cutting down on meats and dairy and absolutely avoiding processed foods. A good alkaline cleanse can be key (check out my Spring Body Cleanse I’m running via the blog set to commence oct 22nd – it’s very basic but I’ve done the hard work for you!). Meat and dairy can cause inflammation, contributing to a host of issues including acne.

3. Get a good zinc supplement. Zinc is essential for beautiful skin. Or speak to your health practitioner – they may have a specific formula for you. We have one we regularly recommend to women coming off the pill.

4. Introduce a cleansing herbal supplement and go crazy on it. Better still, blend your own using fresh leaves and herbs from your garden. Think cleansing and soothing – so things like peppermint, nettle and dandelion. Make tea drinking a priority.

5. Sleep for your hormones – going to sleep (not just to bed!) before 11pm is vital to keep your hormones happy. If you sleep too little, you will find your body craving foods as it aims to regain the balance – it means you’ll feel lousy, eat poorly and probably more than you usually would.

6. Before bed, take your pro-biotic to keep your gut ticking and happy. Does wonders for you and your skin.

It can be useful to talk this over with your practitioner, but this advice is a great start to a smooth transition coming off the pill. Remember, listen to what your body is saying and allow it to go through the motions as it readjusts to the ‘new you’ post pill. It doesn’t have to be terrible – who knows, the reason you first went on the pill might not actually be relevant anymore anyway! Puberty delivers some interesting things.

35 Comments

  • October 8, 2012 By Rachel 12:39 pm

    Thanks for this Nat. I actually had worse acne on the pill! Have not gone back on it after having my kids, after consulting you, and feel much better for it!!

  • October 9, 2012 By alex 12:27 pm

    What about evening primrose??

    • October 9, 2012 By admin 2:46 pm

      nothing wroth with it at all! I like fish oil myself but evening primrose is good too.

  • October 9, 2012 By Tara Saville 3:57 pm

    Thanks for this information! I’m starting to think I may be one of those people where nothing much happens, I’ve been off the pill for nearly 6months and have had one period, skin is great and I don’t feel any different. I was thinking maybe it just took a long time since I’ve been on the pill since 14, now 27. I think I’m pretty healthy, coeliac, dairy free, infrequent meat and take fish oil. Is it normal to take this long or should I be looking into seeing someone regarding reestablishing my hormonal balance? And if so do you recommend anyone around the Sunshine Coast?

    Thanks again, really enjoy your posts!

    • October 9, 2012 By admin 4:15 pm

      My best rec is in brisbane. We also offer online consults. It can take a really long time for your body to sort itself out in some instances. nat x

  • October 9, 2012 By Mel 5:33 pm

    Keep these posts about the pill coming! Lord knows someone has to educate us! I can’t wait to get off the pill next month… Nat, you’ve taught me so much about why it’s bad for me and how I’ve been poisoning myself with it. I would never have known! I look forward to working with you to help sort out my horrendously painful periods and get my body back on track and ready for babies!

  • October 11, 2012 By Jessica 6:35 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I am going off of the pill in just a few days (finishing up the pack) and I’m so thankful to have some tips I can follow to hopefully expedite my hormonal recovery and minimize the acne. I really hope to be able to get things regulated enough to use Fertility Awareness Method for birth control, although we’ll be relying on condoms until my hormones sort themselves out. I am curious to hear your thoughts about maca root powder – I’ve heard this helps balance hormones and can be helpful when coming off the pill.

  • October 11, 2012 By Fi 10:29 am

    I got pregnant by accident when I went off the pill for two months. I was tracking my cycle and paying attention to my mucus, using condoms & withdrawal but got something wrong somewhere and now need to have a termination. I’m also going back on the pill even knowing everything Nat has taught us. My adivce is to be very carefull. It has been a hard time for my husband and I.

    • October 11, 2012 By admin 10:41 am

      Thanks Fi for your feedback. People must be aware that when coming off the pill it takes time to re-establish the cycle and to understand when you are potentially fertile. To fall pregnant in this time may have meant that you have practiced sex not using withdrawal or condoms properly, without enough time of understanding – as these methods are very effective. If unsure, it is best to use barrier methods until you full understand these methods – we would suggest at least 3 months before being comfortable with this. I am very sad to hear of Fiona’s situation.

  • January 23, 2013 By Donna 11:06 pm

    Nat.. I have found this article at just the right time it’s too much of a coincidence. I am at the moment debating whether to start a new brand of pill (I was bleeding through Yasmin all of a sudden after 8 years) something inside is screaming to give it all up and let my body decide how it wants to feel…but I’m not ready for kids and every doctor I’ve ever been to raves about the pill!!

    I have now made my decision and will be cancelling my doctors appointment and going down the natural route instead! Thank you so much for your information and tips 🙂

  • February 8, 2013 By Genevieve 11:05 am

    I stopped taking the pill just over a year ago after been on it for 7 years. For the first 8 months i felt absolutely brilliant, my skin looked the best it ever has however i hadn’t had a period at all in those first 8 months. Soon after i started to get pimples, lots of little pimples mostly on my forehead and chin area. i hit the 9 month mark and the pimples increased with huge cystic pimples on my forehead, one was sooooo big it looked like a boil. Anyway i put myself on every natural medication i could. The tenth month came and I got my first period, it was extremely painful and very, very heavy. the periods have been pretty regular, however the pimples became worse, they cleared up on the forhead and moved to the cheeks, neck and back. i went on zinc, EPO, fish oil, milk thistle a good multi vitamin, everything.Here i am now over a year and the pimples are still here, have gone down on my neck and back and now just on my cheeks. Have decided to never go back on the pill as don’t ever want to go through this again. It been the worst half a year of my life. Nothing seemed to help, i eat very, very healthy, drink over 2 litres of water, wash my face and I look after myself really well, drs shouldn’t give out the pill as much as they do.

  • March 28, 2013 By Kristen 2:39 pm

    Nat,

    I am having so much trouble with my skin since going off the pill 10 months ago. I am developing acne on my jawline and cheeks. Seems to be far worse on the left hand side. I eat really really well, drink plenty of water and I am also taking vitex. I dont eat any processed foods and I dont eat processed sugar as I worked out years ago that it triggered skin problems for me.

    What is a good high quality brand multi vitamin to take. Also been vegetarian and dairy free what is a good alternative to fish oil?

    Any advice? I also use Kora organics on my skin and Mukti botanicals.

    • March 28, 2013 By mnfadmin 9:17 pm

      Any practitioner prescribed multi and fish oil is best. Metagenics is fabulous.
      As far as the rest – it is so hard without knowing more specific information.
      I’d suggest you try oil cleansing and using foods that help to cleanse and purify the blood. Lots of herbal tea (dandelion is great), limit diary and gluten and see how you go. Check out follow natures range of oil cleansers.
      Nat x

  • April 7, 2013 By dorianna 11:31 am

    im 46 travelling at the end of july wondering if i was to go on the yaz pill in june can i then skip a period in july

    • April 9, 2013 By mnfadmin 7:59 am

      Dorianna – perhaps you’ve missed the point of this post? I don’t advocate for using the pill or skipping periods. Perhaps you might like to make sure your periods are a pleasant experience each month and if they aren’t, treat the cause. I hope this helps.

  • April 10, 2013 By Emily 6:21 pm

    Dear Nat, I’m really hoping you can help me! I went on the pill when I was 16, mainly to deal with my acne. It worked and I’ve enjoyed a long time with quite clear skin on my face but my back acne has always been a problem. I’m now 29 and I came off it in January because I was getting bad headaches and my GP recommended I go off it. Since then, I’ve had my period approx every month but they’ve only lasted 3 days or so but have been quite heavy. I know it will take time to get back to normal. My main worry is my skin! I’ve developed big pimples on my chin and all around my hairline… they flare up more around my period. I also have them on my back and chest, which I’ve always had a few of but they’ve really got bad since January. My GP didn’t give me any info other than saying if I didn’t get regular periods I might be infertile?! I didn’t know the right questions to ask, your article was so informative, thanks for writing it! I’m hoping you could please offer me some advice on how to get my pimple problem under control? I’m also interested to know how long does it normally take for the pill hormones to get out of your system?

    Thank you!

    • April 10, 2013 By mnfadmin 7:29 pm

      No offence but your GP doesn’t sound like he has much knowledge when it comes to fertility! What a load of rubbish. I you are getting a period, then you are fertile – at some point of your cycle. The pimples I’d suggest a quality multi vitamin (practitioner grade), fish oil for you skin as well as a zinc supplement. I’m also finding yourtea http://www.yourtea.com.au is excellent for skin and balancing hormones. It can take a very long time anywhere form 6 months to years for the effects of the pill to be fully gone. You could also seek some specific help with a natural fertility specialist. I hope this helps.

    • December 23, 2017 By Sara 3:56 am

      Dear Emily,

      I was just wondering what happened with your case as I am in a very similar situation as yours. 11 months down the lane and acne is getting worse. Did anything work for you?

      Thanks

  • May 9, 2013 By Nerina 10:54 pm

    I am so so happy that I have found this site!! Here I was thinking I am the only one going through the trauma of my skin breaking out when leaving the pill!! My situation sounds almost exactly like what Genevieve described….lots of fine pimples mostly on my forehead, that has now spread to my cheeks and chest area. For those going through similar situations, you will understand when I say how this has affected my confidence levels 🙁

    Thanks for the advice above, some of which I am already doing, but I will definitely start using the rest of the supplements right away. Besides cleaning or healing from the inside, what facials can you recommend for skin like mine? What do you think about microdermabrasion? I am unable to visit your clinic as I reside in SA. I am hoping you can make some recommendation that I will be able to use this side.

    • May 10, 2013 By mnfadmin 11:29 am

      microdermabrasion is ok – but it’s all about the inside out not always in the outside in 🙂

  • January 5, 2014 By Tracy 4:06 am

    I just wanna ask- at the moment am taking pills and I have my period now I just wanna ask how can I stop my recent pills to shift to another type of pills. Am taking cerezetta as the moment am planning to change.

    Thank you.

  • May 7, 2014 By Barbara 1:49 pm

    Hi

    I went off the pill just under a year ago and then got an implanon which I got taken out about 4 months ago. In this time I’ve had 2 periods. My last one being VERY heavy. I saw a chinese dr last year and the herbs worked great for my acne (which is the reason I went on the pill) but then I stopped due to $$. My acne is so bad at the moment I started seeing my chinese dr again for herbs and acupuncture. He is very good but doesn’t really explain a lot. How long would you expect someone to need herbs/acupuncture to get acne healed and hormones ok?

    I am working with a naturopath to get my gut in order, supplements etc. My diet is good according to my naturopath and my gut is really getting better.

  • July 28, 2014 By Danika 1:00 pm

    Thanks so much for this article Nat.

    The place I have reactive in regards to pimples is the top half of my back. Any thoughts on why that area? And any solutions? Look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

  • August 16, 2014 By Susan 8:36 am

    I have been considering eliminating birth control; I have been on the implant (upper arm) for 3 years and had had my second implant recently placed. I struggled with this idea even laying on my doctor’s table asking… are there long term risks to this? Should I take a break? I have some acne… what should I do? She assured me of no long term negative consequences of any birth control, but I’m not convinced. I’m 24 years old and a full time grad student with no want to become pregnant. I have not had a period in 3 years and now I’m on a journey to 6 years free from my period. I see for myself free from birth control and learn to regulate my skin naturally. I don’t know what I’m waiting for. xoxo Thank you for the awarness

  • October 15, 2014 By Sophie 6:25 pm

    What about for scarring? I’m currently using Manuka Oil

    • October 15, 2014 By Nat Kringoudis 6:47 pm

      Fish oil internally plus I like rose hip or vitamin E for topical application x

  • October 18, 2014 By Lisa 12:14 pm

    Thank you Nat! I stopped taking the pill recently [I’m somewhat embarrassed to say for laziness and not health related reasons]. When my skin started to break out, I was mad, but having read this post I am happier to see that this is a sign of my body readjusting to its normal balance. I’m excited to take on board your suggestions and to reset my hormones to their natural levels. Lisa xx

  • October 18, 2014 By Melissa 10:48 pm

    This post is impeccable timing for me to read, as I’m currently getting pimples from stopping the pill! I noticed you stated that endometriosis is treatable, and was hoping you could give me some information on this please? My doctor has put me on the pill to help stop the endo from coming back while we save up for our next IVF attempt. If there is a way to treat my endo and regain some fertility and good health (and get off the pill for good) that would help me immensely.

  • May 1, 2015 By Katrina 7:39 pm

    Hi Nat, I’ve got seriously bad acne at the moment. I had a baby 18 months ago and have had bad breakouts since I went off the pill a few months before I fell pregnant, all through the pregnancy and since. I’ve just moved to Perth and don’t really know anyone here to get recommendations for good naturopaths. Just wondering if you could recommend anyone in Perth who specialises in hormone health. in the meantime I will go out a buy some good Fish Oils and Multis. Thanks Nat for this post. It has come at a time when I needed it most.

    • May 5, 2015 By Nat Kringoudis 9:44 am

      Indeed! Head over to Amy at Fabulous Health – she will help sort you out. x

  • August 12, 2015 By Emily 10:39 pm

    Hi Nat,
    Thank-you for writing this! I have also just come off the pill (from when I was 15, now 27) and my body is a mess! It has been 2 months now, and I’ve had clear skin my whole life, but since i stopped the pill my chin has had constant pimples. Tonight I started the pill again (out of frustration), but after reading your article I regret it! Should I finish this pill cycle and try again next month? Or should I just not take anymore? How long does it take to come off the pill in general? Thanks!!!

    • August 24, 2015 By Nat Kringoudis 11:05 pm

      I really encourage you to work out what’s really going on here. There’s a reason your symptoms are there. Skin around the mouth represents the gut and digestive system so I suggest getting onto some good quality pre and pro biotics is a great start without seeing you. You might like to enlist the help of a natural health care practitioner to help you too. x

  • June 8, 2017 By allie 8:35 am

    Hi Nat! The link to your Spring Body Cleanse is not working for me? Could you post it again? 🙂 thanks so much. Allie x

    • July 5, 2017 By Nat Kringoudis 8:34 pm

      It has been upgraded to the current one on the website – on the home page. Free to join! x

  • December 23, 2017 By Sara 4:19 am

    Dear Nate,

    Thank you for the great article. I am hoping to benefit from your expertise. I am 28 and had clear skin all my life. Then in January 2017 I took YAZ only for 15 days for contraception and I started to notice large bumps and cystic acne. I tried antibiotics as I didn’t know at the time that it could be pill-induced. I was then diagnosed with PCOS. Recently, got my bloodwork done. My estrogen and testesterone are normal. I only have high LH levels (as compared to FSH). My acne is so bad. I get huge, inflammed bumps on my face. I get them on chin, but now they have progressed to my cheeks. Its been 11 months still coming off the pill and acne is getting worse. I have cut out dairy and most of the sugar from my diet. Do you think my hormones will balance naturally?Can you advise anything for my particular situation? Any supplements etc? or should I just wait out.

    Thanks a ton for your time! You are doing great work.

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