How to avoid acne post birth control

Breakouts aren’t just a cosmetic problem. They can be painful, distressing, and they can be a sign of hormone imbalance. The good news is there are a few things you can do to avoid acne after coming off the pill.

Pretty much everyone I know experienced some type of ‘breakouts’ during their teen years. And didn’t those spots always come timed with a standout life event  cue school prom or debut…  *sigh*.

For most of us, those puberty-related pimples disappeared as we transitioned into our later teen years or early twenties. Maybe your hormones like to remind you that you’re young at heart  with one or two making their presence known just before your period or ovulation, but they’re generally pretty mild and nothing to hold an intervention against.

But for some unlucky folks, the skin troubles only persist as they get older. And for some, they can even get worse.

Adult acne can be painful, indicate your skin is more sensitive to things like weather, sun and even fabrics or makeup, and be a sign of more troubling issues in your body like hormone imbalance.

Acne and the pill

For women, hormonal birth control like the pill is often recommended to treat acne, and it can be helpful in minimising the appearance of skin troubles. However, when women then come off the pill (for a range of reasons), they find the acne returns, sometimes worse than it was before.

If you’ve come off the pill and your skin has decided to turn into the devil, you may be concerned (and forgiven) you’ll never get it under control. Skin conditions can have a huge impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing too, so it couldn’t be further from the truth that your condition is ‘just a few spots’ or ‘a bit of redness.’

So how do you manage the return of your skin condition after stopping the pill? I have a few solutions for you to consider below:

Find the underlying cause of your troubles

For many clients and readers I speak with, they were treated with hormones before the full underlying cause or contributing factors were properly identified. Much like with reproductive system conditions, such as PCOS, heavy bleeding or even endometriosis, the symptoms are then suppressed but not treated by the contraceptive pill.

Unless the underlying condition or cause is addressed, you can almost guarantee your skin-related symptoms will come back after ceasing the medication. Symptom suppression can be useful, but it is never a cure. I spoke at length in this post about the common causes of skin conditions, perhaps one of those options feels familiar for your body? Working with a functional doctor or therapist, such as my team at The Pagoda Tree, can help you diagnose what’s really going on.

Start managing your skin problem before you come off the pill

Sounds a bit weird, I know! However, the better shape you’re in before this transition from medication, the better your body will manage it. If you have time up your sleeve, starting to support your general health as well as the underlying cause you’ve identified is always a good plan.  Best general starting protocol I find (that’s safe for almost all women) is:

  • Crank up gut health support!
    One of the things the pill does is impact the health of the gut microbiome (the ‘good bacteria’). When your gut health is compromised, it affects every other system in your body. A compromised gut can neither effectively absorb nutrients the body needs, nor keep out things that your body is better off without. If your identified cause of the acne is epigenetic-related (I explained this in the post linked above), improving your gut health is one measure that will only support your skin and general health. I also talk about this in depth in my new book  find out more HERE or get your copy for $1.99 USD.
  • Supplement right!
    Don’t underestimate the benefits of a good quality multivitamin and fish oil as part of your recovery. Synthetic hormone contraceptives literally suck the living daylights out of your vitamin and mineral stores. Investing in quality supplements can make a big difference.

Detox your diet and skincare

Common allergens like gluten and dairy can be behind some symptoms like acne and dryness, so an elimination protocol can help you identify if diet is behind your skin problems. For some of my patients, this can be dependent on the phase of their cycle – they may be able to tolerate dairy, for example, pre-ovulation, but in the lead up to their period its a complete no-go. Charting your outbreaks and food intake through your cycle can be a great first option before eliminating a food.

I’ve talked a lot about systemic triggers for skin conditions, but topicals can also be a significant issue for many people. Your skin care, makeup, cleaning products, even what you wash your clothes in can trigger acne, dermatitis and severe dryness. Much like with food elimination, try swapping each of these items over to more single-ingredient, natural brands.

I’ve talked about my favourite makeup options here, and Emmily is my favourite Aussie expert for makeup that your body will love. Nicole and I also talked about this topic with expert Rachael Pontillo on the Period Party podcast, take a listen!

Don’t forget the basics

The measures you hear about that can help all sorts of health issues can help skin conditions too.

You know these ones – eat lots of fresh veggies, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy fats, manage your stress, exercise to the point of sweating a few times a week, and get that beauty sleep.

These basics are repeated a lot in the health space because they support general health and wellbeing, and your skin health is part of your general wellbeing. Eating a well-rounded, whole-food diet is the best template for healthy hormones too, so if your acne is hormonal, the basics will help support your body in healing your hormones.

As you can see, a symptom-suppression approach is definitely not a cure. On a regular basis, I treat and hear from women who are able to reverse their skin conditions post-pill use, so I want you to feel empowered and encouraged that your skin health (and whole body health) can improve, not matter why you were on the pill originally. I love hearing your stories and questions – share below or send me an email about your skin issues after coming off the pill.

Contraception Deception is a quick and easy read that covers everything you need to know about birth control options.

Get clued up on hormonal birth control! My new book with Dr Shawn Tassone dives deep to allow you to get the facts, clues, tips and tricks around birth control. If you want to transition off OR use contraception, we’ve got you covered.

Get your copy HERE (It’s just $2 USD)

1 Comment

  • September 11, 2018 By Tiana 8:01 pm

    Ahh skin! I originally went on the OCP when I was 13 (!!!) for period pain. With the assistance of a beautiful naturopath I eased off the pill and transitioned smoothly to life off the pill. All was jolly besides my damn skin (which mind you wasn’t an issue prior to the pill or whilst on the pill). A year and half later and my jaw line is non stop full of nasty acne. I’m eager to learn more and how I can support the hormones from the inside out. (As I only use organic makeup and skin products as well as converted household products). Would love any advice/point in the right direction. Thank you so much for doing this incredible work x

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