How do you avoid acne after coming off the pill? Can you beat post pill acne AND be free from all the symptoms you suffered from before and during your time on birth control? The answer is yes and I’m hoping this article will provide all the information you need to avoid acne after coming off the pill!
Thinking of going off birth control but are terrified of breaking out? There’s so much fear about coming off the pill and what might happen to your acne/weight/hair/moods when you stop taking that daily dose of synthetic hormones… but with so many women suffering from terrible post pill breakouts, it’s easy to see where all this fear stems from.
If you read my previous post, then you’ll already be aware of why the pill can cause acne but to sum up, the pill can cause acne by:
- switching off your natural hormones
- pumping your body full of synthetic hormones
- depleting you vitamin and mineral levels
- destroying your gut flora
- causing insulin resistance
- causing intestinal permeability
- messing with sebum production
going off birth control? how to avoid acne after coming off the pill
I’d been using natural and organic beauty products for about 5 years when I decided to come off the pill and was more wary of the foods I was putting in my body so I felt switching to a less hormonally invasive birth control was the right thing to do for my health. At the time I had no idea just how bad the pill was and the damage it had caused to my body, I just knew I didn’t want to be taking it anymore. Little did I know my skin would go crazy 2 months later…
During the 8 years I was on the pill, I was never completely clear of acne. My doctor kept switching me from pill to pill to try and find ‘the one’ that would clear my skin. I started on Dianette aged 15 then after 4 years switched to Microgynon, Cerazette then finally Yasmin before coming off the pill at 23. I honestly never thought within 2 months of coming off the pill my acne would be the worst it had ever been. It took me a further 2 years of dealing with constant, painful breakouts before I fully understood why I was getting acne and what I could do to heal.
So you don’t have to spent years researching and experimenting, I’ve compiled my top tips on how to avoid acne after coming off the pill:
don’t wait till you breakout before starting treatment
The best way to avoid acne after coming off the pill is to start your anti-acne treatment plan 2-3 months before you finish taking birth control. This way you can prepare your body and get it as healthy and balanced as possible so whatever post pill symptoms get thrown your way, your body is in the strongest possible position to keep things calm and under control.
Don’t worry if it’s too late and you’ve already started breaking out. Just follow the other steps as closely as possible to get your hormones and health back to peak condition.
We are often told by medical professionals that the contraceptive pill helps to ‘regulate periods’ and ‘balance hormones’. This is NOT the case and rather than regulating hormones, the contraceptive pill actually turns off important hormones completely. The contraceptive pill completely switches off ovulation. You may think that you only need to ovulate as part of getting pregnant and starting a family but ovulation is actually a vital component to your overall hormonal health. Our bodies can ONLY make progesterone through ovulation, so without ovulation our bodies become seriously low on progesterone – resulting in low libido, mood swings, pre-menstrual acne and other PMS symptoms.
follow a healthy, wholesome diet… but don’t restrict yourself
The two key groups that need to be cut out of your diet are sugar and dairy – specifically A1 dairy (A2 is usually fine and includes dairy from goat, sheep and Jersey cows). A1 dairy is super duper inflammatory – especially when you’re struggling with any sort of intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is where toxins leak out through the walls of your gut and into your blood stream causing inflammation, acne, lymphatic congestion and weight gain. Guess what one of the biggest causes of leaky gut is? That’s right. The pill! Being on the pill for a substantial amount of time will leave you vulnerable to intestinal permeability so the best thing you can do is avoid A1 dairy while you heal your gut.
Eating high amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugary snacks cause the pancreas to dump a load of insulin and IGF-1 to help maintain balanced blood sugar. However, too much insulin wrecks havoc on your skin. Not only does too much insulin and IGF-1 lead to increased sebum production but it also makes the skin extra sensitive to acne-causing androgens which will further increase sebum production, hyperkeratinisation, blocked pores and eventually inflammation. Quitting sugar is undoubtedly the best thing you can do for your skin, your periods and your overall health!
When my acne got bad after coming off the pill, the first thing I did was start obsessing over my diet. I cut out gluten, then A1 dairy, then ALL dairy, then refined sugar then ALL sugar…then when that didn’t work I continued all those restriction PLUS interchanging vegan/paleo/pescatarian/grain free diets, but did those strict dietary habits improve my skin? No! In fact, my skin started getting worse and worse (more info here)! Don’t be scared of protein, healthy fats and gentle carbs (no more than 1 cup a day), without these food groups you won’t be able to rebalance hormones and clear acne. Focus on cutting out the key inflammatory foods but fill up big time at meals times with plenty of nutritious veg, nuts, seeds, organic meat and oily fish. Eating enough fat and protein at each meal is the key to avoiding post-meal sugar cravings.
sleep in the pitch dark – or invest in an eye mask
For optimal sleep, it’s advised that you nod off this side of midnight – this will help you to wake up more energised and leave you with happier hormones and calmer skin. When you sleep, your body repairs, detoxifies, regulates hormones and adjusts blood sugar levels and in order for our bodies to fulfil these functions properly, the brain must pass through four different levels of sleep cycles. My lovely friend Georgie has written a fab article on sleep cycles here. To maximise hormone function while you sleep, try to get to bed by 10 p.m. Hormone experts claim that one hour of sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. is the equivalent to two hours of sleep before or after these time slots!
Sleeping in total darkness also sends important signals to the brain that it’s time to switch off and rest. Being in total darkness also improves your body’s natural melatonin production which can boost mood and help balance hormones. This means investing in some black-out blinds or an eye mask as well as reducing your exposure to blue light from TVs and mobile devices in bed. Too much exposure to blue light at bedtime can slow or even stop melatonin production causing disturbed sleep.
turn off all devices and enjoy a long candle lit bath before you go to bed. not only will some ‘me time’ dramatically reduce stress but the warmth of the bath along with dim candle light will make you super sleepy and perfectly prepped for a great night of restorative sleep.
detox those xenoestrogens – inside and out
‘Xenoestrogens’, ‘estrogen mimickers’ or ‘endocrine/hormone disruptors’ can cause us major hormone trouble. Chemicals we’re exposed to on a daily basis such as the pill, perfumes/fragrance, pesticides, cleaning products, ingredients in skin care, make up and plastic containers all mimic the functions of our natural oestrogens within the body. All these fake oestrogens increase the total amount of oestrogen in our bodies resulting in oestrogen excess, or oestrogen dominance. This condition results in an increase of androgens and can even block the effects of our own true, natural oestrogens.
where possible, switch to organic fruit and vegetables and natural cosmetics to reduce your exposure to toxic hormone disruptors.
Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is a natural, food-based supplement derived from cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli and is great for re-balancing hormones when you come off the pill. DIM has amazing anti-androgen properties and regulates oestrogen metabolism to help you detox unwanted, toxic xenoestrogens that have accumulated during your time on the pill. Take no more than 400mg of DIM per day for a minimum of 3 months for best results. In the past, I recommend Estroblock Pro and Nature’s Way (2/3 a day) as these two brands use BioResponse DIM which is said to be the most absorbable form of DIM.
When I had my copper IUD taken out earlier this year I was desperate to find a safe, totally natural contraceptive alternative. I've been charting my basal body temperature since 2015 and it's such a great tool for understanding your periods and hormones SO MUCH BETTER! Seriously, your temperature first thing in the morning can tell you so much about your hormone imbalances (link in bio for my blog post on this subject)! Anyway, since 2015 I'd been using the Clue app to track my periods and monitor my hormone fluctuations but when I discovered @naturalcycles I knew it was the contraceptive upgrade I'd been looking for! It's the only certified contraceptive app and has a perfect use Pearl index of 0.5 – meaning 5/1000 women got pregnant in a year – compared to 0.3 on the pill, 0.6 on the copper IUD and 2 using condoms. Pretty great results for something that has ZERO side effects and takes literally 20 seconds to do in the morning! If you're interested you can get a 10% discount code for the yearly package over on my blog (link in bio)
heal your gut and love your flora
Factors such as the contraceptive pill, high sugar/processed diet, stress, lack of sleep, medication/antibiotics, poor digestion, food allergies/intolerances all disrupt the bacteria population so our internal eco system becomes out of balance and leads to inflammation throughout the entire body. Avoiding the gut damaging factors listed above is the first step to healing your gut but there are some other things you should consider trying to improve gut function and reduce inflammation.
- Probiotics – Repopulate your gut with beneficial strains of good bacteria to help reduce inflammation. It’s important to get a high quality brand – I recommend Garden of Life, Prescript Assist, Epigenetic International, Natren or Symprove
- Betaine HCL and Digestive Bitters – Works really well in combination with a probiotic as it helps increase stomach acid to help you break down and digest food better. Better digestion = less inflammation!
- Berberine – A fantastic supplement for acne – it helps improve intestinal permeability, reduces inflammation, reduces testosterone in women, improves insulin sensitivity and is also a natural antibiotic. Berberine is a potent herb so it’s important to pulse your dose – I take it for 1 month then break for a week, then take for a month then break for a week etc.
take these essential acne-clearing supplements
Whatever’s causing you acne, there are three supplements that can really make a difference. Whether you acne is caused by coming off the pill, insulin resistance, PCOS or gut dysfunction these “key three” supplements can help restore hormone balance and promote clearer, calmer skin.
The contraceptive pill can seriously deplete you of important vitamins and minerals, especially B-vitamins, zinc and magnesium – all key nutrients for healthy skin so it’s really important you address these deficiencies!
zinc for post pill acne
Zinc is vital for wound healing, inflammation control, metabolism of testosterone and vitamin A function, so it plays an vital role in hormone management and acne. In a 2010 study, zinc showed promising results in a 12-week study. Patients reported a big decrease in acne – almost 79% of the patients had an 80-100% improvement! Zinc Picolinate is the most absorbable form of zinc and experts recommend 30-50mg of Zinc Picolinate per day.
b complex for post pill acne
B vitamins, particularly B6, are excellent if you’re prone to bad PMS, acne and irregular periods after coming off the pill. I’ve had great success with vitamin B complex for balancing hormones and bringing back natural periods. I’ve coached women who had cycles of 40+ days with terrible PMS symptoms who managed to get their cycles down to a 28-32 day cycle in just 1 month by supplementing with a B complex. My favourite brands are Thorne and Epigenetics International.
check the label and always avoid B12 from cyanocobalamin as it can cause acne – look for methylcobalamin instead!
magnesium for post pill acne
Magnesium is considered the most critical mineral required within every cell of our body and when our bodies are deficient, it can spell trouble for our hormones and our skin. It’s known as nature’s chill pill and helps our hormones by improving sleep, regulating blood sugar levels and reducing stress yet so many of us don’t get anywhere near enough. Why? Aggressive farming methods, soil depletion, poor gut health and the pill are just some of the factors that make magnesium deficiencies so, so common. Not only that, a deficiency often goes undiagnosed in standard blood tests as only 1% of the body’s magnesium is found in the blood. Magnesium Glycinate is said to be so effective for insulin resistance it’s performed BETTER in trials than Metformin – an insulin sensitising drug prescribed to those with diabetes. I take 300-400mg a day split between 3 doses for maximum absorption.
what happens if my periods don’t come back and I still breakout after coming off the pill?
Sometimes you can follow the rules to the T and yet 3 months post pill, you still run into trouble. If your periods haven’t come back after 3 months or are really irregular, heavy, painful or you’re dealing with awful PMS and acne after coming off the pill, then you should consider taking the herb Vitex (also know as Agnus Castus or Chasteberry/Chaste Tree). Vitex works by preventing your pituitary gland from producing too much prolactin. High prolactin can cause reduced FSH levels which then results in ovulation problems. No ovulation = no progesterone, and low progesterone can cause all the symptoms listed above.
It’s important to leave at least 3 months after coming off the pill before trying Vitex/Agnus Castus. This is because you want to give your body a good chance of producing it’s own hormones on its own accord. Taking Vitex if your body doesn’t need it can lead to imbalances further down the line. You will need to take Agnus Castus consistently for 3-4 months before you start to notice improvements.
never take vitex while you’re are on hormonal birth control – it’s a very potent herb and can reduce its efficiency!
can I eventually go back to a regular diet?
Yes! Once you repaired your gut, your skin is clear and your periods back to normal (normal meaning regular, painless and no PMS) I wholeheartedly believe that you can go back to enjoying the occasional treat without it affecting your skin. Just don’t go crazy as sugar will always have a negative effect on your health. Once you’re skin is clear you can start reducing the supplements (although probiotics and magnesium will always be staples in my daily routine!)
So, if you’re thinking of going off birth control or have already come off birth control and want to know how to avoid acne after coming off the pill, then these tips should help you get through the danger zone with as minimal damage as possible. I’d love to know hear your thoughts, has coming off the pill effected your skin badly? Did you find any natural remedies that helped clear your skin after coming off the pill? Let me know in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin