Whether you’ve been on the pill for a while and are worried about coming off it in case you get sudden breakouts. Or, maybe you have come off the pill already, and it’s not gone the way you hoped. Either way you’re thinking (or worrying) about post-pill acne. Whatever your situation, you might be wondering how you can clear acne after coming off the pill, and if it’s possible to do it naturally. The good news is there are a few things you can do to help clear post-pill acne. It’s easier to decide what’s best to do when we understand why post-pill acne develops in the first place, so let’s get into it.
How does the pill help clear acne?
A common cause of acne in women can be an increase in androgens, and the pill is often recommended in cases of female acne because it helps to reduce androgens. Androgens are classified as ‘male’ hormones, although they are perfectly normal in females, but they’re meant to be at lower levels. Testosterone is the main androgen that has been linked to inflammatory grades of acne.
Research suggests that the best forms of hormonal contraception for women with acne are the combined contraceptive pills. Meaning they contain synthetic (also known as artificial) forms of both oestrogen and progesterone. These help to reduce testosterone levels, which then helps to reduce excess sebum production and inflammation within the skin.
The downside to the pill
Unfortunately, there are some negative effects to long-term pill use that we’re not told about. And for a lot of women, they’re on the pill for years.
Research has shown that women who are on the oral contraceptive pill are more likely to be deficient in key nutrients. This includes vitamins B2, B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin C, E and minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc. These nutrients are essential for skin health, gut health and hormone health.
Now, women on the pill could be deficient in nutrients for a few reasons. It could be that they’re not getting the nutrients in through their diet, or that stress is depleting their body of nutrients. But some studies have found that the pill negatively impacts gut health.
Some studies have found that long-term use of the pill may increase the risk of developing IBD. The pill has also been found to change both the vaginal and gut microbiome. Some studies have found that hormonal contraceptive use can negatively alter the microbiome. Showing that its use may increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis, and encourage overgrowths of Candida. But, other studies have found that combined oral contraceptives have no negative effect, or increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria. The combination of nutrients and changes to gut health can affect inflammation, skin barrier function and hormonal balance – all of which will affect whether you develop acne.
PS – I’m not against the pill at all, it definitely has its benefits. I just think as women we deserve to know how it affects us and our bodies, and then make decisions.
How Post-Pill Acne Develops
Now, this isn’t true for everyone. Because some people may come off the pill and it’s all smooth sailing and nothing goes wrong. But, for a lot of women, there are a few bumps in the road in the form of breakouts, missing periods and irregular cycles.
The rebound effect
When you were on the pill, it had been keeping your androgens on the low. This has helped with regulating oil production and inflammation within the skin. But when you come off it, there is a chance that your hormones will rebound. This means that testosterone could increase again, causing oily skin, blocked pores and inflammation within the skin.
The role of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin
Another thing that can happen post-pill is that it increases a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG is made in the liver and its function is to transport your sex hormones to the places they need to be. However, when your hormones are bound to SHBG, they’re not active. If you have high levels of SHBG it means that your tissues won’t be getting the correct amount of hormones they need, which can cause hormonal symptoms such as low libido, vaginal dryness, low motivation and anxiety and depression.
Thinking of coming off the pill?
For most of us, we have two options when we’re thinking of coming off the pill.
Option 1 – We can come off the pill and pray it all goes well.
Option 2 – We can put the work in to rebalance and support our bodies for a few months. Then come off the pill.
Let’s discuss our options!
Option number 1 – we just come off it.
Now, there may be a few different reasons why you went on the pill in the first place. It could be that you had no hormonal symptoms before, you just used it for contraception. But for a lot of women, they’re on the pill to help them with symptoms related to hormonal imbalances. Now if you went on the pill with hormonal imbalances a few years ago, and haven’t had them properly investigated, or worked on since, they’re most likely going to reappear when you come off the pill. This is because the pill doesn’t actually fix your hormones, or all the underlying causes that could be there.
So when you come off the pill and still have hormonal imbalances, with an addition of nutrient deficiencies and gut issues, we’ve got quite a good recipe for acne, don’t you think? But because we’re unaware of the imbalances we have, the solution might be to just go back on the pill.
And that’s fine, you can go back on the pill. But you haven’t fixed anything. Those imbalances are still there.
Rebalancing your body while on the pill
While you’re on the pill, I don’t think it’s worth privately testing your hormones because we’re not seeing your true, natural hormonal pattern. I think it’s better to investigate other areas of your health, like your gut health, nutrient deficiencies, blood glucose levels etc. These are things we can work on while you’re on the pill to help clear acne naturally.
Let’s look at Option 2… We rebalance our body
Now while you’re on the pill, we don’t want to mess around with your hormones with supplements and herbs. This is because a lot of the herbs recommended to balance hormones can interfere with how the pill works – and that’s not what we want. So in the meantime, we can work towards supporting your gut health, regulating your stress levels, balancing your blood glucose and more. Working on these areas will help you clear acne naturally after the pill. Because these indirectly affect your hormones and help to rebalance your body. Meaning that when you come off the pill, your body isn’t dealing with a hormonal rollercoaster and blood glucose issues, gut issues, inflammation and more. See, by working on the underlying factors while on the pill you’ve made it a little easier for your body to cope with.
I can never guarantee that putting in the work before you come off the pill will mean you never develop post-pill acne. But, I’m sure you can agree that you’ll most likely be in a better situation, and reducing the risk of how severe the post-pill acne is.
Which one sounds better? I’m going to say the latter.
I’ve already come off the pill, what should I do?
If you’ve already come off the pill and experiencing symptoms such as acne, missing periods and more don’t panic, it’s not too late to do something. We would still do option 2, but at this point, we can test your hormones and put in hormone-specific supplements, because you’re not on the pill anymore.
Can you clear post-pill acne naturally?
If you’re sceptical about clearing post-pill acne naturally, let me briefly explain my clients’ story.
My client came to me having previously come off the pill, but after 10 months of being off it, she still hadn’t had a period, and her skin was getting worse and worse. She decided to go back on the pill to help reduce those symptoms – which it did. However, when she came to me she was ready to try coming off the pill again, but in the hope of regaining her period and preventing post-pill acne.
So this is what we did
She had a lot of stress going on in her life, and from blood tests, we found nutrient deficiencies, liver imbalances and some gut issues, so we agreed to stay on the pill for a while to correct the underlying imbalances. In the meantime, my client focused on small things she could add into her days to help her body adapt to stress, such as short daily walks, and making time to create art. We added supplements to help with the imbalances we found and also to give her body a little extra support with the stress she was under.
We did this for 8 months, and then she came off the pill. And guess what? Her period returned and stayed regular. With the help of a skincare specialist alongside nutrition, we managed to keep her skin clear and stable. How amazing is that?
Need some help?
Whatever your situation, if you’re struggling with post-pill acne, or worried about developing it, there are things you can do. And if you’re looking for some help, we can work together for six months via my Glow Getter package. This allows you to find any imbalances that might be affecting your skin, correct them and help you with the transition off the pill. But in the meantime, think about working on your blood glucose balance and gut health to help your body a little further.