Post Pill Acne: How to avoid an acne flare up after coming off hormonal birth control

Post pill acne can be daunting for anyone, but even more so for those that went on the pill to treat your acne in the first place. In this episode we will take a look at how you can best set yourself up to transition off the pill, without having to face a huge break out. If you need more support, I have created a step by step guide to help you transition off the pill and keep the skin you want.

What is Post Pill Acne or Post Pill Syndrome?

Post pill acne is a condition where we develop acne or have a return of acne after stoping the oral contraceptive pill. it is caused by a brief surge in a hormone group called androgens, that increase the production of sebum. This can wreak havoc on our skin, making us want to jump back on to the pill, purely so we can keep our clear skin. The good news is there are several ways you can help make coming off the pill as smooth as possible.

What happens to your hormones when you are on the pill?

When we are on the pill, it delivers our body with a daily dose of synthetic hormones. These hormones are progestin and ethinyl-estradiol. Depending on your specific type of pill, you have have both of these synthetic hormones or you may just be getting one.

These hormones are designed to act just like two hormones that we create naturally, named estrogen and progesterone. The overall idea here is to stop a process known as 'ovulation'. Ovulation is when your body releases an egg to be fertilised each month.

If you need a refresher on your period and how your hormones work monthly, Check out this article I wrote for RUSSH.

Whilst this is great for stopping unwanted pregnancy, it can affect our bodies ability to produce these hormones to the same standard once you begin to come off the pill. When we stop taking birth control, we need to get these hormones firing again, so we can begin ovulating once more.

How does the pill reduce acne?

The pill is often prescribed for acne as it is capable of suppressing sebum production. Sebum is our natural face oil that we produce within our pores to help maintain a healthy skin bacteria. The trouble here is, excessive sebum production leads to increased acne. This generally happens because excess sebum can get blocked inside our pores, along with bacteria which causes the body to mount an immune response. This response is, you guessed it, a big red shiner!

So if we are to suppress the production of sebum, then you are less likely to get pimples. That is why the pill does work for acne, but is only suppresses this whilst on the pill. When we begin to come off the pill, you are likely to see a return in acne or a post pill acne flare up, even if you didn't have acne before.

What causes post pill acne?

Post pill acne is caused by a temporary surge in androgens. Androgens are a group of hormones that dictate male traits in our body. It is normal for everyone to have androgens, but like with most hormones, we want an ideal, balanced level.

When we stop taking the pill, you will get a temporary surge in androgens due to a slight withdrawal process. This is essentially due to your sebum being suppressed whilst being on the pill, now it is making up for lost time. You will likely begin to produce more sebum than you did before. This process can last anywhere from 3 - 9 months. Most commonly you skin will get worse around the 3 - 6 month mark post pill.

How to smoothly come off the pill

  • when we are on the pill our natural hormones are suppressed

  • the pill suppresses sebum production

  • sebum is our natural face oil

  • when we come off the pill we get a temporary surge in a hormone group called androgens

  • androgens are a key player in the development of acne

  • your skin is likely to be at its worst around the 3 - 6 month mark

So how can you prevent a post pill acne flare up? Keep reading below.

How to prevent post pill acne

There are a few key steps we can take to help decrease acne after coming off the pill.

Start with your diet:

  • restore key nutrients back into our diet, as many can be depleted whilst taking the pill

  • increase your intake of dark leafy greens (high in iron, vitamin C and zinc).

  • add in blueberries, raspberries, blackberries (really any berry here!) to help with your antioxidant levels.

  • seeds are very nutrient dense. Add at least 1 tablespoon a day of either hemp seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds , pumpkin seeds etc. Any will do! Or you could try your hand at seed cycling.

  • eat protein with every meal. You want to aim for the size of your palm. This is super important for my vegos and vegans out there!

  • help stimulate your liver to help metabolise and excrete unwanted hormones. Foods that are great for this include cruciferous vegetables, turmeric, grapefruit and globe artichokes.

  • eat regular meals! This will help balance your blood sugar levels which means you wont be reaching for those sweet treats on the reg.

If you are coming off the pill and need more support, check out my week by week guide Coming Off The Pill. This ebook can help you transition smoothly off the pill, all whilst keeping the clear skin you want.

About the Author

Chloe is an internal skincare Naturopath with a passion for, you guessed it, healing your skin from within. Aside from seeing people in her online clinic, Chloe has also created several step by step guides to help set you up for success by giving you the tools you need to help heal your skin for good. Sound like you? Check out her guides here.

Chloe also hosts a podcast Skin From Within, covering all things internal skincare from hormonal acne to rosacea, psoriasis and more.