You decide to stop the pill. Everything is going spectacularly. What are all these people chatting about? Acne after stopping birth control. Coming off the pill acne. No siree. Not me.
Your skin is clear as a glass of triple filtered water.
Weeks are passing by and as you wait for your first ‘real’ period to kick back in you start to notice your skin getting oilier.
Huh? What’s going on here.
Is it the weather?
Reaching for the powder puff you blot that shine out.
A few more weeks pass by and you’re starting to see whiteheads. Yikes. What are these? I didn’t even get whiteheads as a teen. As day after day’s going by you’re waking up to more whiteheads, more breakouts, more period acne.
And as time ticks on redness is taking hold. Your spots are not just spots. They’re mountains. Volcanoes. Beacons of pain. Confidence sucking giants.
You feel completely out of control. Embarrassed. Like you have to justify to everyone you know why your skin’s suddenly got so bad. And you don’t know what the heck to do about it. You weren’t prepared for this. Skipping well past acne as a teen – you have no acne hacks in your acne attack arsenal.
Help, what do I do?
What feels worse is not knowing why acne after stopping birth control is happening to you. Why your skin is so bad after coming off the pill. My friend, today I’m here to fix this for you (plus give you some acne attack hacks – be sure to keep reading till the end). Today I’m here to give you your back power. Because here’s the secret sauce. Once you know why acne after birth control happens you can start to heal your skin – for good.
Psst; while reading this acne blog exposé I also want you to remember you are even more amazing for being you with acne – you really are. Acne sucks. It’s tough. And you’re going through it. This makes you tough. This makes you amazing. This makes you a superhuman. Remember this. You are amazing.
Acne After Stopping Birth Control; Why?
Why, why, why? Why is post birth control acne plaguing, sprouting and inhabiting my face right now?
Go away, just go away.
You’re shouting and your skin’s just not listening.
Here’s a basic, bottom line look at why.
Imagine right now, as a human adult your mum sends in a nanny.
This nanny is no normal nanny – it’s the super nanny.
Takes no shizzle.
She has a job to do and she’s doing it.
This is Bootcamp.
And you didn’t even sign up for it – thanks for the present mum 😉
This new live-in-Ma is not what you expected.
Suddenly your freedoms are taken away.
Yes you have clean and folded laundry. You now also have a curfew of 10 pm.
Yes you now have dinner on the table, always. You’re now also limited to just 1 hour of reality TV every night – Woah how can she expect me to live this way?
There are benefits and there are cons.
Less responsibility. Fewer freedoms.
You think for yourself less. You follow what she tells you to do more.
Supernanny regiments your life into a finely tuned, well oiled, always predictable, never surprised ‘perfect’ shiny life.
You start to get used to it. You enjoy it. Settle in.
You don’t like to admit it but you kinda like being told what to do… every now and again.
And then out of nowhere, your supernanny subscription expires. Your mum’s birthday gift is gone. Supernanny didn’t even say goodbye. Didn’t even tell you how to survive without her. She got you hooked and then she walked on out.
I tell you this story because this is what birth control does to your hormones my friend.
Birth control is like supernanny. Super strict. Super regimented. Super predictable.
Birth control controls your hormones and takes away their freedoms. And they kinda like it, they no longer have to think for themselves, balance themselves out, adjust for weird spikes.
And the longer they have supernanny – the more likely it is they get used to being told what to do aka the more likely it is you will get acne after stopping birth control.
Acne After Birth Control; Your hormone picture
I’m willing to take a bet the pill you’ve been taking before being sprung by acne was estrogen-based. It probably contained a human-made version called ethinyl estradiol.
You, my friend, have 3 primary sex hormones;
- Testosterone aka an androgen
These cycle up and down every month. Like the worlds slowest rollercoaster 😉
When you add synthetic estrogen into your monthly mix it tells your body to stop making so many androgens – and specifically to stop making so much testosterone.
It walks in like supernanny, it points at your ovaries and your adrenal glands and it says – you are now time-limited, you now have a curfew. You may no longer keep doing your thing (watching reality TV ;)) for longer than 1 hour per day.
Supernanny is scary and so your ovaries listen.
They stop making such many androgens. They stop making so much testosterone.
And just in case your ovaries go rogue, just in case they disobey to make a bid for freedom – your supernanny puts guards at their door. In your body this is known as sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) – Levels of SHBG go up when you’re taking birth control. So even if your ovaries did ‘forget themselves’, there’s a testosterone mop at their door.
Your ovaries are locked down.
You are doing awesomely for getting all of this so far my friend. And I bet you’re wondering – ok fab – I get this, but why does this mean I have acne after stopping birth control?
Post Birth Control Acne; Why?
Imagine how crazy you’d go after someone told you;
You cannot go out.
You cannot see friends.
You cannot have access to the internet. OMGosh are you kidding me?
Can you even imagine?
Your hormones go this crazy when they no longer have supernanny at their door.
Androgens get pumping. Your testosterone levels go up.
These hormones impact your skin my friend.
Super specifically these hormones make your skin more oily.
Fact; Unbalanced sebum or poor-quality sebum or sticky sebum is a major cause of acne.
It triggers all sorts of biology changes which end up in acne.
One of these is known as hyperkeratosis aka a thickening of the skin inside your pores.
Pair this up with extra sticky sebum and boom – clogged pores and acne.
How to Treat Acne After Stopping Birth Control
What can you do now? Is your skin going to be bad forever? Can you get rid of post-birth control acne?
Oh yes, my friend you absolutely can, here are 2 ways I strongly recommend you look at today.
1) Get an acne diet started asap. Diet is a huge player in acne. The foods you chose to eat are changing your hormone balance today, tomorrow and every day for the rest of your life. It’s a key reason why you have huge power and control over hormonal acne.
Fact is taking the pill has been covering up these hormone changes. You’ve not been able to see the effect of foods on your skin. Which means you could have been eating acne-causing foods quite happily until coming off birth control.
Psst; this is an acne trap it’s so easy to fall into. It’s crazy easy to think I’ve been eating this food for an age without any skin issues so no way will not eating it make my skin better. Now you know my friend. You’ve got the power.
2) Use skincare which can help turn down your skin’s sebum production. If you can make your skin less oily you can help get rid of coming off the pill acne. Yes to that.
Psst; you do not want to dry out your skin aka be super careful of using ‘drying’ skincare or ‘drying lotions’ – this is going to make your acne worse in the long term. So when turning down your skin’s oil production be careful which skincare products you use. This is something I’m talking you through step by step in the Acne Clinic.
Heads up – green tea is a super skincare active to look out for. There’s evidence green tea can help stop your skin from turning testosterone into an up to 10 times more potent androgen called dihydrotestosterone.
The more potent the androgen the more sebum your skin’s making. Green tea to the rescue.
There you have it my beautiful friend, you now understand 1) why you’re experiencing acne after stopping birth control and 2) how to start helping heal your post birth control acne. Know that I’m always here for you, I know first hand what having acne can do to your self-esteem, your self-confidence, your self-worth. I’m here to help you heal yours in a faster amount of time than it took me.
Now over to you, how long has it been since you stopped taking the pill? How long have you been experiencing post birth control acne? Come share your story with me and others who are experiencing the exact same thing in the comments below. Because together we are stronger.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.