Alice came to see me after her doctor advised she begin Accutane, a medication for acne, and get back on the pill because she should not get pregnant while taking this medication. She had developed acne after stopping birth control four months prior and was desperate for clear skin, but the thought of more medications didn’t sit right with her.
“I’m just so confused,” she explained. “How did I get acne after stopping birth control when I never had it before,” she asked.
Alice isn’t the first patient I’ve seen that’s complained of new onset of acne after discontinuing the pill. In fact, this is a common story in my naturopathic medical practice with the patients I see.
Post-pill acne is real and it is common, but it does not have to be your new normal.
The acne outbreak most women experience after stopping birth control generally comes on a few months after stopping hormonal contraceptives.
I personally struggled with this as well. When I quit birth control I developed cystic acne for the first time in my life. The worst of it? My job as a group fitness instructor required me to be front and center to a group of people every day. And believe me, when I was having to go up on stage as a group fitness instructor with acne all along my jawline, it was embarrassing. It was painful and I was afraid to sweat. I didn't even want to be seen most days because I felt everyone was staring at the latest giant zit to make its debut.Post-pill acne is real and it is common, but it does not have to be your new normal. Click To Tweet
Why We Develop Acne After Stopping Birth Control
Alice explained that her skin seemed oily within the first couple months of stopping the pill. What followed were small zits on her chin and jawline the week before her period. When she presented in my office she was noticing acne that was deeper and more inflamed 10 days before her period.
“It seems to be coming on sooner and sooner and I’m afraid my face is going to look like this all the time,” she shared during her first visit with me.
There were several reasons why Alice’s skin was rebelling and they are common after coming off of hormonal birth control.
Hormonal contraceptives suppress your natural hormones, including testosterone. When you discontinue them what is known as an “androgen rebound” can occur. Or in other words, your body kicks into high gear creating more testosterone. The elevated androgens cause an increase in sebum production, which is why oily skin is common, and acne follows.
For Alice, her symptoms were pointing towards excess androgen production, which we confirmed with lab testing.
Birth Control Depletes Zinc
Alice’s labs also revealed she was low in zinc. Birth control depletes nutrients like crazy, including zinc, which is essential for immune function and skin health.
Zinc also keeps your testosterone in check, helps your skin flourish, and support the immune system in regulating the bacteria that can lead to acne. Addressing nutrient deficiencies that are associated with birth control is key.
Birth Control Disrupts the Microbiome.
Birth control alters the gut flora in your intestines. Imbalances in gut flora can lead to inflammation and skin symptoms, like acne, rashes, and even hives.
Alice was experiencing difficulty passing stool and reported that sometimes her food wasn’t digested. Because of this, we began a comprehensive digestive enzyme and spore-based probiotic to begin shifting her gut to a more favorable state.
How to Heal Acne After Stopping Birth Control
Many women begin birth control to reduce or eliminate acne. Because of this, it can come back full force when you stop hormonal birth control as part of post-birth control syndrome.
Acne after stopping birth control, how long does it last?
For Alice, she had never had acne before starting the pill. This was a new struggle and one that left her feeling embarrassed and confused.
Whether you had acne or not before starting birth control, you can develop post-pill acne, which is a common symptom of post-birth control syndrome.
If you're coming off the pill, and you're feeling afraid of having that post-pill acne or cystic acne come back, let me assure you there are steps that you can take that don’t include another round of hormonal contraceptives.
Support Gut Health
We started Alice on a prenatal to help replenish nutrient stores. She also began Gut Rebuild because, in addition to supporting gut health, it also contains zinc, which supports the health of our skin.
As mentioned previously, I recommended Alice start a digestive enzyme and probiotic to support her overall gut health, maximize nutrient absorption and help her become more regular with her bowel movements. If you are not eliminating your waste every day then your skin is going to be the default organ to move toxins out.
Your gut is where your immune system lives, and if your immune system is healthy and happy then your skin is going to be healthy and happy.
Ditch the Dairy
Nobody likes it when I say take out any foods, but it is just so common to find that women who struggle with acne also have a dairy sensitivity.
Dairy can aggravate your skin, and I've seen this in my naturopathic medical practice with many patients.
That doesn't mean you can't do dairy ever, but before you come off these hormones, or while you're coming off of them, pull dairy from your diet. You can always reintroduce to determine if it contributes to your acne.
To help Alice’s skin quickly, I recommended a doctor grade 14-day detox, which I have had tremendous success with in my clinical practice.
We also started Alice on a hormone supportive supplement that contains DIM, broccoli seed extract, green tea extract, Rosemary, and Calcium D-Glucarate to support overall hormone balance. These nutrients help you process estrogen and testosterone to promote optimal hormone health.
DIM helps at the skin level and safeguard against the harmful types of testosterone. Testosterone's not all bad by the way, but it certainly can feel bad when your skin is breaking out. My goal in working with patients is to always help them find the optimal balance of their hormones.
For supporting skin health and resolving acne after birth control I typically recommend women stay with this product for a minimum of six months.
Supporting Your Skin Post-Pill
Within three months Alice was no longer dreading monthly outbreaks and she was getting more compliments about her skin by the day. She felt more confident as a result of our work together and was delighted to be able to heal her skin without having to get back on the pill.
If you're struggling with acne after stopping birth control or Post-Birth Control Syndrome, I want to invite you to grab my free quick start guide to help you start balancing hormones and working towards clear skin quickly.
I've also helped thousands of women heal their skin with the Brighten Protocol that I have developed within my naturopathic medical practice. It is now available to you through the Birth Control Hormones Reset.
You do not have to stay on hormonal birth control to have amazing skin. You can heal your skin naturally. So today, take the challenge to implement these three steps. Trust me, your skin and whole body will thank you for this.
Afshin A. et al.i, “Effect of Oral and Vaginal Hormonal Contraceptives on Inflammatory Blood Biomarkers,” Mediators of Inflammation, vol. 2015, Article ID 379501, 8 pages, 2015.
Ali I, et. al, Oral Health and Oral Contraceptive – Is it a Shadow behind Broad Day Light? A Systematic Review. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016 Nov;10(11). doi: 10.7860/JCDR/2016/19439.8790. Epub 2016 Nov 1. Review
Association Between Long-term Oral Contraceptive Use and Risk of Crohn's Disease Complications in a Nationwide Study. Gastroenterology. 2016;150(7):1561-1567.e1.
BRIGHTEN, JOLENE. BEYOND THE PILL: a 30-Day Plan to Eliminate Period Problems, Boost Libido, Improve Mood, Clear Skin, and Ditch the Pill When You're Ready. HARPER ONE, 2019.
Dreon, D., Slavin, J, Phinney, S. Oral contraceptive use and increased plasma concentration of C-reactive protein Life Sci., 73 (2003), pp. 1245-1252
Falony G, et al. Population-level analysis of gut microbiome variation. Science. 2016 Apr 29;352(6285):560-4. doi: 10.1126/science.aad3503. Epub 2016 Apr 28.
Fink, G., Sumner, B.E.H., Rosie, R. et al. Cell Mol Neurobiol (1996) 16: 325. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02088099
The impact of oral contraceptives on women's periodontal health and the subgingival occurrence of aggressive periodontopathogens and Candida species. J Periodontol. 2010 Jul; 81(7):1010-8.