A concern women often have when coming off the birth control pill is “post pill acne”. And this concern is often valid due to the way the pill works.
They may have experienced this in the past or their friends or family may have told them this might happen. Coming off the pill with acne prone skin can be a very scary thing.
If you find yourself in this situation, here’s what you need to know about supporting your skin while coming off the pill.
What causes post-pill acne?
There are certain birth control pills that suppress sebum (skin oils) to a minimal level, a level to what we have in our childhood . That is why birth control pills “control” acne. Adults are supposed to have more sebum than children, so it’s an abnormal situation.
Your body and your skin responds to this situation by “up-regulating” sebum production and when you stop the birth control pill, the sebum production goes into overdrive and can persist for several months after stopping the pill.
In other words, post birth control pill acne is the result of rebound sebum production as you withdraw from the sebum lowering drugs such as drospirenone (Yasmin), norgestimate or cyproterone (Diane-35). There is also a temporary increase in androgens (male hormones) as your ovaries become active again.
This withdrawal process should be temporary as your ovaries start producing their own estrogen and progesterone, which are good for your skin. Post pill acne should only peak at the 6 month mark and then improve.
Post-pill Acne Natural Treatments
For best results, start treatment a couple of months before you stop the pill. That way, your skin will be less reactive, and better able to withdraw from the drugs.
- Avoid normal A1 cow’s dairy because it spikes a hormone called IGF-1 and because it contains A1 casein (an inflammatory protein) which can stimulate mast cells and histamine. Avoid all normal dairy (yogurt, cheese, ice cream, milky coffees) but you can have butter (which contains minimal casein) and goat or sheep dairy (which have only A2 casein).
- Reduce sugar because (like dairy) it spikes IGF-1 . Sugar is the high-dose fructose you get from desserts, honey, fruit juice, and dried fruit, not the low-dose fructose you get from whole fruit.
- Consider taking DIM (diindolylmethane), which is a phytonutrient from broccoli. DIM is a natural androgen-blocker and is one of the most popular natural treatments for acne.
- Take zinc. Zinc is the perfect medicine for post-pill acne because it reduces keratin, kills bacteria and reduces testosterone. You’ll probably need at least 30 mg of a good quality zinc.
- Consider taking the herbal medicine berberine, which is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and improves insulin sensitivity (thereby reducing the acne hormone IGF-1). Berberine also reduces androgens in women . Berberine is not safe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and should not be combined with some prescription medications. Speak to your clinician or pharmacist for more information about how to use berberine safely.
- Support healthy stomach acid with a gentian tincture or a good quality digestive enzyme formula with betaine hydrochloride (HCL). Up to 40% of acne-sufferers have low stomach acid .
How long should you expect improvement? If you start the above treatment a few months before stopping the pill, it should help prevent acne altogether. If using to treat post pill acne, lasting improvements with the above treatment will take place in 6 months.
If you would like a personalized approach to resolve your skin issues, I recommend a free 10-15 minute introductory call with me to see if a naturopathic assessment and treatment may be right for you.
To book an appointment with me:
-Dr Diana Semjonov, ND
This article is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis. Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed health professional, such as a naturopathic physician is highly recommended prior to starting a natural treatment plan.