The why behind post-pill acne + how to get ahead of it

I have seen this many times in working with clients, they had recently transitioned off birth control and now their acne is way worse than before. It’s important to address why this is happening in order to have a preventative approach.

And a small disclaimer here, this post is solely for educational purposes. And it’s not my intention by any means to shame you if you are on birth control. My hope is to educate and empower you to know what is happening beneath the surface because many women just aren’t taught about the pill and what it is actually doing to your body.

Maybe you got on the pill for your breakouts, or even your wild period symptoms. It’s often the first response in the western medicine field which is unfortunate. Our bodies have a desire to be in balance and thrive, we just need to provide them with the tools and support needed to do so.

Of course each person is different so I’m going to tackle this from a bird’s eye view and briefly touch on each of these topics. 

Endocrine System: This one is kind of a no brainer, it’s hormonal birth control so it’s of course going to impact our hormones but how does it relate to acne?

  • The pill prevents ovulation by adding synthetic estrogen to the body (unless it’s the mini pill which only contains progestin)
    • Elevated estrogen can lead to an increase of inflammation in the body and many women experience uncomfortable period symptoms because of this including cramping, breast tenderness, “period” poops, etc. 
  • Hormones perform a dance of sorts within the body so if something gets out of balance, the entire system can be affected.
  • The pill is often prescribed for acne due to its ability to lower testosterone and oil production. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal right, I mean we are women, we don’t really need testosterone right? But the reality is, this process can be effective for eliminating acne for some but only while on birth control. Many women experience an androgen rebound after coming off leading to more breakouts, maybe even worse than before.
    • I like how Dr. Jolene Brighten explains it, she says, “I hate to say it, but if you’re struggling with acne because of PBCS (post birth control syndrome), your skin may get worse before it gets better. Think about it: your skin is not your most vital organ, so your body is going to heal your more important organs first.”
  • I mentioned increased inflammation due to the influx of estrogen but this fact also impacts your adrenals. The adrenals pump out a hormone called cortisol (think of it like a back up energy source in times of stress). Well assuming you are a human, the pill isn’t the only source of stress you are going to be experiencing. Needless to say the adrenals can only take on so much at once before cortisol output decreases. 

How to support this system:

  • Take a look at potential stressors and aim to reduce the ones you can (food triggers, stressful environments or schedules) and add in more play time to your routine.
  • Focus on blood sugar support. You can start by balancing meals to include a protein, carb and fat

Digestive System:

  • Simply put, if the digestive system takes a hit, the whole body does. 70% of your immune system is located in your gut. And if the terrain or bacterial environment is imbalanced, this can quickly impact nutrient absorption.
  • Poor nutrient intake/absorption = nutrient deficiencies
  • The pill also contributes to leaky gut which is when the gut lining becomes a bit too loose and allows large food particles or bacteria to pass through into the bloodstream causing, you guessed it, more inflammation. Are you starting to see the trend here? 
  • Some women may experience increased bloating, or other digestive issues like constipation after getting on the pill and even transitioning off.

How to support this system:

  • Focus on gut supportive nutrients like throat coat tea, aloe vera juice and bone broth for example. 
  • Take time to slow down and chew your food thoroughly (20-30x per bite)
  • Reduce inflammatory foods such as refined sugars, or processed oils like canola, vegetable or corn oil. Avocado oil, ghee or coconut oil are my go-to’s

This topic is a big one that I can’t fully cover inside a single blog post but hopefully these tips will get you started on the right foot. If you are looking for more information about post-pill acne prevention or support, check out my Cystic to Confident Course. I cover these systems and more that play roles in paving the way to clearer skin! Enrollment is now open!

Maybe you have never been on birth control but you’re feeling defeated and contemplating getting on the pill as a last resort. I strongly encourage you to do some digging and consider a different approach. I’ve got it all laid out for you within the course.

Until next time,

Stay nourished my friend!


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