Written by my Spring 2017 apprentice, Megan Schwarz, this post discusses the post-pill adjustments you can make to stop acne in its tracks!
You likely went on the pill with the best of intentions – to help regulate your cycle, to reduce period pain, or even to clear up stubborn acne. Your doctor probably breezed over the side effects and said nothing about what would happen the day you eventually decided to stop taking the pill.
At least, that’s what happened for me.
Naturally, when my husband and I decided we were ready to have children, I was absolutely terrified about the inevitable hormonal roller coaster that came with ending my seven-year relationship with the pill.
As superficial as it may sound, I was mostly worried about my skin. I know I’m not alone. A simple Google search will show you that many, many women share this same concern. But post-pill acne is not inevitable! I promise. There are many minor (okay, maybe major for some of you!) adjustments you can make to your daily life to stop acne in its tracks.
Before we dive into strategies for avoiding post-pill acne, let’s talk about your body on the pill. Taking the pill shuts off your body’s natural cyclical production of estrogen and progesterone, devastates your gut microbiota, and depletes your body of B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc.
As a result, when you stop taking the pill, you might be dealing with significant micronutrient deficiencies, leaky gut, and low levels of estrogen and progesterone that typically manifests as estrogen dominance. Any one of these could set the stage for acne.
Don’t despair! There is plenty that you can do to prepare your body for coming off of the pill and create an ideal environment for optimal hormone production.
Here are my top SIX tips:
#1 – Adopt a Blood Sugar Balancing Diet– Cleaning up your diet is a one-way ticket to clear skin. What does a diet aimed at balancing your blood sugar look like? I’m glad you asked. Focus on wild, pasture-raised, and grass-fed proteins, plenty of healthy fats, lots and lots of greens, and fiber. Not only do these foods help to stabilize your blood sugar, but they also keep your gut happy and help to eliminate excess estrogen. Plus, a plate filled to the brim with protein, fat, and veggies leaves little room for sugar and processed foods!
#2 – Eliminate Gluten, Dairy, & Soy – If you followed step one, you’ve already eliminated sugar and processed foods. Good for you! Take things one-step further by ditching gluten, dairy, and soy. These inflammatory foods irritate your gut and our focus right now is on repopulating crucial gut bacteria. While you’re at, consider adding fermented foods to your daily diet! Do you have to say goodbye to gluten, dairy, and soy forever? Not necessarily. Give yourself a little breathing room from these foods before and after stopping the pill and then try adding them back at a later date.
#4 – Eliminate Xenoestrogens – The environment that we live in and the foods that we eat can wreak havoc on our delicate hormonal system. Given that you are already in a fragile hormonal state when you come off of the pill, the last thing that you want is to make things harder on your body. Choose organic produce, meat, and dairy to eliminate exposure to pesticides and ditch toxic cleaning supplies and personal care products.
#5 – Reduce Stress – Uncontrolled stress robs your body of progesterone so it is absolutely crucial that you adopt stress management strategies that work for you. Take a nightly bath, spend time in the sunshine, get a massage, meditate, journal – whatever works for you!
#6 – Apply Skincare Strategically – Now is the time to really nail down your skincare routine. Acne is caused by excess sebum production, too many skin cells, the presence of a particular type of bacteria on your skin, and inflammation. You are already taking care of the inflammation piece internally so address the others topically by keeping your skin microbiome happy, exfoliating regularly, and balancing sebum production with facial oils. Avoid harsh preservatives like phenoxyethanol, parabens, and sodium benzoate that kill off your protective skin microbiome.
Remember that even if you follow all of the above steps, you may still break out. But, trust and respect your body’s wisdom. The hormonal rollercoaster will one day come to an end, so be gentle with yourself during this time of transition.
Megan Schwarz is an attorney turned female hormonal health advocate. In 2016, she trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to be a holistic health coach. She then completed a 6-month apprenticeship with Nicole Jardim focused on women’s reproductive health. Additionally, she completed a 6-month apprenticeship with Brittany Wood Nickerson studying western herbalism and herbal medicine. Through one-on-one sessions and group workshops, she offers clients dietary, lifestyle, and hormonal support focused on inflammatory skin issues, such as hormonal acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. Please visit her website for more information.