Deciding to take a break from the oral contraceptive pill, or coming off the pill to try for a baby, can be met with a few challenges. These challenges are largely around your body finding hormonal balance and learning to ovulate again. For some women, these challenges can be short lived and for others, it can play havoc with them both physically and emotionally. A common symptom of this picture can be dreaded acne and the return of adolescent-like skin complaints.
The major reason behind this is that many oral contraceptives suppress sebum production (the oils in the skin). When you eventually come off the pill, there is a rebound-like effect of the sebum where your body responds by making more sebum than before. The excess oils can create blocked ducts, causing infected or inflamed skin and things can start to look and feel pretty bad. For many women it may feel like a trip down memory lane, while for others it can be a new nightmare. Eventually things will settle down, and for some women they find hormonal balance quicker than others.
During this time, many women may start doubting their choice to have a break from the pill, and it may even drive some women straight back on the pill out of frustration and disappointment. This is understandable, given that our appearance is often tied up in how we feel about ourselves and it can be heartbreaking watching women struggle with their self-confidence.
For some women, post pill acne will persist for a number of months and may require a little support in getting things under control. Having someone support you with a skin care regime is extremely helpful and I recommend a holistic approach to treatment. External skin treatments in conjunction with internal nutrition and herbal medicine help to make the ride much smoother. Focussing on what is going on internally is going to really speed up the process as it will get to the root of the problem.
For every woman the treatment plan is going to look a little different, but there are a few key elements that are important to focus on. A key element to post pill treatment is to support the body’s return to hormonal balance – with a strong focus on oestrogen clearance. Naturopaths usually start with gut health, as this is essential to good health! Ensuring that there is good healthy gut bacteria to help break down and eliminate estrogen is an important place to start.
Assessment of how well the body is eliminating unwanted hormones and chemicals through the liver, bowel, skin and kidneys is also extremely important. If someone isn’t using their bowels daily, this would be a big part
of the treatment. Supporting these eliminatory pathways is an important part of finding the best treatments for each woman. Dietary support to aid in the elimination of unwanted hormones can also be extremely beneficial.
Naturopaths talk a lot about eating brussel spouts, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables that help the liver detoxify these hormones.
It is well known that the pill is responsible for depleting the body of key nutrients. As a naturopath, I always look at supporting and replenishing the stores of these nutrients in my patients. For someone hoping to get pregnant, replenishing the lost nutrients is even more significant! In terms of clean, healthy skin replenishing these nutrients is extremely beneficial.
Diet alone is often not enough to replenish the stores in a time-efficient manner. Supplementation of folate, B12, B6, selenium, magnesium and zinc are often required when time is of the essence. Of course, a diet rich in foods like green leafy vegetables, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds is ideal and supplements should be seen as a short-term solution. Other factors that may need to be considered when it comes to post pill acne include dietary triggers (ie. things that tend to make the acne flare up), as well as blood sugar imbalances, so focussing on protein rich meals may help a lot.
Increasing your water intake will also help your body flush things through.
Knowing that there are things you can do to help with post pill acne is empowering. Having this knowledge can help you make educated decisions and minimise these awful symptoms when you do stop the pill. You don’t need to sit and wait for things to improve on their own.