Did you know that the contraceptive pill is formulated with synthetic versions of the hormones naturally produced in a woman's ovaries?
While the primary use for the pill is to avoid unwanted pregnancy, many women also choose the medication to help clear skin conditions, particularly acne.
What happens to the body when you take the pill?
Androgens are the hormones responsible for sebum production. The synthetic hormones estrogen and progesterone can reduce androgens in the body which helps to regulate oil flow and reduce breakouts.
Unfortunately, when you take synthetic hormones, this can also disrupt the natural hormone system leaving sex hormones failing to regulate the way they're supposed to. Whether you're taking the pill to avoid pregnancy, to help clear breakouts or for another reason entirely, when you stop putting the artificial hormones in your body, you may need to prepare for a detox period caused by the drastic changes in hormone levels.
Synthetic estrogen in the contraceptive pill suppresses sebum production (what causes breakouts) - so when the pill is stopped, a surge in sebum replicates what the body goes through during the teenage years. Enter pimples, breakouts, and in extreme cases - cystic acne!
Post-pill acne can start anywhere from the day you take your last pill and there's no guessing how long it can take your skin to return to normal. Before our natural hormones have the opportunity to regulate, it's common for women to resort to medication to cure this acne breakout, with many even going back on the pill.
What causes acne?
Acne is a skin disorder that involves the pilo-sebaceous unit. The pilo-sebaceous unit consists of the hair shaft and follicle, sebaceous (oil) glands, and arrector pili muscle. Our oil glands secrete oil onto the surface, with the main role of protecting and lubricating the skin. Sebum production can be influenced by an increase of hormones called androgens - it’s this increase of sebum, combined with dead skin cells and bacteria, that blocks pores & causes inflammation, breakouts, and acne.
What are androgens?
Androgens are a group of hormones; testosterone (being the most common) and estrogen. Did you know that men and women have both testosterone and estrogen but in differing amounts? It only takes a small amount of these hormones to make significant changes in the body, as they are directly secreted into the blood.
Why is the pill prescribed for acne?
Birth Control pills can help to suppress the overproduction of sebum, which in turn, can aid in controlling acne.
Will going off the pill cause acne?
Going off the pill takes away what’s been controlling the problem in the first place. When you stop taking the pill, you may suffer from an androgen rebound effect, whereby your cycle starts to regulate itself and reveals your skin for what it really is.
How long will it take?
Everyone’s body is different, but in general it may take 3-4 cycles to regulate (even longer if you are more sensitive or have a genetic history of acne in the family).
What’s the solution?
These natural solutions and tips will help manage sebum production while androgen levels return to normal - leaving you with healthy, glowing skin, and a chemical-free body!
Prep your body and skin before you go off the pill
If you are thinking about coming off the pill, look closely at supporting your internal health and change up your skincare regime to prepare your skin for a detox phase and the re-regulation of your hormones that may increase sebum and acne.
Simplify your skincare regime
Choose the ‘less is more’ approach. This minimalist approach doesn’t require a 6-10 step layering regime, it’s about giving the skin exactly what it needs and nothing more. At Biologi, we recommend a tailored, but targeted, pared back approach using phyto-actives and nutrients. By choosing a Biologi regime that contains natural actives, you are encouraging the skin to nourish, repair, and protect itself without the need for a heavy layering regime or a loading of synthetics. Steer away from formulations that include artificial colours, fragrances, thickeners, mineral oils, and silicones that don’t necessarily provide a positive effect on the skin.
Retinols are often found in anti-acne products and can be harsh on the skin and cause dryness, flaking and sensitivity. Foundations used to cover acne can also contain silicones which can block and irritate pores leading to sensitivity and more breakouts.
Benzoyl peroxide is another common ingredient in anti-acne skincare. While it can reduce blemishes, it also attacks healthy cells causing dryness, peeling, redness and sensitivity.
Step 1 Cleanse:
Remove dirt, make-up and pollution by cleansing morning and evening but remember, don’t over cleanse. A squeaky-clean and tight feel after cleansing is not going to help. In fact, it can cause the sebaceous glands to overcompensate for the oil loss & produce more. It’s important to have a strong barrier function and your skin should feel clean, soft and relaxed after cleansing. Try to avoid Sodium Laureth and Sodium Lauryl Sulphates in your cleanser and opt for a cleanser that is acid balanced to the skin and one that adds in extra hydration and protection like the Biologi Bc Refresh Cleanser.
Step 2 Protect:
Incorporate a Biologi serum like Bd Luminosity Face Serum into your regime. Bd Luminosity Face Serum contains the AHA of Tartaric Acid, a natural ingredient that helps to break down dead skin cells, and keep pores clear. Gallic acid, Quercetin and Anthocyanin work together to reduce the prominence of post-pill redness and prevent further breakouts. It's these hard-working nutrients that can reduce the frequency and severity of breakouts. If your skin is barrier impaired, red, or irritated, then introduce the Bf Restore Face & Body Serum for a week or two before you start the Bd Luminosity Face Serum to help reduce irritation, redness and restore the skin barrier. Then, introduce the Bd Luminosity Face Serum once your skin has calmed. You can use the Bf Restore Face & Body Serum in the morning and Bd Luminosity Face Serum at night.
Once your acne has settled, introduce the Bk Vitamin C Face & Eye Serum. This powerful Vitamin C serum is excellent for assisting in targeting any post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or skin discolouration, encourages collagen production and provides superior antioxidant qualities. Vitamin C also aims to stimulate immunity to help with skin recovery. The Bk Vitamin C Face & Eye Serum contains Vitamin C, extracted from plants, and not synthetic versions (such as Ascorbic Acid). This ensures your skin is receiving active Vitamin C that is stable and protected, resulting in excellent skin delivery. Try Bk Vitamin C Face & Eye Serum in the morning and Bd Luminosity Face Serum in the evening.
Step 3 Exfoliate:
Introducing exfoliation 1-2x a week helps to remove the build-up of cell activity or retention hyperkeratosis in an acne skin without overdoing it. We recommend using the Bx Reveal Exfoliant, an active powder formula of Kakadu Plum and Rice to keep the skin follicles clear and encourage healthy cell turnover, without irritation. Mixing with the Bc Refresh Cleanser gives the powder formula a soft and creamy texture that can be applied as an exfoliant mask for best results.
How else can I support my skin in this transition phase?
Be guided by your skin expert and incorporate a professional skin treatment as required. Include modalities like LED that provide different biological effects on the skin depending on the choice of light chosen; blue light is recommended for acne and excessive oily skin to reduce the over activity of the sebaceous glands and bacteria whilst helping to increase healing the skin faster.
Internal health is very important because the pill can reduce good bacteria, depleting essential nutrients and vitamins. We recommend seeking professional advice from a holistic medical practitioner/naturopath that can help provide the correct supplements and advice suited to you. Increase your water intake to help flush toxins and to increase hydration. Focus on including a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole foods whilst avoiding dairy, sugar, and alcohol.
Stress can also have a direct impact on increasing hormones. Incorporating some small changes into your routine can help manage any stress. Exercise, meditation, deep breathing, professional body massage treatments or making time for your passion projects are some simple ways to help decrease stress. Try setting and sticking to a regular sleep routine and turn off devices well before bedtime to limit blue light and stop your brain from engaging and keeping you awake.
Questions? Contact one of our Biologi Skin Experts here.