Acne Breakouts After Birth Control? THIS is Your Ultimate Protocol

Whether you’re breaking out while currently on the pill or dealing with acne breakouts after going off birth control, these natural remedies will help get your hormones and skin back on track.

Acne Breakouts After Birth Control? THIS is Your Ultimate Protocol

Whether you’re breaking out while currently on the pill or dealing with acne breakouts after going off birth control, these natural remedies will help get your hormones and skin back on track.

The relationship between birth control and acne is complicated. Oral contraceptives have long been prescribed to help keep breakouts at bay. However, once you decide to go off the pill, you might see those blemishes come right back. Or, you may go on birth control with clear skin, only to end up with breakouts while you’re on it! 

Whether you’re breaking out while currently on the pill or dealing with acne breakouts after going off birth control, these natural remedies will help get your hormones and skin back on track. But first, it’s important to understand why birth control can cause acne.

The Connection Between Birth Control and Acne

Let’s talk about how birth control impacts the skin. 

Can Birth Control Help with Acne?

Birth control is often prescribed to treat breakouts. In fact, the FDA has approved three types of birth control for managing acne: Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yaz, and Estrostep. 

All three of these oral contraceptives contain the hormones progestin and estrogen, and are considered combination birth control pills. Research has shown that these types of birth control pills are effective in managing breakouts.  

How? By suppressing the production of androgens. You see, androgens are sex hormones that are known to be one of the main underlying causes of hormonal acne. One of the main types of androgens is testosterone, which is found in both males and females (although, in smaller amounts in females).

When someone’s androgens levels are higher than they should be, this stimulates the production of sebum – AKA your skin’s natural oil. The overproduction of oil makes you more prone to acne, as there is a higher risk of that extra sebum clogging the pores. Ultimately, this means that higher levels of androgens often equate to more breakouts, especially in women.

This is where birth control comes into the picture. If you have acne, a doctor may prescribe a combination birth control pill to treat acne. The goal is that it will suppress the body’s production of androgens, which in turn, minimizes excess sebum, leading to a reduced risk of breakouts.

That said, it’s important to note that birth control isn’t a cure for acne. For many, this type of birth control may clear up acne while on the medication, however, once you stop taking it, it’s very likely your acne will come back as your hormones return to their pre-pill state. (See the natural remedies for reducing androgens naturally, below). 

It’s also important to note that birth control comes with a long list of potentially serious side effects. For example, birth control users have three times increased odds of blood clots compared to non-users

So, if you’re considering birth control to treat acne, know that there are less-risky alternatives, that get to the root cause of acne (balancing androgens and hormones naturally) without the side effects. (And there are even natural, non-hormonal ways to prevent pregnancy: using the Fertility Awareness Method (correctly) is highly effective).  

Can Birth Control Cause Acne?

So if birth control is such an effective solution for acne, there’s no way it could trigger breakouts, right? Well…not exactly. If you’re wondering whether birth control is causing acne, it could be. 

There are two main reasons birth control might lead to acne. First, it’s possible that you may experience an initial increase in breakouts when you first start taking the medication. As the birth control gets to work, the disruption on your hormone levels may have a temporary effect on your skin. Typically, this will clear up within a few weeks or months, once your hormones have adjusted to their new normal.   

Additionally, while some forms of birth control are great for reducing breakouts, there are others that aren’t. Not all oral contraceptives are created equal, especially in regards to managing acne. 

While combination birth control pills made with both estrogen and progestin can help clear acne, progestin-only pills (often called mini pills) can have the opposite effect. Research shows that progestin-only birth control pills can exacerbate breakouts, as they don’t have the same androgen-inhibiting effects. 

Post-Birth Control Acne: How To Get Rid Of It

Post birth control acne is common, whether or not you had acne pre-pill. If you had acne pre-pill, you may even find it comes back with a vengeance

Here is how to get rid of hormonal acne after stopping birth control (and may also help if you’re breaking out while on the pill, too!): 

Replenish Your Nutrients 

The birth control pill is known to deplete multiple key nutrients, including folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, and B12, vitamins C and E and the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc. 

Zinc in particular is a critical clear skin nutrient. Studies have shown that people with acne have significantly lower levels of zinc in their blood than people without any acne…and the worse the deficiency, the worse the severity of acne. The best food sources of zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, beef, shellfish, and sprouted legumes.

That said, all of the above nutrients impact our skin in some way, and it is important to consume adequate amounts of all them. 

Get your levels tested, and replenish accordingly (ideally through a healthy, whole-food diet, filled with plenty of vegetables, high quality protein, healthy fat, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains!). Here are our 6 favorite acne-fighting foods

Nourish Your Gut 

In addition to zapping out nutrients, birth control is also known to have a negative impact on the gut. Taking birth control with estrogen has been shown to increase intestinal permeability (known as “leaky gut”) which is a major source of inflammation. The combined birth control pill (with estrogen) has also been linked to decreased gut microbiome diversity

Research shows acne patients may have less gut microbial diversity, may lack certain beneficial strains including lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, and may have an impaired intestinal barrier.

So, get to work nourishing your gut. This includes introducing good bacteria to the gut, through fermented foods and probiotics, like Glow Biome, a probiotic specifically formulated for acne-prone skin. Consuming probiotics daily helps to support a healthy gut microbiome and intestinal barrier. 

Additionally, eat gut supportive foods - like grass-fed bone broth and collagen, and sip on gut-supportive teas, like chamomile, licorice, or ginger.  

Eat More Fiber

Ever wonder how hormones get out of whack to begin with? It’s often due to diet and lifestyle choices. A lack of fiber in the diet, especially paired with too many refined carbohydrates (which we’ll get to in a sec) can contribute to higher androgens and hormone imbalances.

Eating a high-fiber diet, including beans, lentils, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains may help reduce hormonal acne by lowering excessive testosterone and androgen levels, in both men and women. In one study, acne patients who upped their fiber intake to 30g daily experienced a significant improvement in their skin condition

In addition, fiber helps balance the gut microbiome and aids in regularity which is extremely important, because gut regularity plays a large role in hormone balance. Your body removes excess hormones through the stool, and when you're constipated, the excess hormones can get reabsorbed from the gut back into the bloodstream, contributing to hormonal imbalance. Ideally, you'd be eliminating fully, 1-3 times daily. (Probiotics also aid in regularity, as well as comfortably digesting high fiber foods). 

Eat Less Sugar 

The tip no one wants to hear, but that makes a significant impact: high sugar and refined carbohydrate foods are indeed linked to an increased risk of acne breakouts. 

Once in a while - no big deal. But when we consume them most days, everyday, or multiple times a day, that is when they start to wreak havoc on our skin. This is due to their impact on our hormones - particularly insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which trigger oil production and raise inflammation levels, both of which contribute to breakouts. 

Additionally, high insulin levels tell the ovaries to make more androgens…which we know from above, is a common cause of hormonal acne and post-pill acne. 

One study found that frequent consumption of foods high in refined grains and sugars (including pastries, cakes, fast food, and other sugary foods) was associated with an increased risk of acne breakouts in teenagers

Similarly, another study revealed that people who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar were prone to more severe breakouts.

On the flip side, other research has revealed that simply reducing our intake of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates in favor of a low glycemic diet can improve acne.

Eat More Hormone Balancing Foods

Pile up your plate with more foods that support hormone balance. This includes foods rich in omega-3, phytoestrogens, and magnesium, as well as cruciferous vegetables. For the full scoop on how to support hormone balance through food, check out this post: Hormonal Acne Diet.

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