For many women the impetus for coming off the pill is often the desire to return to a natural menstrual cycle, crucial to kick-starting the baby-making process. However, this isn’t always a smooth transition as the body attempts to regain its hormonal symphony of balance and the natural production and regulation of hormones.
The pill is often prescribed in early adolescence for both contraception and acne that is non-responsive to topical treatments or medications. Once commenced, it is not unusual for many women to remain on the pill for 10-15 years without a break preventing the body from developing natural hormonal rhythm and balance.
The euphoric side effect of the pill is glowing skin as it successfully suppresses sebum production from the sex hormone androgen. It is then no surprise that when you cease the pill the body experiences a rebound effect of increasing androgens that up-regulate sebum production stimulating sebaceous glands to produce more sebum resulting in post pill acne.
But excess sebum production is only one factor associated with acne, therefore it fails to address and even masks, underlying contributors and conditions such as PCOS or insulin resistance that may have remained undiagnosed in many women. PCOS is characterized by elevations in androgens and insulin resistance, drivers of increased serum production, keratinization and a bacterial breeding ground for the formation of acne.
“The oral contraceptive pill fails to address and even masks underlying contributors and conditions such as PCOS that affects 12-20% of menstruating women”
It is common for women to experience post pill acne for 3-4 months after ceasing the birth control pill. For optimal result it is suggested that women begin preparation 2-3 months prior to cessation of the pill in order to reduce the severity of breakouts whilst the body adapts and progresses toward healthy menstruation. Focusing on nutrient repletion and modifying the diet will form the best defense whilst you tackle post pill acne face on and confidently.
“The secret to blemish free skin when ceasing the oral contraceptive pill is prevention”
A known side effect of the pill is reduced absorption and even depletion of key nutrients often at a faster rate that the diet can restore, if coupled with an inadequate diet to begin with the results can be concerning. Nutrients at the highest risk of depletion are B Vitamins B2, B6, B9 (folic acid), B12, antioxidants C, E and CoQ10 and key minerals Magnesium, Selenium & Zinc. These nutrients are required for the formation and regulation of hormones and the conjugation of hormones through detoxification pathways such as the liver. The depletion of B Vitamins in particular can contribute to depression and anxiety, which many women suffer whilst taking the pill. For our skin these nutrients are essential for collagen and elastin repair, antioxidant protection and reduction of inflammation and irritation.
“I wish all women were aware of the potential depletion of key nutrients while taking the oral contraceptive pill”
There is a strong association with the prevalence of acne and westernized diets and studies indicate that acne does not exist in rural or non-westernised civilizations.
Diets that are high in refined carbohydrates, processed sugars, fructose, dairy, trans fatty acids and environmental chemicals can exacerbate acne and these foods should be avoided.
“A wholefoods based diet with ample leafy green vegetables, low GI fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein and fish will assist to reduce the severity and incidence of post pill acne”
Acne is an inflammatory skin disorder that is caused by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes) therefore the application of occlusive creams or cosmetics that are irritating, harsh or abrasive will aggravate the condition. Many synthetic ingredients and chemicals used within cosmetic products are irritating and inflammatory to skin conditions such as acne and are best avoided.
"There is no single magic bullet for perfect skin, although retinol comes very close"
Retinol is an anti-acne and anti-inflammatory antioxidant and the most well known both as over the counter and in higher prescription form. But you are unlikely to find this product searching the skincare ailses in your local pharmacy. This active ingredient, a primary antioxidant is responsible for stimulating cell renewal, increasing collagen production, unblocking pores, reducing the hyperkeratinisation of sebaceous follicles and reducing bacteria. Ocinium’s Elemental A, C, E Serum is the perfect anti-dote for night-time repair and your best defense topically against acne.
Niacinamide is a further hero ingredient against acne, enhancing the skin's ability to de-congest and clear acne, reducing enlarged pores while also evening out skin tone. Studies have demonstrated 5% niacinamide to be more effective than clindamycin, a topical antibiotic cream for acne! Ocinium’s Immortelle B3 Serum should form part of your morning targeted treatment for acne.
Cassandra Hilton, Founder Ocinium