Your Skin vs. The Pill
Your Skin vs. The Pill – How Birth Control Affects your Skin
Written by Carlyn
Ladies, I’m sure this topic is something we can all relate to. Whether you’re on it to regulate your period, to improve the condition of your acne, or to have control over your fertility, the topic of birth control yields many, many questions.
Let’s get one thing straight: skin problems caused by birth control depend on the type of birth control being used. In particular, oral contraceptives, aka “the pill”, have given us the option to prevent or delay pregnancy. Another blessing is the ability to regulate hormones and clear up acne.
When talking about birth control, it’s helllla important to mention that it can come with a host of side effects (some good and some not so good). Usually, some trial and error is required to nail down the best method or pill for your body. Because of these reasons, your mom, sister, and friend will all have different stories to tell about the pill.
Birth control methods work by using synthetic hormones which are designed to mimic your natural hormones. The job of these synthetic hormones is to disrupt or prevent implantation or ovulation. If you give a sh*t about skincare, you probably know that hormonal fluctuations during the natural menstrual cycle can affect your skin and hair, i.e., teens struggle with acne and women in menopause worry about hair loss. The pill comes in various forms, including progestin-only pills and low-dose estrogen pills. When it comes to acne, it helps A LOT if your hormones are in check.
Now for some ~fancy science~:
- Estrogen can help improve acne by decreasing oil production and keeping hair in the growth phase for longer. In other words, it improves acne.
- Androgens, which are a group of hormones that include testosterone, can be the culprit of unwanted hair growth and oily skin. Some women can experience thinning or excessive hair loss as well.
So, knowing the type of progestin in your contraceptive is key, since some have a more androgenic effect compared to others. Another important factor is how sensitive you are to these synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones, since that will exacerbate side effects like acne.
Usually, doctors will prescribe a pill with estrogen and progestin in effort to stabilize hormones and suppress the production of androgens in the ovaries, therefore decreasing excessive oil production. That being said, our individual bodies are different, meaning that there isn’t one magical pill that makes everyone happy.
Going off The Pill
OK—so you’ve been on the pill, and for whatever reason (anxiety, spotting, risk of blood clots) you’re looking to get off it.
What happens to your skin when you stop taking birth control?
Your body may experience some changes, which is to be expected when going off the pill. These aren’t really “side effects,” rather just your body and reproductive system transitioning back to a state before the pill. Obviously, the post-pill changes will vary from person to person, but here’s what to expect for your skin after going off the pill:
The adjustment period (no pun intended).
Within about 90 days, your menstrual cycle and ovaries will return to “normal”, whatever that may look like for you. Some people may experience heavy periods or bleeding between periods. Additionally, if the pill helped with period cramps, you’re likely to experience cramping again during your period when going off the pill. Sorry :/
It is also important to note that the amount of time you spent on the pill will not affect the 90-day time frame, since most medications are out of your system within 48 hours.
Acne: Oof. I wish I had better news.
If the pill helped to control and improve your acne condition, it is likely that your skin will break out after stopping. This is because birth control helps to decrease the amount of circulating testosterone in your body, which essentially treats acne. So, if these synthetic hormones are no longer in your system, expect some acne to return.
If your uninvited pal makes a triumphant return, getting in touch with your doctor about topical or oral medications is the call. Locking down that skincare routine before going off the pill has shown to be useful too. Benzoyl peroxide will be your new BFF.