(OCP) is an unfortunate and very unsettling occurrence that far too many women
today are encountering. Whether the pill has caused difficult side effects you
have finally had enough of, you are looking to conceive or are just wanting to get
back to your natural cycle, dreading the skin flare that could follow can really
limit your choices when it comes to taking control of your own hormonal health.
If you have experienced acne prior to staring the oral contraceptive or have dealt
with a new acne incidence when trying to withdraw I want you to be informed
on your options. As there are natural solutions to enable you to get your
hormonal health back on track.
What is Post Pill Acne?
It’s good old fashion hormonal acne with a twist. The synthetic hormones
contained in birth control derail your entire sex hormone system. While these
synthetic hormones are in your body your own innate sex hormone production
does not occur or regulate itself in the way it was intended to, at all. Synthetic
forms of oestrogen in the OCP have the ability to suppress adult sebum
production into the childhood range. Many women feel as though their pores
disappear entirely while on the pill, this is not a natural scenario and as your
body withdraws from the medication you can experience a rebound hyper
secretion of sebum your skins natural oil production. The other main issue here
is that your ovaries are learning how to communicate with your brain again and
vice versa sending you back to the dark ages of puberty. After such a period of
sex hormone suppression including suppression of androgen production, there
can be a rebound effect where over production of androgens can occur. I say can
because every woman’s body is unique and not everyone experiences post pill
acne, some may only experience a few premenstrual blemishes and others may
be faced with very angry inflamed cystic acne on their face and body.
A transient form of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can also occur for
women in this timeframe, due to all the confusion the synthetic forms of sex
hormones rain down on the endocrine system. Imbalances in progesterone and
oestrogens due to changes in production or detoxification further add to the
issue, as negative oestrogen clearance can also be very inflammatory for acne.
This presentation of acne can take a couple of months to set in, so some women
don’t even make the connection between their decision to stop hormonal birth
control and their new found skin trauma. Generally the post pill acne
presentation has peaked by 3-6 months and can remain like this for 18 months
or at times longer, that is without intervention. As there are most definitely tools
at your disposal to help you navigate this period of hormonal chaos.
What can be done for Post Pill Acne?
Replenish nutrient deficiencies, as nutrients depleted by the OCP are some of
those very necessary for hormonal regulation, it’s important to restore optimal
levels. These include; magnesium needed for COMT function the enzyme that
Vitamin B6 that modulates the effects of oestrogen while improving
progesterone production and B12 needed in the methylation pathway for liver
detoxification of steroid hormones. Selenium and zinc are also depleted by the
OCP and both are able to lower the DHT form of testosterone, DHT being very
problematic in hormonal acne. Of these nutrients Zinc is the priority for
supplementation and can be used in preparation for OCP withdrawal. In addition
to DHT lowering effects, zinc also aids acne wound healing, scar preventions and
regulates the normal desquamation process of keratinocytes, this essentially
means that dead skin cells are shed rather then clogging the hair follicle causing
Supplement with Omega-3, as its another important nutritional intervention in
hormonal acne. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, this means your body cannot
make it, therefore it must be procured from your diet or supplementation.
Benefits of Omega-3 supplementation in acne stem from its anti-inflammatory
effect and an ability to keep sebum fluid. Sebum that is fluid moves easily rather
then thickening where it can form stasis, clogging the hair follicle causing
congestion and acne lesions. It’s important to use good quality Omega-3, as what
you pay for is what you get with fish oil.
Reduce inflammatory diet factors, dairy contains a protein called IGF-1 that
increases androgens in the female body, through this mechanism dairy
exacerbates hormonal acne. Sugar and chemically refined oils such as trans fats
also exacerbate and inflame acne presentations, so both should be avoided in
prevention and management of post pill acne.
Eat plenty of brassica vegetables, this includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage,
Brussels sprouts, kale and collard greens. The Brassica family of vegies contains
naturally sourced DIM, a phytochemical that promotes healthy oestrogen and
androgen clearance in hormonal imbalances.
Drink Spearmint tea, this cup of freshness is often used in the middle-east
regions as a remedy for hirsutism another androgen excess condition. A Turkish
study showed that 2 cups per day was sufficient to lower testosterone levels in
women with PCOS, an androgen excess condition.
These are great interventions and first line treatment strategies in hormonal
acne. However if your skin condition has progressed in severity quickly, is a level
2 or above acne grading or is not responding to the above suggestion you will do
best with a customized supportive protocol from an expert. As with hormonal
acne in general there are many herbal and nutritional interventions that can be
used to regulate patterns of hormonal imbalance. Specific imbalance can be
unique from one hormonal acne case to the next and high quality hormone
testing is often needed to direct treatment efficiency for optimal acne resolution.