I had a serious case of post pill acne – here’s how I got rid of it

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  • *Before and after pics*

    Around November 2017, I stopped taking the pill. Although it’s quite common to go on the pill for acne treatment, I simply went on it for birth control. I did have acne as a teenager, but no more than average.

    Having been on the contraceptive pill for over a decade (I was on Logynon, FYI), I figured I would possibly see some side effects when I stopped taking it, including spots, which had happened to a few friends of mine. At first, nothing happened, and then… well, shit got real as they say. I got the dreaded spots and quite a bad case of them.

    I always wear foundation to work, but at the weekends, I like to give my skin a bit of a breather. When my post-pill acne was at its worst, I literally couldn’t even pop out to the supermarket without a couple of layers of foundation and felt compelled to justify my skin to whomever glanced at it for a tad too long (‘oh, it’s this cold weather’ being my favourite line, as telling someone about coming off the pill inevitably leads to baby-making questions).

    I even asked my husband to Photoshop my spots out before I put a picture on Instagram. I’m not super proud of this, but it serves to illustrate just how much it affected my confidence. You’ll see before and after pictures in this article (these ones unretouched) and while you may think my skin wasn’t as bad as I say, trust me, the pics don’t do it justice.

    It’s now been almost two years and I’m happy to say I haven’t had a serious breakout since. I do still get the occasional spot, especially around my period, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

    Scroll down for everything I’ve learned about post-pill acne, including the products that were a real lifesaver and that I still use now.

    Hormonal acne after stopping the pill

    acne after stopping pill

    Unfortunately, it’s quite common to get acne after quitting the pill, even if you’ve never had bad acne (or even none at all) before. First off, you need to understand that the pill suppresses your hormones, so when you go off it, to put it quite simply, all hell breaks loose.

    According to my research, several things can happen. These include, but are not limited to: an increase in testosterone, which can cause an increase in sebum, therefore oily skin and spots (another charming side effect is hair on your face), your zinc levels – which help keep skin in check – is messed up, and a disruption in your gut flora, which can cause inflammation of the skin.

    For me, it took the form of cystic acne (those painful red spots), and whiteheads across the jawline, cheekbones and forehead, but also on my chest and back. Super sexy.

    When does acne return after stopping the pill?

    It can take a couple of months for your skin to be affected by it, but for me, it only took about three weeks. For those three glorious weeks, I thought ‘heck this whole coming off the pill business isn’t so bad, I’ve seen no changes whatsoever’. What a blissfully ignorant fool I was. It started with a couple of cystic spots just before Christmas, which turned into full-blown acne in the New Year.

    How long will acne last after stopping the pill?

    Again, this will vary in each case, however, I would say that now, seven months after coming off the pill, my skin is almost back to normal – I still get the odd spot, especially before my period. I would stay it started improving dramatically around the 5-month post-pill mark.

    How to get rid of acne after stopping the pill

    I went to see the doctor a couple of times in the last few months, and she basically told me what I didn’t want to hear: that it was just my body trying to regulate my hormones and that I just needed to be patient, my skin would get back to normal. Eventually.

    She also mentioned eating healthily and avoiding dairy wouldn’t hurt either, both of which I did already, so that didn’t help much either.

    acne after stopping pill

    She did say that if my acne persisted, I could come back in a few months and go down the prescribed acne treatment route, but for now, this wasn’t an option.

    I vaguely looked into post-pill acne supplements to calm my gut and regulate my hormones, but at this stage, I was a tad traumatised about putting more stuff in my body, so I went down the topical route instead.

    I asked our Senior Digital Beauty Editor Katie Thomas for some advice, and she recommended a few products for me.

    Best acne treatments

    Now it’s hard to say whether my hormones simply regulated themselves, or if this acne treatment helped alone, but all I can say is I saw a vast improvement in my skin when I started using these products.

    Caudalie Vinopure Supersize Purifying Toner, £27 | Lookfantastic

    Caudalie Vinopure Supersize Purifying Toner - post-pill acne

    For the past six months, I’ve been using Caudalie’s Vinopure range, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Katie started me off on the toner and balm, which made an immediate difference, and they’ve just launched a cleanser, which is amazing too.

    The main draw for me was the fact that the purifying toner is the first to use natural salicylic acid (99% of the ingredients are of natural origin), so I knew I wasn’t putting a tonne of chemicals on my skin. Once I’ve washed my skin with the cleanser, I apply a few drops to a cotton pad and swipe it across my face and neck morning and evening, before applying serum.

    Caudalie Vinopure Blemish Control Salicylic Serum, £30 | Lookfantastic

    Caudalie Vinopure Blemish Control Salicylic Serum - post-pill acne

    The serum I use is the blemish control infusion serum from the same range, which helps exfoliate dead skin cells and prevent breakouts. It’s a gel consistency, and not sticky, so feels lovely and light on my skin. During the day, I’ll then apply a mattifying moisturiser from the same range.

    Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate, £41  Space NK

    post pill acne Kiehls

    At night, I’ll dab on a few drops of this; it’s formulated with 100% naturally derived ingredients, including hemp-derived cold-pressed cannabis Sativa seed oil and green oregano oil for skin prone to blemishes, visible blotchiness and discomfort. I’ve noticed my skin is a little softer since using it, and it’s helped with reducing flare-ups too.

    La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+, £17 | Lookfantastic

    post pill acne La Roche Posay

    Katie is such a fan of La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar range that she recommends it to anyone with acne, so that’s what I first used when I broke out. It slowly but surely got rid of my spots after about three months. In the morning, I cleansed my skin using the cleansing cream, which doesn’t strip away moisture. I then used eye cream, followed by the Effaclar Duo+ Moisturisers, which didn’t feel heavy on my skin, a blessing as it was oiler than usual.

    For when my spots are a little bit more persistent, I dab some La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I. Breakout Corrector (£12.50 | Boots) on the spots for a more effective treatment.

    At night, I take off my make-up off with the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm (RRP £44 | Lookfantastic) (I’ve been using it for years and love it, it really gets make-up off without drying the skin), followed by a quick cleanse using the La Roche-Posay Effaclar H Cleanser Dry Skin (£12.50 | Boots).

    Allies of Skin Promise Keeper Nightly Blemish Treatment, £89 | Cult Beauty

    allies of skin promise keeper nightly blemish treatment - post-pill acne

    For the first six months, I used Allies of Skin Promise Keeper Blemish Facial, which is a leave-on treatment, which despite its name is more like a night gel/cream. This was the real game-changer for me, and I felt a difference after the first night using it. My skin felt smoother and my spots were less visible. I’ve now run out but plan on stocking up again, though at £110 it’s definitely an investment.

    Aesop Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste, £37 | Feelunique

    post pill acne Aesop Exfoliating Paste

    I also used Aesop’s Facial Exfoliant Paste once a week for about three months, which helped clear dead skin without aggravating my spots.

    Now that my skin is better, I use it every other week instead.

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