*before and after pics*
Around November last year, I stopped taking the pill. Whilst 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, including spots, which 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 of the supermarket with a couple of layers of foundation, and felt compelled to justify my skin to whomever glanced at my skin a tad too long (‘oh it’s this cold weather’ being my favourite one, as telling someone you’ve come 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 un-retouched) and whilst you may think my skin wasn’t as bad as I say, trust me, the pics don’t do it justice.
Hormonal acne after stopping the 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 – being 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.
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 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.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar
Katie is such a fan of La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar range that she recommends it to anyone with acne, so I thought there was no harm in trying. I’ve now been using it for three months, and I feel like it’s kept most spots at bay. In the morning, I cleanse my skin using the Effaclar Cleansing Cream, which doesn’t strip away moisture. I then use eye cream, followed by the Effaclar Duo+ moisturisers, which doesn’t feel heavy on my skin, a blessing as it’s oiler than usual these days.
For when my spots are a little bit more persistent, I dab some Effaclar spot corrector on the spots for a more effective treatment.
At night, I took my make-up off with the Elemis cleansing balm (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 Effaclar Cleansing Cream. Then I apply the Allies of Skin Promise Keeper Blemish Facial. It’s 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 used it consistently for just over three months and I can’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Finally, once a week, I use Aesop’s Facial Exfoliant Paste, which helps clear dead skin without aggravating my spots.
Overall, my skin is a lot better than it was before, and it’s not been long enough that I want to stop using these products any time soon, just in case my spots come back. I can’t trust my hormones just yet.