If there were ever an award for ‘most temperamental body part,’ facial skin would definitely have my vote. From the weather to your skincare habits, there’s so many things that can wreak havoc on your complexion. But if there’s one thing that can really do a number on your skin, it’s hormones. Whether you’re going through puberty or pregnancy, keeping your skin under control can be a full-time job! Personally, my hormonal acne was so bad as a teenager, I went on the contraceptive pill at age 13. I had tried pretty much every cream and concoction on the market and nothing had worked. Apart from going on Roaccutane (which I wasn’t keen on) going on the pill seemed like my only option. Much to my delight, my skin cleared up pretty much straight away and I’ve barely had a pimple since.
The thing is, I’m now 24 and have been on the pill for more than 10 years. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that being on it for so long probably isn’t ideal. Sure, I’ve taken breaks from it for a few weeks or so. But as soon as I do, those pesky lumps begin to re-emerge on my forehead. It’s enough to transport me back to my dorky, orange-haired, acne-ridden teenage days. Eventually, vanity wins and I go back on the pill. I wasn’t too concerned about my skin’s addiction to the pill until I recently visited a Clear Complexions clinic for a Clear + Brilliant treatment.
Before my treatment, the lovely founder Susie did an in-depth, magnifying analysis of my skin. She pointed out that I had pigmentation in a few different spots on my face. I had noticed it, but hadn’t given it much thought. The culprit? Being on the pill and sun exposure. Susie said that although it was only moderate for now, it would only get worse in summer. She explained that I could try topical treatments, but the only way to completely get rid of it would be to go off the pill. But to be honest, I would choose my sun moustache over acne any day. ‘Surely I shouldn’t have to choose,’ I thought to myself. ‘There must be a way I can go off the pill without my skin thinking the apocalypse has arrived.’ As it turns out, there is. But in order to stop your skin from going into crisis mode, you need to first understand why it happens.
“The oral contraceptive pill prevents the surge of oestrogen and progesterone (the female hormones) that normally occurs at ovulation (egg release) which is usually about 2 weeks before the actual period. Ovulation is blocked and the hormone release is prevented by the pill which is why acne is also suppressed (as well as pregnancy). When women go off the pill, the female hormones again drive the tendency towards acne that is often worse before one’s period. This is especially the case in acne of the lower face which is a hormonal driven site” – Dr Ritu Gupta, Dermatologist at Platinum Dermatology.
Obviously, if you’re considering taking a break or going off the pill completely you should talk to your doctor first. But if you do decide to, here are the steps you can take to keep your skin under control.
Cheer up your gut
Your gut health affects pretty much every part of your body and your skin is no exception. One month before you’re about to finish the pill, focus on doing everything you can to make your gut happy. This means taking a high-quality probiotic and loading up on gut-friendly foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. You could also try adding fossil shell flour to your smoothies, to help restore your balance of good and bad bacteria. For the first few months off the pill, it may be worth avoiding inflammatory foods like meat, dairy and processed foods. These have been known to contribute to acne, which is the last thing you need when your body is already struggling to adapt.
Stock up on vitamins
Usually, an inexpensive multivitamin does the trick when you’re in good health. But your body is going to need all the help it can get during this tricky transition period! Consider stocking up on practitioner grade brands of vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc. Sure, they might cost a little more but it’ll be worth it to avoid breakouts. It’s also worth considering taking fish oil and a hair, skin and nail supplement to help get your skin back on track. We love the Swisse Ultiboost Hair Skin and Nails.
Steer clear of oil
You may have been able to use any skin care products your heart desired when you were on the pill. Unfortunately, your skin isn’t likely to be quite so lenient now your hormones are no longer suppressed.
You need to ensure all your skin care products, cosmetics and ESPECIALLY sunscreen either say ‘non-comedogenic or oil-free.’
-Dr Ritu Gupta, Dermatologist at Platinum Dermatology.
If you’re prone to acne, touching your face is an absolute no no. Think about how many things your hands come into contact with during the average day: your keyboard, door knobs, your iPhone… Even when you wash your hands, your fingertips are a breeding ground for bacteria than can contribute to acne. And whatever you do, don’t pick your pimples! Not only can it cause the acne to spread, it can also lead to permanent scarring.