How to Prevent Acne After Stopping the Birth Control Pill

///How to Prevent Acne After Stopping the Birth Control Pill

How to Prevent Acne After Stopping the Birth Control Pill

Don’t let acne breakouts keep you stuck on the birth control pill.

Acne after stopping the pill is one of the most common reasons women choose to go back on the birth control. But, the pill is not the only way to be acne free.

If you have post pill acne, or afraid of getting it, let’s talk about how you can prevent and treat it, naturally.


Acne after stopping birth control pill

Why do women get acne after stopping the birth control pill?

Here’s the thing, if you went on the birth control pill because you had acne, then you will most likely be affected by flare-ups once you stop. Going off the pill doesn’t cause acne, it just removes the treatment that’s been controlling the problem.

That’s what many women don’t understand about the pill, it does a great job of controlling breakouts, but it’s not addressing the root cause of the problem.

Post-pill acne doesn’t only happen if you’ve experienced it in the past. Many women who’ve never had skin problems before struggle with post-pill acne.

Why acne can flare up after stopping the birth control pill:

1. Sebum Overproduction
Certain hormonal contraceptives suppress sebum production. Sebum is the natural oil produced by the skin, that keeps our skin protected and hydrated. Once you remove the pill, your skin responds by upregulating sebum production, leading to overproduction and thus, to oily skin and more frequent breakouts.

2. Androgen Rebound
The pill affects our body’s ability to produce its own natural hormones. One way the pill works to reduce acne is by reducing the amount of androgens, like testosterone, circulating in the blood. When you stop the pill your ovaries try to return hormone levels back to normal, which can lead to an androgen rebound. Similarly, with higher levels of androgens we get more sebum production causing oily skin and breakouts.

3. Zinc Depletion
It’s well documented that the pill depletes many important nutrients, including zinc, which is essential for skin health and is an effective treatment for acne. Zinc reduces the specific bacteria on the skin that can cause breakouts. A zinc deficiency, caused by long-term pill use, may be responsible for post pill acne.

4. Disruption of the Microbiome
By now you’ve probably read about the importance of gut health for all health concerns. Well, the pill disrupts the health of the gut by altering the good bacteria in the intestines leading to inflammation and issues with the skin.

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How to Heal Acne After Stopping the Birth Control Pill

It takes time for your body to get back into its normal rhythms after stopping the pill, and so it can take time to heal the skin.

Post pill acne typically peaks around 3-6 months after ditching the birth control pill and can take months to fully treat.

But, whether you are dealing with full-blown post-pill breakouts or you’ve ditched the pill and want to prevent acne there are many natural strategies you can use to prevent and treat your acne! (For topical acne solutions see here).


1. Ditch the Dairy
Consuming dairy, especially from conventionally raised cows, has been associated with acne. Dairy is full of hormones and inflammatory proteins (called A1 casein) that may promote, or make acne worse. However, other forms of dairy, like grass-fed butter or ghee, have a different type of protein and fats that can actually benefit your skin. So, when it comes to ditching the pill, dairy isn’t doing you any favours on your path to balanced hormones. I recommend eliminating it for 6-12 months, or until full resolution of your skin problems.

2. Balance your Blood Sugar
The birth control pill has unfavourable effects on blood sugar regulation and insulin production. We know that when blood sugar is not balanced, and we get high levels of insulin, our body produces higher levels of androgens. Remember, high levels of androgens like testosterone can lead to an increase in sebum from the skin, causing more breakouts. So, keep your blood sugar steady by eating whole, real, foods. Every meal should include loads of nutrient dense veggies, high-quality protein, and healthy fat. It’s best to eliminate sugar, white flour and alcohol or at least keep these items to a minimum. Also, prioritize exercise, as it increases insulin sensitivity and will help manage blood sugar.

3. Supplement with Zinc

As I mentioned, zinc is an effective treatment for acne, especially post pill, as zinc deficiency is common in pill-users. Zinc helps to regulate testosterone, it kills the bacteria on the skin that causes acne, and it reduces keratin production that blocks pores. Speak to your ND to determine what dose of zinc will be right for you.

4. Restore the Microbiome
Your gut is the home to your immune system which controls inflammation. If your goal is clear skin, you need to reduce inflammation and nourish the gut. We do this by promoting healthy gut flora.

A healthy gut helps to break down and eliminate excess hormone, reduces inflammation and optimizes digestive function.

Be sure to include foods rich in pre- and probiotics and take a high-quality probiotic. If your digestion has been “off” since ditching the pill, you may need some extra individualized support to optimize the breakdown and absorption of nutrients to further heal the gut.

5. Support Hormonal Balance
Although all the strategies discussed above are ultimately working to balance hormones post pill, you may need some extra support to get things going. You can support hormone balance with targeted supplementation.

DIM (diindolylmethane) found in cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, can help to enhance estrogen and testosterone metabolism to promote overall hormonal balance.

This is one of my favourite supplements to use in women struggling with post-pill acne.

Remember, post-pill acne is treatable, but it can take time to achieve the clear skin you’re dreaming of. Don’t give up! I recommend working with a practitioner who can do a thorough assessment with necessary laboratory testing to determine an individualized treatment plan for you.

It’s possible to get clear skin, without having to go back on the birth control pill!

This post written by naturopathic doctor, Bronwyn Storoschuk! She shares her insight on the internal reasons why stopping the birth control pill might cause acne flare-ups. For more on how to topically treat acne see here, and stay tuned for  upcoming posts on skincare for acne!

Dr. Bronwyn is a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, Ontario with a clinical focus in Women’s Health. She works with women transitioning off hormonal contraceptives and those looking for support in managing their reproductive concerns, from PMS to infertility, whether the goal is to reach hormonal balance or in preparation of a healthy pregnancy. Dr. Bronwyn is passionate about empowering women to reclaim their hormonal health, to enable a full and vibrant life.

For more on healing hormonal acne, watch this video! 


About the Author:

Seanna Cohen is a certified Skin Care Therapist and founder of the Clean Beauty School, an online destination to learn skincare tips & tricks, shop the best clean beauty products, and get personalized advice. As a trusted skincare expert, she inspires others to take a holistic approach to beauty and find sustainable practices through her skincare coaching, webinars, and classes.


  1. Gredia lyn alajar April 9, 2019 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Im really depresssss right now..i was stop 3 months ago with my pills.ive been using my pills almost 6 yrs.thats y am decided to stop.but unfortunately i had breakouts many breakouts and because of that im frustrated and lack of confident right know.
    I dont know what and will be my solution with my face has dark spots and acne right now.i dont even experience way back my teenager days.
    Now my face was not nice to look anymore.
    Im very sad.always irritated..evrytime i see my face.

    • Seanna Cohen April 23, 2019 at 3:44 pm - Reply

      I know it can be so frustrating! I hope some of these tips will help you! Maybe seek out a Naturopathic doctor for a consult to see what internal changes you can do to help with the hormonal shifts.

    • Earline July 9, 2019 at 8:02 am - Reply

      Great post! Thank you! At 24 I started breaking out worse after discontinuing the pill and switching to an IUD (I love it, btw). I had cystic acne along my jawline and on my neck, so I take Spironolactone 100 mg daily. I’m finally starting to see results. I’m on week 4 of being on Spiro, and while my skin isn’t completely clear, I definitely see a difference. 😀 I should also note I’m using Retin-A topically. If you’re curious I get Retin-A (Tretinoin) and Spironolactone online to save $. Just search on Google for this code “LOOK4SPIR” 👍 to find the reliable source, Sorry, I don’t remember the link. Good luck to all!

  2. Sandy June 3, 2019 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    I only wanted to go off the pill for a couple of months because I felt like my body needed a break. However, I wasn’t planning on getting off it permanently. Will going back on the pill help heal my acne?

    • Seanna Cohen June 4, 2019 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      No, unfortunately it may only be a temporary fix. If you’ve experienced breakouts before going on the pill, then the hormonal triggers that caused the acne in the first place are still there, only suppressed by the pill. If you want a lasting fix to truly heal your acne, then it’s best to get to the root cause without the help of synthetic hormones. You may have a temporary adjustment period, but it’s possible to find healing within using the pill as a crutch. It’s worth speak with a naturopathic doctor to discuss alternative ways to internally treat breakouts by looking at triggers like hormones, stress, and gut health. Good luck!

  3. Kay June 13, 2019 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I take a low dose birth control pill (Lo Loestrin) that I’ve been taking for about 2 years now. Before I started the pill I had near perfect skin, then when taking it I started to get more hormonal acne. In addition to this, I don’t get my period which is not something I’m happy about anymore. My skin currently is doing very well and I want to stop taking birth control but the fear of breaking out makes me apprehensive. Since I never struggled with severe acne before hand and during birth control will I now if I stop?

    • Seanna Cohen July 10, 2019 at 3:59 pm - Reply

      (I’m so sorry, I missed your comment!) It’s hard to say. Unfortunately because of some of the side affects it has on the body (like Dr. Bronwyn speaks about in this post, such as mineral deficiencies and gut health) you might end up with some breakouts after going off. This is not to say that you should stay on it though if you want to get off! Take the steps outlined in this post, seek a naturopathic practitioner and you can empower yourself to take control of your hormonal health for the long run (without the assistance of the pill). Hope that helps! P.S. Check out Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book, “Beyond the Pill” if you’re interested.

  4. Annette June 25, 2019 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    Hi there! I am one of those cases in which I went off the pill, got horrible cystic acne, got traumatized by it and immediately went back on the pill. I get zero zits a year (okay maybe one). I am now looking to go off the pill again and I would love to know if there is anything I can do to make this experience less painful, diminish the acne or prevent it altogether. I have started by taking omega-3 fish oil supplements and just barely started taking probiotics targeted toward healthy skin. Is this enough? I haven’t gone off the pill yet but I am hoping that by doing this for a few months before I go off, it will help balance my hormones faster. I also never went on the pill for skin issues, my skin has always been clear, so went I got acne from going off it, it freaked me out.

    • Seanna Cohen July 10, 2019 at 4:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Annette, fish oil and probiotics are great places to start. As Dr. Bronwyn speaks about in this post, supporting your body’s elimination and detoxification processes are key when on the pill and coming off the pill since your body (especially your liver) needs to process out high amounts of synthetic hormones, in particular estrogen, from the body. It might take 4-6 months for you to actually experience adverse symptoms, but by being proactive like you are, is a good thing. Look into foods that support liver function (cruciferous vegetables, burdock root, dandelion tea, garlic, good quality proteins). There are also supplements that can optimize the elimination. I think it’s well worth speaking with a naturopath or practitioner who can set you up on a plan to help pre-empt some of these potential side effects. Don’t be deterred though! There’s definitely a way to get off the pill, if that’s what you wish, in a way that will set you up for healthy hormones long -term!

  5. MONA July 27, 2019 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Hi I never really had an acne problem but I have been on Quilra like 5 years now and I have attempted to comes off twice but when I do i break out immensely and i freak out and go right back on . Is there anything I can do before coming off to lessen the risk of breaking out again, I want to come off these pills.

    • Seanna Cohen July 29, 2019 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Mona, yes you can definitely help support your body before you go off the pill. It’s actually recommended to take about 6 months to wean off the pill (with the help of a doctor), rather than cold turkey. You can start implementing hormone balancing diet during those 6 months to help prepare your body and support a healthy cyclical function (check out Alisa Vitti’s book “Womancode” for more on this). The supplements mentioned in this article will also be helpful to support healthy hormone function since the pill depletes the body of essential nutrients and can disrupt the gut microbiome. Another great book to look into is “Beyond the Pill”by Jolene Brighten. (P.s. If you needs some help clearing breakouts, I also have a free guide to help clear up breakouts fast within minimal scarring – go to Hope that helps!

  6. Julianna August 2, 2019 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Hey, I am experiencing post-pill acne right now. It’s been about 4 months since I’ve been off the pill. My skin has never been this bad and I’m wondering when it’ll stop. I’m looking to get back on the pill for personal reasons. I’m wondering if i should wait till my acne clears up before going back on the pill. Also wondering if the shot, patch or minipill is better with acne and post-supplement acne. I would like to be on the pill until I’m ready for pregnancy. It also helps with my periods. (My periods are horrible).

    • Seanna Cohen August 7, 2019 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      Hi Julianna, thanks for your comment. According to Dr. Bronwyn, the hormonal imbalance that has led to your acne was caused by the pill and if you intend on going back on the pill there’s no reason to wait until your acne clears since the symptoms will probably still be there once you come off again. To achieve lasting acne relief, it could take months of internal work. It sounds like you could benefit from some internal support and a consultation with a naturopathic doctor would be advisable, especially if you’d like to plan for pregnancy. Symptoms like these can indicate potential challenges getting pregnant in the future.

      The combined pill is the best option for treating her acne, and the minipill and depo shot may actually make the acne worse. Hope that helps!

  7. Claire November 20, 2019 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all of this helpful information! Is there a brand of DIM supplements you would recommend? There are so many I’m not sure which to try. Already started taking zinc and other vitamins, probiotics, and have ditched dairy. As you explained can happen, I never had acne prior to taking the pill bit the first time I tried to get off the pill I had terrible acne for 6 months with no end in sight so I’m hoping to minimize that as much as possible this time around!

    • Seanna Cohen December 3, 2019 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      So happy this information was helpful! I personally used EstroSense by WomenSense, and had success using it. Douglas Laboratories also has one, which is a good brand. If you’re in the US you might also want to look into Dr. Jolene Brighten’s line of supplements!

  8. Lydia March 21, 2020 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Thanks for the very informative post! I used to have acne but three years ago I took isotretinoin pills for 7 months and my acne was gone. So I have been acne free fro three years! Since last year I started birth control pills because I am in a serious relationsip and I want to avoid pregnancy. If I stop taking them, do you think that my acne is going to come back? Even though I had solved this problem before taking birth control pills?

    • Seanna Cohen March 31, 2020 at 11:18 am - Reply

      Hi Lydia, I’m happy this post was helpful! Unfortunately there is a chance you may experience acne again when going off the pill since the pill keep androgen levels low, which could “rebound” afterwards causing an imbalance as your body tries to adjust. Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book “Beyond the Pill” is a good read for more information about this!

  9. Grace April 12, 2020 at 8:05 am - Reply

    What are the chances that you develop acne once you stop taking birth control? Is it always a reality or is there a small chance of not getting it? I’ve been using pills for 1 and half years due to moderate acne. And right now my skin is super clear. The more I read about coming off the pill, the more I get scared to stop. Do all women just get post pill acne?

    • Seanna Cohen April 13, 2020 at 10:58 am - Reply

      Hi Grace, Thanks for your comment. Acne after the pill is not always the reality for people, but if you went on it specifically for acne in the first place, there’s probably a greater chance acne may return afterwards. The pill keeps androgen levels low (helping acne), but those androgens can “rebound” afterwards causing an imbalance as your body tries to adjust. It’s worth looking at finding a sustainable, lasting treatment for your acne triggers (in many cases, the pill offers only a temporary fix). I highly recommend working with a Naturopathic doctor to create a plan for your when you wish to come off. Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book “Beyond the Pill” is a good read for more information about this!

  10. Helen May 16, 2020 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    I had severe cystic acne before the pill and I can see a difference in my skin since using it but I’m trying probiotics now to see if that’s been my issue(I’ve taken a lot of antibiotics through out the years) and was wondering should I stop the birth control? I’m already two months on it and I don’t know what to do…

    • Seanna Cohen July 20, 2020 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      Hi Helen, It’s a personal choice whether to stay on the pill, or not. I would say though that if you are on it just so that your skin clears, you may want to pursue a more sustainable course of action. There’s a greater chance acne may return one you come off of the pill since the root cause is not addressed. The pill keeps androgen levels low (helping acne), but those androgens can “rebound” afterwards causing an imbalance as your body tries to adjust. I highly recommend working with a Naturopathic doctor to create a plan for your when you wish to come off. Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book “Beyond the Pill” is a good read for more information about this!

  11. Emma July 12, 2020 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    Hi. Thanks for the article, it’s a very interesting read.
    I’m 6 months down the line with awful acne after stopping the birth control pill and have tried everything and wasted so much money on various different routines but nothing seems to work. Do you think it should be starting to clear soon? I’ve looked into buying the hormone tablets you recommended, silly question but are they huge to swallow? Thanks for your help in advance

    • Seanna Cohen July 20, 2020 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      Hi Emma, Thanks for your comment. Without addressing the internal root cause, unfortunately topical routines won’t completely help. Timing wise, it’s different for everyone. Androgen rebound (which causes excess oil) can take a few months to a over a year to regulate, but there could also be other lasting changes in the body that need to be addressed. Try some of the tips in this article, but for a full plan, I would recommend speaking with a naturopathic doctor to create a sustainable plan for you. It will clear up, so don’t worry about that, it just may take the right internal support and time. Dr. Jolene Brighten’s Book Beyond the Pill is also a greta read! As for the DIM supplements, most are fairly medium sized capsules! 🙂

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