Can natural treatments heal acne after quitting birth control?

Calm Buddha resting on green grass

My skin was almost flawless throughout my teens. So it was a rude shock to hit 20 and abruptly descend into full-scale acne. Suddenly, awfully, I had it all. Whiteheads. Blackheads. Huge, painful, headless cysts sitting just below the skin. Scabs and scarring.

I felt revolting.

One day, a jerk in a bar made a crack about my “pizza chin”, driving a dagger straight through my self-esteem. The next week I booked myself into the doctor and got straight on the birth control pill. My skin cleared up within weeks and, considering the problem solved, I carried on with life.

Until now.

Earlier this year I began to worry what kind of havoc 10 years of birth control was wreaking on my body. Artificially filling my body with buttloads of hormones seemed contrary to the increasingly natural lifestyle I was transitioning to.

So in January, I finally kicked the pill. And within a few months, my shitty skin returned with a vengeance.

It had been there the whole time, masked beneath the pill.

For awhile I felt resilient, figuring it would pass as my body reestablished a natural rhythm. But as the months have dragged on and my skin has grown redder and angrier, my self-confidence has plummeted.

It’s difficult looking at myself in the mirror. I find struggle to feel happy with any recent photos of myself. Makeup can’t mask the redness and aggravation or hide the enormous cystic lumps protruding from my chin and cheeks.

I struggle to recognise any beauty in myself. I see only acne. And I feel ugly.

It’s hard to admit all of this. It’s even harder not to run straight back to the pill.

But this time, I want to try and heal myself naturally. This, I hope, is the beginning of that journey.

Here’s my natural acne treatment plan of attack. I’m going to try oil cleansing. I’ll experiment with some natural topical pimple creams, like Adele’s coconut oil and turmeric paste. I plan on drinking a lot more water and cutting back on sugar. I want to exercise more. I’ll also incorporate some work on my emotional self, via meditation, journalling and, hopefully, kinesiology.

But I might need some help from you, too. I think I need some support, a reminder that I’m not the only one going through this.

A reminder that, despite all the Photoshopped pictures of flawless feminine perfection that we’re constantly bombarded with, beauty actually isn’t skin deep.

Maybe you need those reminders too?

If you’re feeling brave enough, I’d love to hear your story. Do you have any tried-and-true natural beauty tips, tricks or regimes? How do you deal with the crushing emotional fallout of acne?

Perhaps this can become a beautiful journey we walk together.

UPDATE: After a lifelong battle with acne, Alana found a way to heal her skin naturally. Head here for a detailed post on how she did it, including a rundown of her tried-and-proven skin care regime and recipes for her favourite simple, homemade and all-natural skin care products.


, ,

24 Responses to Can natural treatments heal acne after quitting birth control?

  1. Ra September 10, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    Koren I had the same thing, my skin erupted in my late twenties and my doctor told me it was adult onset acne. Her only advice was anti biotics for life- I didn’t think I could go down that road. Long story short I went to a dermatologist who said it was rosacea and I could calm it by avoiding all the harsh washes and masks I had been using thinking it was acne and by using very gentle cleansers. Now its fairly unnoticeable, I wash my face once a day only with trilogy face wash or dermalogica daily micro foliant, but my real saviour has been daily starflower oil to keep the hormones in check and a cream called examol special cream by a local naturopath company called nature cures (in ireland), it’s magic at reducing the sore red itch! Oh and talc free mineral foundation too is the business. I know the face washes aren’t exactly natural but the advice to wash once a day not twice allows your skin to calm apparantly. Good luck I hope you find your solution to perfect skin once again!

    • Koren September 10, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

      Antibiotics for life?! Good god! I’m so glad you decided to try other options — and succeeded. At this stage I think if I can get to the “fairly unnoticeable” stage, I’ll be happy. I’ve never even actually heard of starflower oil, so thanks for that fabulous tip. Shall see what I can find along those lines here in Spain. Thanks so much for sharing your story, and for your support. 🙂

  2. AliceSAysNo September 10, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    Hi, I also had flawless skin until 31 and I got severe roseacea. It really is debilitating. I am a vegan who does not use chemicals wherever possible and it a struggle, but the blessing from it is that it’s lead me to so much emotional understanding and healing, and to be able to care and treasure myself despite the acne. I highly recommend the book Skin Deep by Dr Grossbart and the blog The Love Vitamin – both brilliant and supportive. Good luck, it’s a journey!!! xx

    • Koren September 10, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

      Oh Alice. That sounds just awful. I absolutely emphasise with what you’re going through. Acne and bad skin should be a blight left behind in the teens, dammit! But thanks so much for these two resources. I’ve signed up the The Love Vitamin’s mailing list and will start flicking through Grossbart’s book over the next week or two. Have you heard of the book You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay? Alana, too, has had her battles with acne and was once recommended this book as a way to move through it all. Might help? xx

  3. Heidi September 11, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Aah, Koren. I feel you. During my 20’s and into my early 30’s, despite being on the birth control pill, I would get deep cystic acne on my chin and jawline. The type that would take literally months to heal, and leave a scar. And yep, there were occasions when I would cancel social engagements because I was so ashamed of my skin. When I quit the pill a few years back the cysts had thankfully become less and less frequent, but I continued to have red, inflamed skin and frequent breakouts.

    I can honestly say that since relocating to Finland my skin is the best it’s been in my adult life. I’m not the poster child for immaculate skin, but pimples these days are rare and I have zero inflammation. It’s so different from what I’m used to. Here are a few of the things that I reckon have helped:

    1. Sauna. Blackheads on my nose are pretty much a thing of the past. The Finns swear sauna has a multitude of health benefits, but I can say it’s ace at cleaning out your pores. I think boosting circulation to your skin probably aids the healing process, too. This is a ritual I’ll definitely continue after leaving the Nordics.
    2. Vitamin D is a big deal here. During winter it’s common to take supplements. Then, in summer, everyone gets their gear off and lounges in the sun. Vitamin D rich dairy and salmon are also a staple of the Finnish diet.. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing grown adults sit down with a glass of milk at mealtimes. Did I mention people in this part of the world have ridiculously stunning skin? I’d never seriously considered my Vitamin D levels prior to moving here.
    3. I use minimal products on my skin, and those I use are gentle. I exfoliate with a homemade olive oil, castor sugar and lemon juice scrub 2x a week, and cleanse twice a day with Lavera cleansing milk. It’s super mild. If I get a pimple, I don’t alter my routine. Thankfully, they heal fairly quickly these days. FYI I’ve found that coconut oil makes me break out, so it’s not for everyone.

    I hope my advice can be of some help. No matter what, keep your head held high, and remember to be as kind to yourself as you are to everyone else. And if we’re ever together and you see the pizza chin comment guy, point him out so I can punch him in the nose 😉 xx

    • Koren September 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      Okay then, I’m a-coming to Finland! I can stay with you guys forever, right? 😉 Seriously though, thanks so much for sharing your advice and story, m’dear. I can honest relate to the cancelling of social engagements thing. If I’m being honest, I still actually often do that. Terrible, I know, but sometimes I just don’t feel like I have the strength to show my red and spotty face to the world. I clearly need to be kinder on myself! Thanks for the reminder, beautiful. xxx

  4. Adriann September 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    I am in the same place you are. I have been on the pill for about 12 years for acne. I stopped the BCP in May, and my skin broke out about two months later. It sucks being in my 30s dealing with acne and wrinkles! I’ve tried to go off the pill before, but the acne drove me back to the pill. This time I am hoping to heal my skin naturally with diet, supplements, exercise, stress reduction, and positive thinking, as the pill just doesn’t line up with my personal values anymore. It is comforting to know that there are other women out there dealing with this too. I usually feel so alone in this! Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Koren September 13, 2014 at 7:58 am #

      Pimples and wrinkles at the same time just SHOULD NOT BE A THING! I mean, seriously. That’s just unfair. At least we can share in this together. 🙂 Have you had any luck with your natural approach over the last few months, lovely?

  5. Dominique September 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    Wow! it is so wonderful to come on here and see this post. I am 21 and after having perfect skin all throughout my teenage years, this year my face has suddenly become so congested. Something I have never had to think about has suddenly occupied my mind and every time I look in the mirror I find myself examining my cheeks, forehead, nose etc. to assess whether it is better or worse. I have never been on the pill, and I have found the pressure to go on the pill immense but it really helps to hear other people make the choice to not go on the pill for the same reasons as me. I have recently adopted the same methods that you are starting, exercise, low sugar intake, lots of sunlight. I do have an appointment with a dermatologist but I don’t have high hopes as I expect they will try to put me on antibiotics. I do hope you share more of your journey and what works (or doesn’t) for you as you go along. I can’t express how comforting it is to hear from someone who is making the same choices as myself. 🙂

    • Koren September 13, 2014 at 8:05 am #

      Oh, the examination obsession. I can totally relate! I actually find myself examining my face in different lights. Weird, I know. But I admire your approach, and your wisdom. My experience is those zits will just rear their ugly heads again later on when you’re ready to quit the pill (or antibiotics or whatever) so it’s wise to at least make some sort of an effort to find an alternative. That’s my thoughts for now, at least. Will definitely report back on how I’m going in a few weeks!

    • Adriann September 13, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      I wish I had known more about how diet and lifestyle affects skin and menstrual issues when I was 21. I may have avoided the pill and cleared my skin the right way. The pill did clear my skin and reduce my PMS symptoms, but I never really healed the root problem, which I strongly feel is related to my horrible diet and lots of stress. I think the pill even caused me to lose quite a bit of hair (thank goodness I had a lot to begin with! I’ve lost about 1/3 of my volume) and my libido went bye-bye. Keep trying to improve your diet and lifestyle and avoid the pill and antibiotics (I was on those for years too). You can do it!!

      • Koren September 14, 2014 at 4:20 am #

        That’s exactly how I feel, Adriann — like the pill just hid the problem for awhile rather than healing it. And I can’t believe you suffered so much hair loss, you poor thing. I wonder if that will slowly come back as you try more natural approaches?

  6. Adriann September 13, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    So far I have breakouts all along my jawline and some on my cheeks, and even some creeping down into my neck area. While these breakouts have been here for almost 2 months now, I am not getting too many new pimples. I take several supplements, but my diet isn’t perfect. My willpower is weak around all the sugary, processed stuff that my family buys and that people at work offer me (and I work in health care… how ironic…). I wonder if I could just really keep my eating super clean for a while if my skin would finally heal. I also need to be better about my sleep and stress levels. I really feel that my body can, and wants to, heal, but it requires discipline in all areas of my life as well as time and patience.

    • Koren September 14, 2014 at 4:27 am #

      Oh, can I recommend something for kicking sugar? Try Sarah Wilson’s book I Quit Sugar. It walks you through how to do it without losing your mind and there’s also a bunch of healthy, yum and clever yet easy recipes included, too. I found it really helpful — and I’m a sugar addict from way back!

  7. Petra September 15, 2014 at 6:11 am #

    The answer is ‘simple’ though not always ‘easy’! By keeping your blood as clean as possible you can avoid so many ‘issues’! Drink heaps of raw veg juices, get rid of sugar, drink heaps of pure water, NO meat, or processed foods! ie: stick to a clean food intake, lots of exercise and focus on strong, spiritual and emotional mind sets !

  8. Laura September 28, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Best of luck with your journey! I’ve recently swapped all my cosmetics (makeup, moisturiser and face-wash) for natural oil options and have noticed a great difference! Also makes me feel less guilty when I forget to take my makeup off which is pretty much all the time! 🙂

    • Koren November 17, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      Hey Laura, would you care to share some of the oil mixes you’re using? I’m still settling on what’s best for my skin and would love to hear what’s working for you. 🙂

  9. Bec Thexton October 24, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    You’re not alone and you can do it!

  10. nicole January 11, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Any update on how your skin is fairing? I quit birth control in June and have had a shellfish few months of acne.

    • Koren April 2, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

      Hey Nicole, I’m planning on writing a full update soon. But for now, I’ve found that taking zinc and Vitamin C supplements (as advised by a naturopath) seems to be helping a little. And making sure I wash my face every night before bed plus steer clear of too much sugar and alcohol seems to have an impact too. Good luck in your journey, sending loads of positive vibes your way! xx

  11. Maria April 2, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    I really hate how this is happening to all of us, but the selfish part of me is happy that I’m not alone. My story is a little different and early on…I got my first period at 10! Literally thought I was dying since I didn’t know anything about periods at that age and my mom was planning to tell me around 11. Oh and grade 5 health class teaches about puberty two months before schools out for summer. Got my first period a month before that lecture, safe to say I was the smartest kid and knew all the answers for that class. Lol. Well, I had to mature faster than normal and learned how to deal.
    Long story short, my period in the early years was insanely heavy and painful for any women and I was so young, plus it was very irregularly and would sometimes come twice a month. My doctor prescribed birth control and I started it when I was 12. My mom and I did not like hearing that, but I have to say it has worked for me these past years. It did take a while to find the right brand that worked for my body. My poor mother, half her wrinkles and white hair are from the stresses of my early period.
    No more pain
    More more two-times visits a month
    No more heavy period

    Now I’m 3 months shy from turning 20 and decided that I wanted off the pill since I have been on it for 8 years and from such an early age. So it’s my second month off the pill and I can’t describe my face as anything but a f*#king pizza. A pepperoni one.
    It really hurts to look in the mirror in the morning, and my self-esteem/confidence has dropped massively. I am so temped to go back in the pill, so much that I can’t even sleep at 3 a.m. without thinking about what to do.
    I will try all the tips you guys had in your comments to get these monsters off, and thanks for posting too. I felt so alone that it was starting to hurt. Hopefully the temptation of the pill will disappear.

    • Koren April 2, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

      Gosh, Maria, what a puberty roller coaster you’ve been riding! I can totally relate to the terribly heavy and far-too-frequent periods as a kid. That was definitely my experience and another reason I chose to go on the pill.

      Huge kudos for taking the big, brave step of coming off the pill, though, and especially for realising at such a young age that it might not be the best thing for your body. That’s huge!

      May I suggest giving this post from Tara Bliss a read, too? You might find some wisdom or helpful advice in her words.

      Stick with it, lady. We’re all here for you and we know you can get through this. And in any case, your beauty truly is far deeper than just your skin. That’s the lesson I’ve been learning with all of this, anyway.

      Big hugs! xx

  12. Violet May 14, 2015 at 5:36 am #

    Hello Koren,

    I have shared similar experiences with early 20 somthings acne, as well as my 3 older sisters. We all struggles with this. Some of the biggest things that have helped me have been cutting out most refined sugars, exercising more, and reducing stress levels. ( like you said. The biggest thing however I have found to help this is a reusable body cloth from Norwex. They are made with woven in threads of silver. This product helps clean your face without anything but water and the cloth. Therefor you are not stripping you natural oils that help keep your skin healthy, but you are getting rid of the unwanted dirt and or makeup from the day. I would definitely look into their chemical free, natural products. My face couldn’t thank me enough, and I also clean my house without any chemicals now! Last thing on a side note… I also now use Everyday Minerals for makeup. This has also contributed to my face being clearer then ever!
    Hope you find this helpful!

    Also here are those links for you, have a lovely day.

    • Koren May 14, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

      Hey Violet, thanks so much for taking the time to share your wisdom. I’ve been using just hot water and a flannel for the past month or so to cleanse my face and have noticed a huge improvement so those Norwex cloths sounds really interesting. I’ll definitely scoot over and check out Everyday Minerals, too. Thanks a bunch, lovely!