As a back story, I started birth control at 16, so I didn’t really know life without it. I had amazing skin right after I started it and I never stressed about getting knocked up for the next 12 years. But, I noticed some side effects that were really affecting my quality of life and it came to the point that I was like screw the clear skin, screw the no periods, I want this out of me ASAP. And keep in mind that I’ve been on many variations of the pill, low doses and high doses, so it wasn’t a matter of simply switching it up, as I had done that for years. So, what started to happen to me that made me realize I couldn’t keep living life with synthetic hormones popping down my throat and into my body everyday. Let’s get into that…
And another thing you might find interesting & baffling…once upon a time, they made a male birth control pill. And you know what? Men complained of all the symptoms due to this pill, ones that we deal with everyday. Doctors decided to just continue dumping all of these symptoms on women because men couldn’t handle the pill! Poor men, they can’t handle depression, weight gain, hair loss, anxiety, anger and mood swings and putting synthetic chemicals into their body. Women can handle it though! Seriously…this happened. Because men could easily be the ones on the pill, but society doesn’t want men in any pain, remember? So, when you think about it that way, it’s a little messed up that we are prescribed this at such a young age, like for me 16, without knowing any of the consequences. Remember that you don’t have to be on the pill and suck it up just to not get pregnant and please men. I know its scarier and there are times in our lives where we really do need to suck it up because getting pregnant would ruin our lives. BUT, condoms work and so does the pull-out-method. And if your man can’t handle those methods, tell him to eff off and to do himself. Literally. Because he isn’t allowed to make requirements of your body.
I was nauseous every day. Nausea is one of the most common side effects of birth control pills and the reason is because estrogen can irritate your stomach. And when I had to ride in the car, I was bordering on almost vomiting in my lap every single time. After every car ride I would have to give myself 10 minutes after to belch and let out all of the indigestion in my tummy before doing anything. It wasn’t until a friend told me, oh that’s from your birth control pill, that I started to look up birth control side effects. I am so thankful for that conversation because it opened the door to all of this information that no one had talked about to me before. Of course our women doctors don’t talk to us about these things, WHY WOULD THEY? I am joking….of course we should know everything about popping the pill before we even start it, but the system doesn’t really allow for those conversations. Why do I have to do tons and tons of research on my own to know that the pill is causing these horrendous side effects? Why does my Gyno withhold ALL of this? I couldn’t help but wonder why. Anyways, so that was the first really bothersome side effect and it has gone away since being off the pill. I rarely get indigestion and I don’t dread riding in the care anymore.
NO ABILITY TO HANDLE STRESS
There is an excellent Ted Talk that talks about this side effect of the birth control pill. For me this was the leading reason why I knew I had to ditch the pill. Every time I had a stressful situation happen to me, my brain completely fell apart and it felt like I couldn’t handle any of it! I would have melt downs and everything would go black and red when something went wrong. It felt like there was no solution and my life was ending even if the smallest thing was out of my control. I was also like… Satan…but really. I was angry and constantly feeling doomed. I had assumed that was my problem and something in my DNA made me incapable of handling stress. But wait….there is actually a correlation between how your brain handles stress and cortisol and taking synthetic hormones everyday. Let me tell you, since being off the pill, I haven’t had even one “episode.” No melt downs, no anxiety, no lack of control world is ending feelings. I have control now. I don’t react the same to stress and in fact, I don’t even know who the heck I am anymore! I am like Wonder Woman, blocking all of the stress with my shield of armor, bouncing it back to the world like it ain’t no thang. Not only do I have control of my emotions more, but I can now focus all the time I gave away to anxious thoughts and self doubt, to things that actually matter. Not that anxious thoughts don’t matter, but anxious thoughts that are absolutely unnecessary can be debilitating. Now that I have my control back, I have completely been able to switch my thinking in a stressful situation from ” the world is ending” to ” I got this, everything is okay.” If you have had the world of ending feeling, you know how hard it is to get back to thinking straight. This is a huge benefit of stopping the pill for me. I can see clearly now and most importantly, I behave like myself, not some angry and emotional mad woman.
Now that we know the good things that happened since stopping the pill, let’s talk about the bad things that happened.
HORMONAL ACNE….a lot of it….***update***at the 6 month mark my skin finally calmed down!!
Ooooof, this one is not so fun. If you can start making your changes to your diet 3 months before going off the pill, the better this part will be for you. I hopped on the supplements train when the acne began, wishing I had started getting my diet straight with Omega 3 and spearmint tea months before. Especially when you are used to little to no makeup and carving out minimal time when it comes to painting your face just so you can leave the house without crying if someone makes eye contact with you for more than 1 second. This one really made me consider going back on the pill, mostly because I was ashamed of having acne as a grown woman, which is sad, because it is NOTHING to be ashamed of. Acne is natural and is 99% of the time from something going on internally. Starting at 3 months off the pill and since, I have gotten at least 40 HUGE white heads and tons of blackheads on my face in the last month. And it felt like they all came at once! It took 3 months for my skin to breakout (so keep that in mind if you are planning to go off, you have 3 months until things get turned back on inside of you), and I am still recovering from those horrible breakouts as I type this, as in I have some purple marks left over, which is fixable, I promise you! Yes, this part sucks, but it was bound to happen. Hormonal pills suppress your natural hormones, so when you stop taking the pill, all hell breaks loose! The pill surpasses testosterone, which is responsible for making sebum in the skin, so when this is blocked, you rarely see too many pimples. But when you open the doors to testosterone again and your natural hormones, the sebum goes wild and pimples will pop up everywhere. This is actually a GOOD thing, because it means you are turned back on!! Isn’t that what we want?? We want to be US, and not controlled by something synthetic and man made. So, when your lovely beard of acne appears, remember this is necessary to heal and you are on the right track. This too shall pass! This is only going to happen while your body resets and adjusts. I had to go back to my old journal entries on how much it sucked to not want sex and to be car sick and nauteous and to feel quite empty inside, in order to remind myself why I was doing this. I relapsed one time… and those 24 hours were horrible. I took a birth control pill after an episode of crying because I was washing my face, and blood was all over my towels because of my huge pimples that popped. I told myself that it wasn’t worth it, popped a pill and tried to go to bed. I was up all night! The next day, I was so anxious and depressed, I cried all day, and couldn’t do a darn thing. I couldn’t even eat food because I was a nervous wreck. That was one day of taking the pill again. That is how much my body is begging me to not take it. I have some tips to help you calm down the acne that will come and go:
- FIND A GREAT Esthetician and Dermatologist– Seriously, you will break out and when you do, if you have someone on call ready to help you, the better! Find someone you trust a couple months before getting off the pill so she knows your skin and can take a look at it as well as give you advice on products and your skin regime. If you are in San Francisco, you have to meet Lisa Eddy at Lisa Eddy Skincare and Cheryl at Studio C Skincare (both in the Marina). Call both of them, and they will help you ASAP! When it comes to a dermatologist, you might need to see a couple before finding the RIGHT one. Because they are doctors, they will want to prescribe topical treatments and medications (which is sometimes absolutely necessary when you are suffering cystic acne). I am personally not a HUGE fan of dermatologists, let me explain why. They see your acne as something that can be treated with a prescription and might not ask what is going on with your body in other ways like diet and stress and makeup regime. I mean, you might be allergic to some ingredients in your Mac and Nars makeup that is clogging your pores. I actually went to an ALLERGIST to get a patch testing to see what ingredients I was allergic to, and turns out I am allergic to most mainstream makeup! Of course we are going to get pimples if we keep applying sketchy and unclean ingredients to our faces. Anyways…back to the Derm and getting on topical medications…Sometimes medications make things worse because adding too much to our bodies and skin is sometimes the culprit for more problems to come later. There is definitely a time and a place for adding prescriptions and topicals, so it is up to you to decide when that is. I went on antibiotics for my breakouts (doxycycline) in the past and it really messed me up for 6 months after because I had no good bacteria left in my gut. Yes, It cleared my acne for 3 months while I was on it, but then all hell broke loose once I stopped. But, if you go to a derm with an idea of what you won’t take (like antibiotics or Spiro), then you can tell them up front that you aren’t comfortable with it. For example, I had heard of Spironolactone as a way to treat hormonal acne, but knew I didn’t want to hop right back on medication without letting my body first purge and adjust. I know people who love Spiro- but there are some side effects- oh great, more side effects! So, you have to decide if peeing every 30 minutes and a dried up Vajayjay and skin and hair is worth having clear skin. (Spiro is a diuretic and will absolutely get rid of all the oil and water in your body, but that comes with a huge cost). For me it most definitely wasn’t worth that because I wanted to get my vagina back and natural oils back after BC suppressed it for so long. An esthetician is also super helpful because they can safely pop the big white heads for you in emergencies and clear the gunk out with extractions every couple of weeks. This will help you from popping them yourself and making it worse by leaving a scar. Also, find someone who has an LED light and a high frequency machine, many estheticians have these machines, especially the Russians. Google “high frequency acne machine or LED facial near me” to find this treatment in your city. Call around and find someone who can offer this. These together shouldn’t cost you more than $60 a treatment. A high frequency machine uses oxygen to zap a pimple, killing the bacteria instantly. Within minutes an acne cyst goes down. PLEASE Avoid getting steroid injections into the big zits if you can get them zapped instead. Steroid injections can leave you with an indent in your skin for years. I’ve made that mistake before and never got one again. BUT, if the zit in uncontrollably big, then a tiny steroid injection might be necessary.
- Acne Cleanser– A sulfur cleanser is a good option for big pimples is prescribed by a dermatologist. If your skin can handle Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid then find something that uses these ingredients in a cleanser.. BP and SA are harsh though, and even if your skin can handle it, I do not recommend if you are above the age of 25- if you are 16-24, your skin can handle the drying out, but past that age be careful because we want to hydrate the skin in our late 20’s. Sulfur is actually something that’s been around for hundreds of years when it comes to treating skin conditions and if you can find it in a CLAY mask, then that will help a lot too. I actually am allergic to the sulfur cleanser because it contains DISODIUM SALTS, which I am allergic to. I have to look for masks instead of cleansers because my skin is highly reactive.
- Zinc and Sulfur Clay mask- I use this on my beard acne ( 😉 ) 3 times a week after I take off my makeup. This really helps with black heads too! Use discount 10oncolette for 10% off. Lisa Eddy is shipping during quarantine by the way!
- Tretinoin 0.025%. This is also prescribed by the Dermatologist. This is a retinoid cream, and requires a slow and steady pace, so you can’t just pile it on right out of the gate. I would start out with once a week for a month and eventually you can do 3 times a week over the course of 6 months. This forces your skin to regenerate quicker and the acne marks fade faster. This is has been my miracle product when it comes to getting rid of my acne scars. This is the one reason to see a derm because you will want to fade those acne scars.
- NOT picking the acne! It is hard not to pick, but the more you pick the worse it gets. if you have a white head or a cyst- use this machine from Amazon, and it will go away over night. Keep your hands off your face as much as possible, bacteria is your biggest enemy right now. Wash your hands like crazy, getting in your nails and between your fingers, before washing your face.
- SUNSCREEN EVERYDAY– The last thing your skin needs is sun during this time. The sun and free radicals will damage it more, and you want those acne marks to heal, not stay purple and dark. The sun will absolutely make them darker. Here is my go to physical sunscreen that will not clog pores and will cover up the marks because it is tinted.
- Non-clogging & for acne makeup-This one is very important because so much of our makeup clogs our pores even more and makes acne worse. Now that you don’t have the pill protecting you from breakouts, be EXTRA careful about what makeup you are wearing. Use this powder to cover up and I promise you, your skin will calm down and you can slowly add back the nastier products( Mac, Chanel, Dior, all very nasty and unclean ingredients) I was using bare minerals, and that made my skin get worse, so make sure you are actually trying to let your skin breath with the right products.
- Spearmint tea– Make two to four cups a day. This is supposed to clear hormonal acne. In a 2015 study by the American Academy of Dermatology, “two cups of organic spearmint tea ingested daily reduced inflammatory acne lesions by 25% after one month and by 51% after three months.” My dermatologist ( Dr. Caren Campbell in SF) recommended this since she knows how much I want to avoid pills while healing my skin. I am two weeks in, and I actually love tea so this one is easy for me.
- Wheatgrass powder from Whole Foods- . Drink this in the morning because it will detox you on the days you feel like you need it. Don’t overdo this, just add it a couple times a week.
- Start adding flaxseed and Omega 3 (salmon!) to your diet- Flaxseed is known to help and I actually love adding omega-3 fatty acids to my diet. I am weird, and I add the flaxseeds in a morning cup of almond milk with some almonds or cashews and blueberries. It’s easy and you barely taste it. Some people use flaxseed oil instead like this lovely lady- check out her post.
- Stop drinking Alcohol- It’s lame, but it’s going to help you. Drinking kills your gut, your health, and adds sugar to your diet which will make your breakouts worse. I stopped drinking in October (right when I went off the pill and I think is the a big reason why my acne is less severe than it could have been). Of course you can have some drinks, but any more than one drink a night is really just asking for an extra pimple or 2. And when you have 25 pimples, one more is a big deal.
- Add vegetables into your diet! Vegetables are healing and anti inflammatory. They will help you feel good inside and out, and even though you’ll be breaking out, trust that eating a ton of vegetables will pay off (in about 2 months you’ll notice a change). I started making a juice everyday in December, about 6 weeks before the acne came. I was so thankful to have started juicing early because I felt like my skin was healing faster because I had been forcing kale, spinach, beets, carrots, and celery into my diet everyday for almost 2 months. Yes, I still got the cysts and painful white heads, but the healing process was much faster than I expected. I don’t know if I will have a juice everyday forever, but for the next couple of months I am making it a priority.
- The birth control pill DEPLETES you of nutrients. So, how do you get back the nutrients you have been denying your body for 10 plus years? FOOD!! I am not one to jump on the supplement train and I honestly think supplements are….bull shit. Okay, I said it! Every time you add a supplement, you are asking your liver to work over time. Every time you do that, you add inflammation. Be careful about what supplements you take because what one girl took for her to get back on track isn’t necessarily going to agree with your body chemistry. At MOST you could 2 supplements a day. Like ZINC and MAGNESIUM are great for post pill depletion. These two items are also found in leafy greens and pumpkin seeds and roasted cashews and dates and so many more delicious foods. If you eat right then you don’t have to spend money on supplements. Diet always makes the most impact.
ACNE 3 MONTHS OFF THE PILL & currently (my cheeks have it the worst! almost every pore is backed up with blackheads and oil):
MY SKIN ON THE PILL as a comparison:
You’ll start to feel differently about people off the pill. I didn’t want kids or to get married to my boyfriend while on the birth control pill, not because I didn’t love him! But because I just didn’t feel any emotion towards those two things. After being off the pill I think about marrying him and having babies, I literally feel my period coming and get excited, knowing I can carry a child now. Isn’t that weird? It’s like now that my body is in control, my sweet and nurturing and motherly side is coming out. I think those feelings were suppressed for a long time due to not ovulating for so long. I’m also way more emotional, in a GOOD way. You know when you FEEL and then when you just UNDERSTAND something and brush it off- completely different right? Like… let me explain. I’m in an acting class and in the class we have to do these activities. One activity required us to go on stage and do something physical that made us feel. I brought in a cake to decorate for one of my “ex” best friends’ birthday, we had a falling out, and hadn’t talked in a year. It broke my heart to think about her, so I avoided it for a year. But once I I got on stage and started to pretend celebrate her birthday, I started balling. In front of 20 new classmates and my teacher. I felt it all. I felt how much I missed her and how much I needed to get back in touch with her. I definitely couldn’t reach that level of emotional connection 6 months ago. I would have done the activity and brushed it off as something that was sad in the moment and forced myself to move on. BUT, since I am really feeling things now, I’m able to laugh out loud more and cry more. Connection is what I was missing out on towards the end of the pill. I feel freaking connected to the trees outside of my apartment right now as I type this and I am thinking about how much I love the dang trees. So, expect to feel differently about people in your life and maybe even make some changes due to those feelings that have been hiding.
Okay, so this one is the scariest possible side effect when you stop the pill, in my opinion. Because losing hair feels like you have something very scary going on. This is my first time going through hair loss, and it scared the absolute hell out of me. I had clumps coming out over night. I woke up with strands everywhere. I talked to my Gyno and she explained to me that some women have hair shedding after stopping the pill. “Switching birth control pills or going off it completely could trigger telogen effluvium, a temporary condition that causes your hair to shed. Telogen effluvium usually subsides within six months, after your body has adjusted to not being on birth control.” I am that small percentage of women that experiences telogen effluvium, YAY! This most likely will not happen to you, and if it does, DO NOT PANIC, because it is very temporary. Your hair goes through stages and going off the pill just gives the falling out phase a green light. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t going to happen some day regardless of the pill, it just means it comes faster when you drop the pill popping. When my hair fell out, I panicked for days, but then I realized I can do better than just panic. I can write a post about it and I can work with some amazing hair professionals to figure out a hair plan that works for my situation. Thank goodness for Louise at Code Salon in San Francisco, because she has made me feel reassured that this will get better and after switching to the right routine and hair color (I went back to my natural color and will be trying out some extensions next week, yay!) I do feel a lot better about my hair now that I have the right products. I am not using any heat on my hair and switched to Virtue hair products and New Wash from hair story. I also learned that my hair can’t tolerate coconut oil. Unfortunately, before meeting with Louise (who is giving me extensions and a new color), I did a DIY coconut oil hair mask, and lost more hair than ever. Coconut oil is NOT made for our hair. Do not listen to anyone else who tells you that it is good for your hair. TRUST me on this. I confirmed this with 10 experts in the Bay Area, and unfortunately I listened to a girl on YouTube who has no knowledge about hair instead of seeking expert advice. I went to so many hair salons in the Bay Area to try to understand what happened and when I mentioned the coconut oil mask, they were disturbed that people like myself actually thought that using a cooking oil on hair was a good thing. I am going back to my natural hair color this week, which is a dark, sandy blonde, with a bit of red undertones. No more highlights for me, goodbye Gwen Stefani hair.
STEPS I’m taking to bring my hair back from the DEAD:
- Virtue Hair Products– I can’t use the one with coconut oil in it, the recovery conditioner. I have to use theSmooth Conditioner and the Restorative Hair Mask. Remember, not all hair is created equal, so go see an expert if you can. UPDATE FOR QUARANTINE: DM a hair stylist on Instagram and I guarantee they would offer to do a virtual consultation. If you really want the best products for your hair, having an expert look at your hair and ask you specific questions might save you hours and hours and money on worthless products. When I had my hair meltdown, I DM’ed so many salons in my city to see if they could offer me any help, and majority of them did thankfully.
- Naturaltech Davines nourishing shampoo- this is for very fragile hair
- Naturaltech Davines Hair Building Mask– Hair mask without coconut oil as it is very important that I check ingredients going forward considering my hair and skin are very sensitive. I went to 8 salons y’all. I really panicked.
- PROTEIN! I’ve been a vegan on and off for 8 years, but this diet ain’t going to cut when it comes to growing back my hair. I haven’t had meat since I was 19, but I have had fish and eggs here and there. My new diet will still consist of a lot of vegetables, but I am also going to be eating fish 4 times a week for the next couple of months to get my hair back on track. Yes, I could stuff lentils and chickpeas in my face everyday, but the best protein is from fish and animals unfortunately. Hair is made of protein, so bring on the salmon baby! No meat meat for me though ever.
Also, I went to the top 10 rated hair salons in San Francisco and met with their top hair stylists to explain to me why my hair fell out using the coconut oil hair mask. I slid into their dms with images of my hair. I was freaking out and wanted to get expert opinions and figured if I am ever going to recover, I better take the time to learn how to the right way. Everyone’s hair is different and there is no one size fits all, so I wanted someone to actually feel my hair and tell me why it was dry and breaking off.
If you are considering going off of the pill because you are experiencing anything that I mentioned, I promise you it is worth it. If you don’t want to worry about getting pregnant, then stay on the pill or IUD or whatever you are using. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! Goodness, I wish I listened to that more. But seriously, I was definitely broken so I had to make changes, but if you are feeling good, then by all means, stay good! Hope this post helped you if you feel absolutely crazy after going off the pill and please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to talk about this, or anything! Oh, and when asked, “how will you not get pregnant?’ I mean, y’all this question is a little funny, or rather this statement of “make sure you don’t get pregnant” is funny. I’ve been having sex for over a decade and you have too probably. We know what causes pregnancy. It’s called sperm. If you block the sperm, no baby! If you don’t block the sperm, then baby. Yes, you should track your ovulation using the app FLOW and avoid sex on those couple of days you “might” be able to conceive, but other than that, just be smart about it. You are your new best friend. Because you are just going to get to know yourself more and more without the pill. XO