Quick disclaimer and then we’re going to get right into it and talk about the birth control pill (Happy Monday!): Nothing I say in this post constitutes medical advice, and you should never stop or start taking prescription drugs without talking with your doctor. (Especially the starting part; pretty sure that would be illegal, right?) Also:
There’s no judgment—implicit or explicit—on anyone who is on or has been on birth control pills. Some people love them, some people have to take them for medical reasons, some people abhor them. Here, we want to talk candidly about what happens when you go off them. Because, whoa. That can be hectic.
Feeling like an overshare, so here, I’ll start: I got on the pill for the first time pretty late, comparatively speaking. I was 22 or 23, I got on Ortho, and almost instantly became the girl who cries at commercials (OK, still am, always have been, but this was extreme!) and one time I even broke a plate when my loving boyfriend at the time did basically nothing. This was not normal for me! I was being nuts! I quickly got off it, quickly went back to normal, and then didn’t start it again for another several years.
I was 26 or so when I went back on the pill, Mircette this time, thinking it would add convenience to my personal life, and clear up my skin—after all, that’s what my dermatologist told me would happen. I stayed on it for two years. During that time I didn’t cry a lot or break stuff. My skin was OK but not perfect. My libido was OK—which seems better than most, according to this new research, but “OK” does not equal amazing. I didn’t have major mood swings or anything. But something never felt quite right. The best way I can put it is, I sort of felt like a prisoner in my own body. I’m not sure why, and no, I can’t elaborate, but something never felt quite right. It was FINE. But FINE has never been all that appealing to me, and so I talked it over with my GYN and we decided it was time to stop. It wanted to let nature run its course. And by nature I mean, like, ovulation and stuff.
After I went off the pill, my skin freaked out. It was erratic for a few months, throughout which I tried everything: Products, lasers, facials…products. Not clean ones, either. (This was pre- everything I now know.)
My take, in retrospect, is that you shouldn’t try a million things at once, nor should you spazz out. If I were doing it all over again, here’s what I would do: Coach my body, with the help of a doctor or acupuncturist or both, to get my hormones in balance. I would stay away from, or at least limit, eating hormone-pumped meat and dairy, take folic acid and omegas daily, get plenty of sleep and keep a routine, and use a gentle, organic skincare regimen.
I emphasize hormone balancing because what’s happening in your skin is a reflection of what’s happening inside your body—not on the surface of your skin. Also, because the other thing that happened when I went off the pill: my period went away for the better part of a year. I have many explanations for this, both medical and completely esoteric, but suffice to say it was really disconcerting. To be in your late 20s and have it…missing, for months at a time, feels indescribably bad. On the PLUS side (there’s always a plus side, you guys): Now that I’m regular again, I’m so very thankful every single month when my period comes. And no, I will never, ever go on the pill again.
Anyway, because we understand the challenges that come with such a major decision, we were moved by a recent reader letter from Paris. She’s gone off the pill and, yes, ugh, skin woes. She really wants NMDL readers to help! In her words:
“I accept that my body is going to go on a roller coaster ride. I’m ready for the acne this time. Last time I thought I could just stop taking the pill and my skin wouldn’t talk to me. How oily my scalp got and the abundance of acne caught me by surprise. I froze up and caved in and took the pill again. This time, I will be ready for them, and hope to have better ways to deal with them or even prevent them.
Are you guys all in love with her now, too? We thought so. Now let’s help a girl out. Who’s tried what? And even if you don’t have advice for Paris Girl, have you gone off the pill ever? What happened? Share, yes? Please and thank you.