Hey everyone! Today I want to talk about something I’ve actually been meaning to write about for a long time. Hopefully this can help you in making an informed decision, along with over 100 million other women who take the pill every year.
Before we get started, let me make this clear. I’m not stating that you shouldn’t take oral contraceptives EVER, but I do want to give you some information that you should take into consideration before going on the pill. I am all for full disclosures, and personally I believe you should always be well-informed before putting something foreign into your body.
Also, this article is for those of you who are already starting to take advanced steps to heal your gut and immune system, but are still having trouble with eczema. If you aren’t one of these people, then I would suggest FIRST looking into your gut health before considering the pill as a trigger for eczema. 🙂
That all being said, the pill is a funny thing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard that the pill makes your skin better, or that it improves facial acne. But what do oral contraceptives REALLY do to your body? Let’s take a look at the pill a little closer, to help you understand the pros and cons fully.
How oral contraceptives work for acne
“The pill really cleared my skin and acne!”
Ever seen that statement before? Well you’re not the only one. I want to quickly address acne, because some people can confuse acne and eczema as the same thing—when in fact they are NOT. I’ll talk more about that in detail later, but first here’s the quick scoop on how the pill works for acne:
Now as most of us women know, there’s a very clear relationship between hormones and acne. Whether you experience the premenstrual break-out or the menstrual breakout, or heck even the post-menstrual breakout, from your teenage years onwards, you pretty much know that acne and pimples have something to do with “that time of the month”.
Well there’s actually two parts of this process, so first let’s begin with what goes on normally:
Woman’s ovaries and adrenal glands usually produce a low level of hormones called androgens. Androgens are a group of hormones that include testosterone, but more importantly, androgens stimulate your skin to produce an oil called sebum. This sebum oil, created by the androgen hormones, is created for the purpose of keeping your skin hydrated. I’ll talk more about this in another post, but contrary to what most people think, normal amounts of sebum oil are actually good for your skin, as it’s one of the ways the body naturally keeps moisturized.
The problem, however, lies in phase two:
At certain times, and especially around the time of the menstrual cycle, a woman’s body produces higher levels of androgens. These high levels of androgens then create excess amounts of sebum oil, which trigger acne. While normal amounts of sebum oil are okay, an excess amount can clog pores and promote the growth of bacteria that contribute to acne breakouts.
If we put this all in an equation it would be something like this:
Excess androgens = too much sebum production = clogged pores/bacterial growth = acne breakouts!
So how does the pill work in all of this?
Oral contraceptives contain hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that along with preventing fertilization, lower the amount of androgens in your body. If you look at the equation above and remove the first factor, “excess androgens”, you would be left with……well nothing! Because the pill blocks excess androgens, you don’t have too much sebum production, or clogged pores/bacterial growth, which in theory should result in no more acne breakouts.
This logic is why for decades, dermatologists have been prescribing the pill to help treat acne in women, and currently, there are even 3 FDA approved pills specifically for acne: Ortho Tri-Clclen, Estrostep, and YAZ.
Well that’s the brief explanation of how the pill is technically used for acne breakouts—but now let’s go on to eczema. Can the pill also be used to lessen eczema breakouts, or is actually more damaging?
Oral contraceptives and eczema
Like I mentioned before, acne and eczema are NOT exactly the same, and differ mainly in the fact that eczema isn’t caused by an excess of sebum oil, but rather is an immune reaction caused by a poor gut and immune system. (Hence, the purpose of the pill to lessen sebum oil wouldn’t really work in the case of eczema.)
If you’ve been following my previous posts on gut health, then you should know by now that the most effective way to permanently heal your eczema is to eliminate the inflammation in your body.
Now inflammation commonly comes through foods, but studies have shown that it can also come through certain medications like antibiotics, antacaids, steroids, and oral contraceptives.
That’s right, while oral contraceptives might temporarily help ACNE problems, they can actually cause ECZEMA breakouts because of the inflammation they create in our body.
How the pill can trigger acne and eczema
It’s kind of a catch-22. You could use the pill to temporarily control your acne, but in doing so, you increase the chances of breaking out in eczema.
Another thing to mention is that just because you use the pill, doesn’t mean you’ll get rid of your acne.
Aside from an excess of sebum oil, compelling medical research has shown that acne is strongly linked to an unhealthy gut and immune system, and that acne break-outs can occur when the body has high amounts of inflammation.
This means that if you wanted to get rid of your acne for good, the pill wouldn’t be a good permanent solution, since it also causes inflammation.
I talk more about oral contraceptives in my program, but studies have shown that the pill can deplete essential nutrients in our body, leading to levels of inflammation which can damage our gut flora. By causing damage to our gut flora, oral contraceptives cause an bacterial imbalance, that leads to health problems.
This inflammation can hurt your gut lining, weaken your overall immune system, and very well undo any progress you’ve been trying to make to heal your eczema or acne. It can also cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria, which is why some women might experience blood clots, yeast or bacterial infections while on the pill.
In short this means that no matter how much good nutrients and food you are putting into your body, you could potentially be slowing down your eczema or acne healing process by taking the pill.
Should I take the pill or not?
As I mentioned in the beginning, whether or not you take the pill is really up to you, and what stage you are in in the gut-healing process. My goal in writing all of this, is to allow you to have the full awareness of what the pill does to your gut, so that you can avoid potentially sabotaging your skin healing progress!
My personal experience? When I first started changing my diet, eating better, lessening inflammation, etc.: I saw some progress on my skin: but things didn’t 100% get better.
I decided to stop taking the pill to see if it would help things, and that’s when I finally made HUGE strides of progress. My skin wasn’t as wet or inflamed, and my eczema disappeared within weeks! For me, it was one of the last things I needed to quit to see total progress.
(Update: 3 months later, I tried to start taking the pill again, but my skin flared up in the first week! I realize my body negatively reacts to the pill, and now I’m off it for good. )
There are arguments saying that the pill’s effects vary from person to person, (depending on age, how long you’ve been using it, whether or not you have a healthy gut, etc.), and while these are factors, it’s worth listening to your body first and foremost.
Are you doing everything nutritionally possible to heal your body, gut and skin, but still not seeing progress? If your answer is yes, then I think the pill is something worth looking into.
Well, that’s all for now. 🙂 I hope this was insightful in helping you make the right choice for your body. While every one is different, the pill is definitely an eczema trigger to consider.
Let me know what you think, ladies! Are you on the pill and do you have eczema? Leave me a reply below!
PS: Don't know where to start? Sign up to my free series The Clear Skin Plan !
Christina, i have had terrible eczema for 15 years, which coincidently started to occur around one month after i started taking the pill. Also began getting bloating and other gut symptoms. Im considering changing to implanon or progesterone injections. In your research, would this help? I have spent a short amount of time off the pill before having kids and pregnancy did not seem to have any affect, good or bad, even being pregnant with twins.
Hi Toni, I found that it helps to take some time off artificial birth control completely, before going onto something else. It can take a while for the body to completely bounce back!
Hi Christina! – I often got mild eczema flare ups as a child but nothing serious. In high school, I had one major flare up all over my body that i treated with topical steroids which lasted months. I was then on the pill for about 8 years and I recently just got off of it. Ever since I got off the pill, my skin has been a nightmare! I have had eczema on all around my eyes and neck and it is constantly flared. I have been dealing with this issue for about 3 months now and it is so exhausting 🙁 I do not want to use steroids as I am now aware of their damaging effects.. Do you think my eczema is in correlation with me getting of the pill?
Hi Liz! A lot of women have side effects when coming off the pill, as there are big hormonal changes when you stop using it.
That being said, I wouldn’t suggest going back on the pill, because in the long-run (when you try to come off of it again), you will probably be facing the same problem. If a hormonal problem is what is triggering your eczema, I would focus on healing your gut and immune system, as their health is important for your overall skin, hormones, and to help your body to heal.
You can check out my article on the gut-skin connection for more information on where to start! 🙂
Hi there!! I’m having the same issues. I have bad eczema Around my eyes ever since I’m off the pill.
It actually took about 4 months until the eczema flared up badly and it’s been like this for at least 6 months. I’m pretty certain this is what caused it now that I’m seeing others cases also like yours.
My cycle has been regular since I’m off the pill.. but the eczema has gotten much worse.
I’m in the same boat! I removed my IUD (Mirena) 8 months ago and I’ve been in a chronic flare-up since then. Looking back, I was first diagnosed with eczema shortly after I started birth control at 17 years old. After a decade on different forms of BC, my body doesn’t know how to do things on its own anymore. Haven’t had a period since removal and eczema has yet to improve.
Janel Booker says
I have dealt with eczema issues all my life but it has gotten worse since 2009. I have major flare-ups and then I do a 3 month detox and the eczema goes away. Back in December, I stopped taking birth control and around February/March I started to see my eczema go away. I was super excited!!!! At that time I wasn’t quite sure what had changed to improve my skin but I was so happy that it was clearing up on its on. Two weeks ago, I started the birth control again and then last week, I also started to see my skin flaring up with the eczema. I was just in the washroom and the thought came to me. MY BIRTH CONTROL is CAUSING MY ECZEMA. Then I went to google and stumbled into this article. Thank you for this confirmation. Now I need to figure out a game plan.
Hi Janel, I’m glad the article was able to shed some light on eczema and the pill! It’s definitely a huge factor when it comes to eczema, because of the inflammation it causes in the body. Let me know how it goes!
I am the same, I but what birth control can I change to?
Thank you for this post. This I exactly the same as me this week. I wondered why I had no eczema around my eyes for a week then realised it was possibly because I was off the pill for a week, months this has took me to work out!
Thank you for this post! I have been dealing with eczema since birth and I’ve learned to deal with the flare ups throughout the years. However, in the last year I have dealt with the worst case of atopic dermatitis which inevitably lead to stress and depression. Coincidentally, the extreme flare-ups only started when I started taking the pill last fall. I didn’t think the pill could be the culprit until my husband started monitoring my daily exercise, food/drink and contraceptive intake. The patterns narrowed in on my menstrual cycle. I’ve spent countless hours with allergist and naturopath doctors conducting skin tests. Although it was helpful because I am now aware of things I should NOT eat, but no one even mentioned the pill could be a problem.
Thanks again for shedding some light on this subject. It’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one going through this 🙂
I got on the pill this year and I started getting itchy face and little small bumps. I had eczema on my back and around my body but never my face. For the past couple month my face has been really bad. Really itchy and flared. I never thought the pills were the cause because they don’t look like acne. Today something click and I realized I’ve never dealed with uncleared face. I’m on the pills because of my period. It has help but my face is getting worser and worser. My self esteem has drained. I want my beautiful face back but I hate cramps. I guess advil will become my bestfriend again. Thank you for your post. I’m getting off the pills. I forgot to mention that I’ve become more sensitive. I got this bump on eyes two month ago. When I was my body with a loofah i hurt. I scratched my back while in the shower it hurt. I had major out break raised bumps over the summer. I still have the marks. Just this week my lip got this blister out of nowhere. My body has been acting really weird, I never thought it could be the results of the pills.
Akhona Mbanjwa says
I just recently got myself Yaz in hope to treat my eczema that for the past year is becoming a stressful period.. I have clear good facial skin..it’s just the eczema on the back of my knees & wrist aswell as elbows that’s killing my esteem.. Please help me.. I’m now confused after this article on the pill
Katelyn Jones says
This article was really insightful, as I have been having flare ups which I had associated with the pill, but wasn’t sure if this was a common occurrence in other people.
Just wondering if you have any suggestions for other birth controls aside from the pill, which may not have the inflammatory affect?
Hi Christina, i have been struggling with eczema for around 3 years now. I am 20 years old and have had the worst eczema that i am still struggling with for the last three months. Nothing will make it better. I have been a vegetarian for 6 months, and i haven’t been taking the pill for around a year. I am very conscious on what i eat. Over the last few weeks i have ate very good. (80/20). My eczema has spread over my body and my elbows it is the worst. I have so much trouble with the itching and i have not used steroid creams in a month. I seem to itch even in the night when I’m sleeping. I use coconut oil daily and even in the shower but it becomes dry within 10 minutes of putting it on. Not sure what is going on with it. It is affecting my life so much. Hopefully you can help 🙂
Hi Sarah! Since your eczema only popped up 3 years ago, I suspect hormones may have something to do with it. Check out my article here: Thyroid and Eczema: the importance of balancing hormones. I think it can help!
I have had eczema for most of my life on and off but just recently found something that has helped a bunch! I used to use coconut oil and have the same issue. What I do now is use a 4oz hemp seed oil with 4 drops of geranium oil and 4 drops lavender oil. I use that 3 times a day and it helps sooooo much. I also will occasionally take a like warm bath with a cup or two of apple cider vinegar in it only like two or three times a week then pat dry leaving a little moisture on my skin and use my oil all over after. Just make sure you test out these items on a small area like a patch test first to make sure your not allergic to any of it. Try looking into some natural methods of moisturizing and healing your skin. It really helps a lot. Also watch your diet cut out foods and drinks that may cause you more flare ups. You have to do a lot of research but it’s worth it. Hope this can help you in some way.
Hi Christina. First I want to thank you for this post it was full of a lot of information and helped me answer a lot of my questions. There is however just one thing that popped into my mind after reading. Senior year of high school with the influence of my friends I decided to try birth control for the sake of shortening, lightening, and managing my menstrual cycle. I was on the pill for 7 months until I decided to switch to the patch which I ended up not even using but that’s another story lol. Around the month of October after I had no use of any birth control I started to see an increase in the appearance of my eczema. At the time it wasn’t too much of a change and I just figured it as something due to change in season which has happened before. It did not hit me til now that when the seasons changed from autumn to spring and then spring to summer that not only did I not have a reaction but my eczema seemed to clear up and I get it severely. So with that being said is it possible that the pill I was taking had no effect on my skin or could it actually have helped it? I know every person is different and love that you mentioned that in your post but I just wanted to know what you think of this. Thank you ?
PS I forgot to mention that when I started the pills (in March) I was 17 and it ended in September at 18. So all of this is very recent just of last year (2015) really. Since the third grade when it first sprung up I have been back and forth with battling my skin condition. I’m just not sure what to do anymore and it scares me so aside from the birth control issue I’d like to know your pointers on eating right for my skin and exercising without losing any weight because I’ve been trying to gain. Not sure if the weight part is important lol but yea Thanks again I hope you see these.
Jordyn L. says
Hi Christina! First of all, thank you for creating a hub of knowledge for eczema sufferers and doing the well thought out research you put into your posts! My eczema began taking a turn for the worse within the past 6 months and within the past few months it escalated severely. I’ve had many theories between the correlation of my hormones and estrogen levels being an underlying, possible culprit. Therefore, I am thinking about ending my relationship with the pill after being on it for 6 years. I was wondering how strong of an estrogen level your birth control was before you went off of it and soon saw great results? Mine is an “average range” estrogen level, not too high not too low (vague detail thanks to the nurse helping me). Thanks again so much for what you do!
Hi Christina, I have just come across this article as I have been thinking whether it is the pill that is causing my eczema. I have suffered with eczema for as long as I can remember. I have been on the pill for just over 9 years but have only in the last 2 years really suffered with ezema on my hands and in particular on one of my wrists. I have been on every steroid cream there is and am so fed up of using them as I can see my skin thinning. I have also had patch testing done which wasn’t very successful.
I was wondering if you had come across a pattern in where the eczema flares up on people taking the pill?
Hi Georgia, I can only speak from experience (so maybe someone else can chime in here too!), but similar to you I had eczema since I was young, and noticed that my flares got worse when I was on the pill. There wasn’t a particular pattern though. If it helps, I did notice that I had other problems I didn’t have before (hormone issues, etc.), so that was a sign for me that I needed to stop the pill. Have you noticed any other issues other than eczema?
This article is spot on to my personal experience! I’ve been on the pill since I was 13 and have suffered severe eczema all over my body for years. Not only have I had eczema…the pill has also caused my body to have constant inflamed & raw nipples, constant thrush, headaches, nausea, I’m always itchy and I always feel hot and sweaty. I stopped taking the pill for 8 months and all of the symptoms cleared. I did still have some eczema but not as severe, however my face broke out in severe acne…so two months ago I decided to hop back on the pill and it has cleared my face up a lot but now I’m back with all the above issues. I guess for me it’s fair to say my body does not respond too well to the pill!
I had the Mirena in 2 years ago, for 4 years. I got eczema only on my legs and it started soon after I got the Mirena. after 8 Doctors and dermatologists I went off the Mirena as I suspected that to be the problem. It gradually cleared up on slightly sprouting up before my period. Now 2 years down the line it has suddenly flared up. I am not on any hormones. Any ideas? Before the Mirena I NEVER had any eczema/skin problem.
Hi there! I’m not sure how old this post is! Lol.
I have been battling eczema All. Of. My. Life.
Ever since I can recall, I’ve had periods where my skin is just extremely sensitive and fragile. A small scrape would tear the top later of my skin immediately.
Sleepless nights due to the itchiness would deplete my energy levels and only exacerbate the problem.
When I began taking the pill, my eczema never flared up. My skin was normal. 2 weeks after quitting the pill my skin began drying out very quickly.
The eczema spread ALL over my body. Including parts that I had never sent eczema before.
The worse eczema breakout of my life.
I am now taking the pill in hopes that my skin will return to normal.
Also, I went vegan and I did notice an improvement in the health of my skin, but I definitely still have eczema.
Have you heard of eczema improving with the pill?
I know it definitely triggered it, but I’m willing to go on it again to have somewhat normal skin!
Hi Christina, Thanks so much for your amazing write ups! I wanted to ask about the mini pill, breastfeeding and a nine month old with eczema. Even though they say the mini pill is safe to take whilst breastfeeding, I still think to myself…some part of this has to go through to the little one..? After all, all the good stuff that we put in our bodies does, so why not this. What are your thoughts on infants with eczema whilst still breastfeeding. No matter how clean I eat, he still seems to have ups and downs of flare ups and the thought of the mini pill contributing was something that came to me the other day.
Hi Christina, I’m so happy to have found your website. My daughter is half German, half Chinese. She suffered with eczema as a baby that was quickly identified as a milk intolerance. Changing to soya milk resolved her excess very quickly though I was told that she will grow into tolerating dairy later. She did.
Now that she’s 16, she’s been taking the pill for almost a year to regulate her periods and lessen the pain and heaviness. That worked very well though her eczema has flared up terribly. Her poor legs look like she’s battle scarred. I too have researched the connection between gut health/balance after my own outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema on my hands and feet. Conventional doctors only prescribed various lotions and potions. Only after contacting an Australian doctor did I find a cure. Dietary changes together with a 28 day course of nystatin.
My daughter has been to various doctors who have only prescribed topical cortisone. The eczema clears though returns very quickly. To me, the logic is that an inner imbalance must be the cause.
My daughter’s gynecologist has warned against quitting the pill as she believes that if the eczema is connected then it would have occurred much sooner after starting the pill. I’d say that 4 months after is quite soon.
From your experience and research, would you suggest that quitting the pill first has the best likely impact on the eczema….followed of course by appropriate dietary changes? Many thanks for any advice that you can share.
Hi Em! For me, dietary changes helped the most, and then later getting off the pill.
I am on birth control since 2015 and my eczema has been worse since then. Dealing with my skin is really a nightmare. I want to try and stop taking the pill, but I am currently in a relationship and we’ve found out that condoms weren’t safe (they broke too often). So, I don’t know what to do… If I stop, it would mean stop having sexual relations for at least two months. And what if it works and my eczema clears up? What are my options then? I could take an hormonal IUD (non-hormonal is not really an option since I had painful menstrual cramps before the birth control pill), but I’m so afraid of it.. What are your suggestions? Would an IUD even make a difference for my eczema compared to birth control pill?
(Sorry for my unperfect English, it’s not my first language.)
Thank you a lot,
Joslyn Furlan says
Oh my lord. For a long time I have been trying to figure out why my ezcema break outs have been so terrible just to now realize jts because of the birth control pills ive been taking! As of tonight I am never going to take these pills again as they are terribly bad for my health. Thank you
Hey, I don’t know how old this post is and if any one is still on here. I have stopped taking the pill only 2 weeks ago but already noticed a massive improvement on the eczema i have on my face. I started the pill 5 years ago and that’s when it triggered off the eczema around my mouth that has been constant.
My reason for this comment is because I was wondering if there is any birth control anyone is using that doesn’t effect their eczema?