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For many, quitting the pill leads to an explosion of impurities on the skin (speaking from experience here). How can you prep skin for the onslaught of blemishes?
I was inspired to write this post by my assistant Jenni, who was asking my advice on the issue. I had to admit that I was no expert on the subject, as the pill involves a complex cocktail of hormones with various factors at play. It made sense to take a holistic approach to the topic. And because I know Chinese medicine and acupuncture can be helpful in the case of missed periods or fertility problems, I figured the same angle could be applied to post-pill breakouts. (This is not intended to put off readers who are contemplating on quitting the pill.)
Along with my studies in Chinese medicine, I hope to be able to offer my expertise also in this area in the future, but for now I turned to the best possible authority on the subject – my acupuncturist, Chinese medicine expert Taina Alakuppi. I wanted to find out things like what dietary changes could help, as skin issues are always connected with the digestive system.
Right diet to support digestion
Taina explained that if whiteheads or oily skin is becoming a problem, skip any foods that produce moisture and mucus at least for a while, including sugar, wheat and dairy as well as cold, raw foods like salads, smoothies, shoots, soy milk, tofu and banana. Products made from goat and sheep milk are a better option if you still want to include some form of dairy in your diet.
If red, inflamed blemishes are an issue, leave out foods that heat up the body, including red meat, coffee, all types of onions and hot spices like chili, peppers, cinnamon and ginger. Also smoking and alcohol heat up the body.
As a general rule, in Chinese medicine the skin comes under lung functions, meaning that regular time spent outdoors in fresh air and bringing on a mild sweat improve the skin by removing metabolic waste from the body and breathing fresh qi – life energy – into the body. I’d like to add that yin yoga that has deep breathing as a key element is also beneficial. Also the long but gentle asanas improve the flow of qi in the meridians and boost digestion and the removal of metabolic waste. You can practice yin yoga at home following the Yin Your Skin® course. Perfect also for beginners, the practice combines specially composed and produced sound healing.
Taina also advises that for optimal digestion, mainly eat warm, cooked foods. Foods that remove excess moisture and mucus include wholegrains like rice, rye, buckwheat and millet, and vegetables like asparagus, celery, sweetcorn, garlic, pumpkin and radish. If heat is a problem, opt for warm, cooked vegetarian food (most vegetables cool down energies). Often these recommendations need to be adjusted according to the situation and person, though, so it’s worth paying a visit to an expert in Chinese medicine. You could have an acupuncture treatment at the same time.
Taina runs her own practice at Sofianova clinic in Helsinki. Reasonable, high-quality acupuncture is also available at the Finnish Academy of Chinese Medicine , which I wrote about in this previous post. The main form of treatment at the clinic is acupuncture, although some of the specialists use for instance Tuina massage, dry cupping or gua sha according to their own style and interest.
As for skincare, treat the skin according to your own skin type (if you’re not sure what your skin type is, I recommend reading my guide to skin types). It’s particularly important to get the skincare basics right: use a mild cleanser, preferably a cleansing oil, ensure plenty of hydration with an essence/toner according to the 7 skin method, and apply a high-quality, cold-pressed plant oil as well as a moisturizer suited for your skin type. Pay attention to how you apply skincare products: carefully massage cleanser onto he skin for at least a minute, pat in the essence or toner, and accompany facial oil with a facial massage. You will find detailed instructions on how to apply skincare products on the Yin Your Skin® course and in my Kuulaan kaunis book.
In addition to mastering the basics and application techniques, it’s worth ensuring a proper flow of fluids in the skin. Poor circulation and blockages in the flow of lymph fluids are a sure way to some type of problem and lacklustre skin. That’s why in my view a gua sha massage is the best possible treat you can give your skin in order to maintain a good flow and penetrate the deeper layers of the skin. You can learn to master the basic gua sha techniques on the Yin Your Skin® course. Also read my post on gua sha for acne and rosacea.
If impurities become an issue, pay attention to the skin’s moisture and oil balance and sensitivity. If the surface of the skin is tight and flaky, add more hydration and a granule-free enzyme peel to your regimen. If your skin and impurities are sensitive, instead of exfoliating focus on soothing the skin and maintaining the right moisture and oil balance. If your skin is oily and greasy with impurities, add a granule-free exfoliator with BHA salicylic acid (in natural cosmetics, this is salix alba bark extract in practice) and an antibacterial serum to your regimen. I also advise reading through the second part of my guide to skin types.
Product tips for hormone-reactive skin
It’s impossible to compile a list of products that would work for everyone who suffers from hormonal impurities, but these are good and effective:
Double cleansing is the best option. Begin with a cleansing oil:
For sensitive skin with sore blemishes, opt for a cleansing milk:
The following are granule-free exfoliators based on enzymes, AHA, BHA and PHA acids:
Suki Resurfacing Enzyme Peel: leave for 10-15 minutes. If you are new to acid peels, start with a shorter time of max. 5 minutes.
Novexpert Trio Zinc Peeling Night Lotion: leave on overnight.
Whamisa Organic Fruits Peeling Finger Mitt: this product is mild enough to be used 2-3 times a week and can be left on overnight.
Whamisa Original Toner: for normal, combination and dry oily skin.
Whamisa Refresh Toner: for greasy, oily skin
If you have sensitivity, choose one of the following:
Esse Sensitive Toner: : the spray-on version is spritzed onto face and neck. Follow by patting into the skin.
Laponie of Scandinavia Toner Spray
Choose an antibacterial serum that will dissolve sebum clogging the pores. Make sure the serum is calming if skin is sensitive and blemishes sore.
These are water-thin creams, meaning they will provide plenty of hydration without clogging pores:
Whamisa Water Cream: suitable for normal, combination and dry oily skin
Suki Balancing Day Lotion: suitable for greasy, oily skin
If skin is sensitive:
Laponie of Scandinavia Face Cream: for extra sensitive skin.
Neal’s Yard Remedies Sensitive Replenish + Balance Moisturiser: the product contains a probiotic extract and fermented oat to balance the skin’s hydrolipidic film.
Never skip facial oil, even if your skin has impurities. Omega fatty acids in cold-pressed oils are essential for skin, soothing inflammation.
Bybi Beauty Bakuchiol Booster: bakuchiol is a natural alternative to retinol. Sensitive skin tolerates it better than retinol. It also has antibacterial properties. The product is based on fast-absorbing squalene, suitable for impurity-prone skin.
Mara Beauty Algae + Retinol Face Oil: if you want to try genuine retinol, this is the product for you. Use only 2-3 nights a week, and never combine it with products that contain fruit acids. At first, retinol may increase blemishes.
If skin is sensitive:
Laponie of Scandinavia Face Oil: a nourishing facial oil for all skin types that balances out sebum secretion and calms inflammation.
How did you find quitting the pill?
Photos Ina Nordbäck, Ville Latvala and Susanna Vento
Translation Rebecca Watson