The Birth Control Side Effect You Probably Haven't Heard Of

Aside from the fact that the pill prevents pregnancy and relieves PMS symptoms, a lot of us also use it to achieve clear, acne-free skin. But the pill can also be causing an entirely different and troublesome problem with your skin.

Recently, a friend told me that she had "never seen that big birthmark on my forehead before". What birthmark? I pulled out a mirror and noticed a huge darkened area in the center of my forehead. And by huge I mean it covered two thirds of my forehead. I was puzzled. The next morning I re-examined my face and found more smaller (but still large at about 3/4 of an inch) spots on both of my cheeks. 

I am at a loss at this point. I am religious about sunscreen and always have been, applying 50 SPF to my face every day, rain or shine. I also wear hats a lot- both because I love them and also to protect my face. I head to the dermatologist. 

"Have you heard of pregnancy mask?" Uh no- but I know that I am headed to the nearest CVS directly after this visit. Pregnancy mask is a condition that is common with pregnant women where large dark spots, also known as melasma,  pop up on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip. Come to find out, melasma can also affects women who are taking birth control pills.

The reason? Hormones. 

Melasma occurs when melanocytes (the cells responsible for creating melanin, or pigment, in your skin) are stimulated into over-producing melanin. This can happen for a few reasons, such as sun exposure, but the melanocytes are also stimulated by estrogen. In short, the pill causes our hormone levels to change and the result can sometimes be hyperpigmentation.

What can you do?

For pregnant women, the condition clears up within a few month. For women in my case, who are taking birth control pills, the dark spots are here to stay so as long as you remain on the pill. If, like me, you aren't ready to give up the pill, try switching to a pill with lower hormones, like Lo Loestrin. You can also try another type of pill altogether, known as the mini pill (aka Micronor, Nora-BE, Nor-QD, or Ovrette, which is is a progestin-only pill, so it doesn’t contain any estrogen. 

Need a little extra help? Try one of these products, which will help lighten or get rid of the remaining dark spots!

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