The holidays are a time for family, food and gratitude. While the festivities make for happy moments, the season can also be chaotic. The stress of the season mixed with the indulgent holiday diet can trigger acne flare-ups and other skincare woes.
“Stress, in general, can wreak havoc on your skin, so the chaotic holiday season can result in worsening skin and complexion,” said Dr. Jeannette Graf, Board-Certified Dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mt Sinai School of Medicine. “You’re getting together with family, hosting and attending parties, buying gifts and often forgetting to stay hydrated.”
Other lifestyle or environmental factors can contribute to stress, such as inconsistent sleep, cold and dry weather, dry heat when indoors, increased alcohol consumption and more. Use this time instead to pay attention to your skincare routine and reset with a few simple but effective tips.
Fighting Holiday Stress Acne & Breakouts
Since the holiday season can feel overwhelming and cause inflammatory stress elsewhere in the body, you may ignore your usual skincare maintenance. This negligence and inflammatory stress can lead to dry skin, puffy eyes, irritation and acne breakouts.
If you’re prone to acne and have more of these triggers, you might find the holidays to be especially challenging for skincare maintenance. Luckily, there are a few tips to keep in mind, which can improve your skin’s appearance and complexion – despite all the chaos.
Keep makeup minimal when possible
Wearing excess makeup and applying makeup daily without proper cleansing can do damage to your skin. This is especially true when engaging in activities where the makeup could clog your pores, like a fitness class or a spa day with family.
Unless you’re going to a holiday party, minimize or ditch the makeup altogether. You won’t need makeup on days you work from home or aren’t socializing.
“Wearing makeup and constantly reapplying during the day and into the evening can worsen skin breakouts and give off an aging look if the skin is not completely cleansed,” Graf said. Wearing less makeup during the holiday season – especially if your travel, work and social calendar is off – can help prevent stressed-out skin.
Wash your face and remove makeup each night
To prevent and mitigate symptoms, create a skincare routine that includes a nighttime regimen. Aside from cleansing, consider using a moisturizer or hydrating face cream with hyaluronic acid or a face wash with salicylic acid to treat breakouts.
If you are short on time, one quick wash will be better than nothing. To take it up a notch, try Graf’s tip. “Remove your makeup and cleanse twice before your usual skincare routine before bed,” she said. “It’ll give you more time with makeup off and freshly cleaned, hydrated skin.”
Limit booze and don’t pair it with sugar
“Alcohol consumption leads to dehydration and inflammation, which deprive your skin of its moisture and increases the puffiness in your face,” Graf said. “Alcohol depletes the skin of its moisture and fluid, which can result in dryness, dullness, enlarged pores and loss of skin elasticity.”
In addition to the dehydrating effects of alcohol, the high sugar content in wine and champagne increases inflammation and triggers the hormone cortisol, which is activated during times of stress.
Higher levels of cortisol stimulate sebum production in the oil glands, leading to breakouts and clogged pores. What’s more, inflammation also causes redness and blotchy, irritated skin, especially if you live in a cold and dry climate.
More stress may negatively impact sleep, leading to puffy, dark circles and swollen eyes. If you’re prone to flare-ups from rosacea or psoriasis, stress and lack of sleep can exacerbate the conditions. Calming moisturizers and face serums can help treat redness and symptoms of rosacea or psoriasis.
Plus, you can manage the booze by drinking more water and limiting overall consumption during the season. “Try to remember to have a glass of water in between drinks to limit dehydration and lessen hangovers,” Graf said.
Keep micellar water and face pads next to your bed
“This season is a whirlwind of parties, but also stress and little to no sleep,” Graf said. “Taking off your makeup and prioritizing sleep are the two most important factors – next to your skincare routine – to repair your skin’s cells and bring about a healthy cell turnover rate,”
The skin renews and replenishes nutrients at night, so using micellar water can help restore hydration and boost rejuvenation.
“Keep a small bottle of micellar water with soft pads on your night table. If you forget to remove makeup you can reach over and do it in bed,” she suggested.
Fight stress with mood-boosting tricks
The long nights and jam-packed social schedule can create stress and a hormonal imbalance due to elevated cortisol levels. This can cause food cravings, trouble sleeping and skin issues like acne, rashes and more.
The best way to combat these effects is by setting aside time to indulge in a healthy form of self care rather than another gingerbread cookie. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly and to prioritize time for exercise, meditation or yoga. Any habits that promote relaxation and can boost your mood are encouraged.
Change skincare products seasonally
During the holiday season, the cold, dry weather depletes skin’s moisture. Swap in products that are better fitting for the winter. Exfoliate at least three times a week with a product containing lactic or glycolic acid.
After exfoliating, use an antioxidant serum or product containing vitamin C or E with hyaluronic acid. “These products will help hydrate your skin, prevent premature aging and protect the skin’s barrier from free radicals,” Braf explained.
Switching to a heavier cream during the winter will further moisturize skin. Lastly, don’t forget sunscreen, even if it’s dark or cloudy. In the morning after applying cream, you should apply a dose of SPF sunscreen to protect skin from free radical damage.
Focus on moisturizing ingredients and read product labels
If you tend to have flaky skin during the winter, look for products that offer the most hydration.
The top ingredients include shea butter, lactic acid, glycerin, ceramide, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C and E, and you’ll want to include them in your skincare routine as a moisturizer, cream or serum that will lock in hydration, reduce spots and signs of aging, tame and prevent inflammation as well as help the skin repair damage faster and easier. It’s also important to avoid any products containing fragrance if you have sensitive skin.