Holiday Skin Care Tips: The Worst Things You Can Do To Your Skin

Three dermatologists share how food, booze, sleep, weather, stress and other factors mess with your skin.
Illustration: Damon Dahlen/HuffPost; Photos: Getty

Forget Hallmark movies or Christmas trees in Home Depot. I know the holiday season has started when my skin starts freaking out on Black Friday.

If you’re like me and experience multiple nasty breakouts every yuletide season, you’re not alone. And while you may wonder, “Is it just the types of foods I’m eating and all the holiday booze that’s driving my skin crazy?” the answer is yes.

And also no.

This monthlong period known as “the holidays” are the perfect storm for bad skin ― not only because of food and alcohol, but also because of holiday travel, unavoidable winter weather, irregular schedules and expected holiday stress.

And while these things definitely happen all at once during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the tips for mitigating holiday skin woes work for any period during the winter months when chaos wreaks havoc on your normal diet and routine.

Holiday Skin Sin #1: Skipping Sleep

Maybe you don’t associate the holidays with a lack of sleep, but there are many sneaky factors that can make December the most sleepless time of the year.

To start, alcohol majorly impacts sleep, and holiday stress ― from financial obligations to juggling work and a packed social calendar ― can keep us up longer.

But if you want to keep your skin in peak condition during the holidays, getting good sleep is key. “Lack of sleep not only makes us feel bad, but makes our skin look tired, too,” said Sandra Lee, a board-certified dermatologist and doctor behind the popular TLC show “Dr. Pimple Popper.” “Bags under the eyes are more obvious, skin looks more sallow, we are probably smiling less, and this translates to negativity,” she told HuffPost.

Holiday Skin Skin #2: Indulging In The Wrong Holiday Foods

“Most people believe greasy foods lead to breakouts, but this is only true if you’re rubbing that grease directly on your face,” Lee explained. “So don’t do that!”

Enjoy the holiday spreads, but for the best skin, avoid a handful of very specific items. “Eggnog is not good for the skin,” said board-certified plastic surgeon Anthony Youn. “Although eggs can be very good for the skin overall, the other ingredients in eggnog (sugar, whole milk or cream, and often booze) are terrible for the skin.”

Lee agrees. “Dairy can be an exacerbating factor when it comes to acne because of elevated hormones in milk, so if you know you’re especially sensitive, try your best to not eat a ton of cheese or dairy products,” she said.

Youn also advises avoiding an excess of sugar, like what you’d find in beloved holiday cookies. “Holiday cookies are chock full of sugar, which is the worst food for the skin. Store-bought and prepackaged holiday cookies can also contain trans fats, which are terrible for the skin and your health.”

And while whole, unprocessed foods are a good skin prescription any time of the year, avoiding an excess of junk food during the holiday season can help mitigate many common skin flare ups.

Holiday Skin Sin #3: Sticking To Your Old Skin Care Routine

Many of our holiday skin woes are actually just winter skin woes in disguise.

Around the end of December, temperatures plummet in most parts of the U.S., and in the holiday chaos, we forget to adjust our skin care routines accordingly.

“If you’re in a colder climate, you’re often getting exposed to dry, cold air when outdoors and hot, dry air in our homes. This can wreak havoc on our skin, causing dryness, irritation and breakouts,” said Amanda Doyle, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist. “Get a humidifier if you’re in a colder climate to mitigate the effects of dry, hot air inside the home.”

There are many simple, no-cost fixes to adjusting your routine for winter. For example, try wearing gloves to protect the sensitive skin on the hands and using hand sanitizer since it is less drying than soap and water. Youn advised. “Also, don’t take scalding hot showers: This can dry your skin.”

Lee also reminds us of the importance of swapping our lighter moisturizer for a heavier one in the winter, “especially if you are prone to winter dryness, are planning loads of holiday plane travel, or visiting a different climate.”

Holiday Skin Sin #4: Lack Of Consistency

All the dermatologists interviewed for this piece recommended the same tip for beating holiday skin drama: consistency. So, please, if you do anything, remain consistent in your skin care routine throughout November and December.

This also goes for starting a new skin care regimen during the holiday season (best save any experimentation for the “new year, new you” attitude that happens in January).

“It’s easy to get caught up with events and travel, but skipping out on our normal routines can lead to skin that misbehaves,” Doyle said. “It’s also important to remember that sun exposure is still something we need to protect ourselves from, even in the winter season.”

Holiday Skin Sin #5: Not Managing Stress

“There’s no denying that the holidays are a stressful time, and stress can certainly exacerbate many skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea,” Lee said. “Stress weakens your immune system, which makes skin conditions worse by lowering your body’s ability to fight inflammation.”

Managing stress also has added benefits: minimizing illness. To keep stress at bay, sleep plays a large part, but you also need to remain consistent (there’s that word again!) with your workout routine and vitamin regimen.

Doyle is a big advocate of ingestible skin care products, which can help care for skin and regulate stress. “A product containing natural tomato extract, which includes nutrients like lycopene, ensures you’re protecting yourself from environmental stress from the inside out,” she explained. “Natural lycopene-based ingestible skin care has also been shown to protect the skin from the damaging effects of the sun.”

Products To Combat Holiday Skin

Who better to recommend products for this time of year? I asked each dermatologist for their pick.

Doyle said: “For topical treatments, I love using a topical antioxidant like Skinceuticals Phloretin CF Gel or CE Ferulic, a heavier moisturizer like Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore and a retinol at night like Skinmedica Retinol or a prescription-strength retinoid.”

Lee recommends products that pack a moisturizing punch. “If you notice your skin is drier given the colder temperatures and dry air, I highly recommend adding something to keep skin moisturized such as SLMD Hyaluronic Acid Serum. This serum is a lifesaver when it comes to dry skin and can really be used anywhere ― on the hands, ends of hair, cuticles, etc.”

Youn recommends proper skin care tools. “I recommend an electronic foot file to smooth off calluses and then apply a moisturizer to your feet and socks to lock in the moisture. Also, a good room humidifier is great for the skin, and a dry brush with organic bristles is good for body brushing to keep your skin healthy and moisturized.”

But even if you don’t spend a dime on products, carving out time for sleep, exercise and maintaining a healthy diet can go just as far in maintaining smooth skin during the hectic holiday season.

Before You Go

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