The most wonderful time of year is just around the corner, but for many of us, this can mean a significant decline in how we look and feel about our skin. This is mainly due to the fact that the holidays bring about a range of activities, exposures, and stressors that can compromise our skin barrier, contributes to forgetful behaviors that have us neglecting important elements of our skincare routine, and not using the right skincare products for the dramatic drop in temperatures.
“During the holiday season, we are busy, still working, have functions to attend, presents to buy, and oftentimes are traveling to see loved ones, so it’s easy to take a shortcut in your nightly skincare routine after multiple holiday parties, or just out of exhaustion from doing too much,” explains Christina Lee Chung, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia. “Stress in general can cause rashes and acne and attempts at self-treatment can disrupt a good regimen.” Traveling, too, can place a logistical burden on maintaining a consistent skincare routine — something all skin pros emphasize as being fundamental for good skin health.
Meet the Experts
Christina Lee Chung, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia.
Brendan Camp, M.D., is an N.Y.C.-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.
Blair Hayes, PA-C, is a board-certified aesthetics physician assistant and CEO and founder of Skin by Blair Aesthetics.
Mary Alice Mina, M.D., is an Atlanta-based board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon.
To put it simply: Our skin likes consistency and predictability and responds best to routines that cater to its individual needs and upkeep. “When our routine is disrupted — for example by travel, diet, or other changes in our routine — it may lead to an exacerbation of an underlying skin condition or the development of a new one,” says Brendan Camp, M.D., a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.
Unfortunately for most of us, the holidays are a time when our schedules are all out of whack, but we can make strides towards maintaining consistency in our skincare routine to try to prevent everything from dullness, acne, rosacea, eczema, premature aging, and more. Here, skincare experts share the most common skincare mistakes they see their clients make during the holiday season — and what they recommend doing instead.
1. Not getting enough sleep
Chances are, you know that you should be aiming for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but may be more prone to getting less during the holidays. “Everyone is in a festive mood attending everything from holiday dinners and soirees to all-out ragers,” says Dr. Chung. Unfortunately, not getting enough or quality Zzz’s can exacerbate undereye circles and puffiness, make your skin look sallow, and draw attention to wrinkles, she warns. She recommends being disciplined about getting 7 hours of sleep minimum when you can. “If you’ve had multiple late nights, take a day or two to lie low, relax, and dream some extra dreams,” she says.
2. Overdoing it with the drinks
Part of attending holiday parties is enjoying some festive cocktails, but it’s a good idea to be mindful of just how much and how often you’re imbibing. “Remember that drinking alcohol can act as a diuretic — if your body is dehydrated, your skin will look dull, less plump, and dry,” says Dr. Camp. “Alcohol can also contribute to the formation of free oxygen radicals, which can damage cellular structures and contribute to premature aging.” He recommends trying your best to limit alcohol consumption and making sure to drink plenty of water to make up for the loss.
3. Forgetting to apply SPF
Summer may be in your rear-view mirror, but the sun is still shining on most days — and even on cloudy or snowy days, the sun’s harmful UV rays can still penetrate and harm your delicate skin. “Just because it is cold and cloudy doesn’t mean the sun isn’t causing age spots, wrinkles, and skin cancer — and your sun-kissed summer skin has faded back to a lighter tone by Thanksgiving which makes you more susceptible to sunburn and sun reactions,” says Dr. Chung. “If you are headed to a sunny locale or, especially, to the top of a mountain to make some turns, be sure to wear sunscreen.”
4. Not taking off your makeup before bed
You’re exhausted from going straight from work to a holiday party and know that you have an early wake-up call ahead of you. It might be tempting to skip your nightly skincare routine and even sleep with a full face of makeup, but this is a giant mistake, warns Dr. Camp. “Sleeping in makeup forces oils, dead skin cells, and residue deep into pores, which can contribute to the formation of incipient acne lesions,” he says. “Consider using micellar water to gently remove makeup at night, or try a double cleanse approach with an oil-based cleanser followed by a gentle cleanser.”
5. Indulging in too many sweets
Sweet treats and holiday parties often go hand in hand, but it’s a good idea to limit your intake of sugary foods and beverages if you want clear skin. “Acne may be exacerbated by foods that increase blood sugar quickly,” warns Dr. Camp. “A high-glycemic-index diet is thought to precipitate a hormonal cascade that leads to the formation of increased sebum or oil.” He recommends avoiding or at least limiting processed foods, sugary beverages, fast food, and desserts to help reduce the risk of breakouts.
6. Not effectively controlling your stress
Stress is often a part of the holiday package, especially as you fill your social calendar with outings involving friends, family and colleagues. You might find that you’re short on time to do things for yourself, which may exacerbate stress levels and curb self-care habits. Unfortunately stress wreaks havoc on your skin as well as your mind. “When the brain senses you are stressed, it releases stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and glucocorticoids, that trigger responses in our skin such as increased transepidermal water loss, impaired skin barrier function, reduced ability to retain water, and impaired epidermal proliferation,” explains Blair Hayes, PA-C, a board-certified aesthetics physician assistant and CEO and founder of Skin by Blair Aesthetics. Instead of overcommitting this holiday season, she recommends prioritizing your mental health and leaving time for self-care, whether that’s yoga, meditation, journaling, or even exercise.
7. Not switching up your skincare products
During the wintertime, there’s less moisture in the air, so your skin can benefit from using heavier emollients and creams. This helps prevent dry and cracked skin that is only worsened by the dry air in our homes and offices from heat usage, notes Atlanta-based dermatologist and Mohs surgeon, Mary Alice Mina, M.D. “Make sure to update your skin care regimen for the cooler months with a thicker moisturizer and try to avoid overly hot and prolonged showers,” she says.
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