With all the grocery shopping and present wrapping, prepping your skin ahead of the holiday season is probably the last thing on your mind. However, it can be one of the greatest gifts you give yourself this December. To help you put your best face — and self! — forward, we tapped top experts to find out what they had to say about tackling winter’s biggest skin care woes and getting your skin in tip-top shape ahead of the holidays.
1. Start a New Winter Regimen Early
It’s pretty common to switch up your skin care routine depending on the time of year — and winter is no exception. However, the seasons don’t always align with the weather outside, so it’s okay to start your winter routine based on the forecast instead.
2. Brighten Brown Spots
The fall and winter are excellent times to combat some of the repercussions of summer. “Usually in the winter, we have some cleaning up to do from the summer fun,” says Heather Rogers, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Seattle. “To lighten unwanted brown spots, make sure to use a vitamin C serum on bare skin in the a.m. and a retinol on a freshly washed face in the p.m. before your moisturizer,” she adds. And, don’t forget to always apply SPF in the mornings.
3. Splurge a Little
In addition to retinol and vitamin C serum, you might want to try an in-office laser treatment. Lasers are an excellent way to target dark spots and damaged caused by summer months. To prep skin ahead of the holidays, Carly Roman, M.D.,, a Seattle based board-certified dermatologist suggests splurging on a Clear + Brilliant laser treatment. The treatment “stimulates collagen production and helps improve skin tone and texture,” she says. The treatment is Roman’s “go-to a few weeks prior to any major event or holiday,” as the result is “a beautiful, even and bright complexion with smooth texture and less whiteheads and blackheads.” That said, book your appointment at least two weeks before an event “to ensure you have plenty of time to recover and start to see the benefits of your treatment by party time,” says Rogers.
4. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize!
According to Rogers, the switch between indoor and outdoor temperatures during the winter — hot air inside and cold air outside — can actually pull water from the skin and make it overly dry. “To combat this, turn up your daily moisturizing by using a face cream in the a.m. after your serum and before your sunscreen and again at night after washing your face,” she says. When things really dry out, she suggests using a heavier ointment or balm around the eyes, on the lips and mixed into your face cream before bed to “protect your skin from further water loss while you sleep.” A humidifier might also be an investment to consider for keeping skin hydrated during the winter months.
5. Stay on Top of Irritation
“Dry, winter skin is more easily irritated so remember less is more when it comes to skin care,” says Rogers. “Look for gentle products without common causes of irritation (like fragrance) [and] pull back on how often you use products with active ingredients. For example, you may only be able to tolerate retinol three nights a week instead of seven,” she adds.
6. Spot Treat Stress Breakouts
Before you head into full-swing holiday mode, Roman suggests stocking your arsenal with a good spot treatment for breakouts so you are prepared for one of the most common holiday skin woes. “Stress [from] the holidays, end-of-year deadlines, and enjoying more sugary treats than usual may lead to acne breakouts. A sulfur spot treatment can help calm those stubborn inflammatory acne lesions and get your skin looking better in time for your next holiday party,” she says.
Whether you are anticipating winter weather or live in an area where it is already in full swing, getting in the habit of regular exfoliation can also help prep your skin for the holidays. Dry skin can lead to dull, lackluster complexion. One of the best ways to achieve merry and bright skin is through exfoliation two to three times a week. With that in mind, Rogers says to “stay away from scrubs and beads that can easily irritate already dry skin. Instead, for gentle exfoliation, try 10 percent or less glycolic acid products.”
8. Think About Your Digestion
You might be wondering what digestion has to do with skin and, surprisingly, a lot. And, since the holidays tend to get a little indulgent, Alissia Zenhausern, N.M.D, a naturopathic physician at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, says to consider adding digestive enzymes to your daily routine. “One way to help your body digest all of that excess food is to support your body’s [digestion] with the help of additional digestive enzymes,” she says. “Gut inflammation that so often occurs during the holiday season shows up on our skin, so help combat this with the power of digestive enzymes.”
9. Hydrate Your Body
Moisturizing your skin is one thing but hydrating your body from the inside out can also provide major benefits — especially if you plan on having a few extra glasses of bubbly. “Drink two glasses [of water] for every one glass of alcohol,” Zenhausern says. “Alcohol can dehydrate us very quickly so remember to hydrate while you celebrate to help balance your system,” she adds.
If you are traveling home for the holidays, adding more water to your regimen ahead of your flight (and during) can also help keep the skin and body hydrated. To up the ante, try a mid-flight mask. Sheet masks and overnight masks are excellent ways to hydrate the complexion from 30,000 feet up.
10. Keep Up With Your Exercise Routine
Exercise is a great way to relieve holiday stress — which can ultimately help tackle stress-related breakouts — and the circulation it provides can be beneficial to the body and skin. Zenhausern recommends “walking it off” during the holiday season for at least 30 minutes a day as exercise can bring oxygen to the skin, improve the look of its tone, and help boost collagen production and detoxification.