For many of us, the change of season calls for transitioning our skincare routine from fall to winter. This can be quite helpful, as there tends to be a few skin challenges that we are more prone to during the colder months of the year. This is true not only because of the dip in the forecast, as well as reduced humidity in the air, but also due to the fact that our social calendars tend to shift around this time of year.
With holiday activities in full swing, we’re busier than ever and are often exposing our skin to certain elements. Put simply, our skin likes consistency and predictability and responds best to well kept, simple routines that help maintain the integrity and health of the skin, explains Brendan Camp, M.D., a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in N.Y.C. “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,” he says. “During the holidays our diet, daily routine, amount of exercise, level of stress, and environment may change, which can impact our skin, which is why it is so important to be consistent with skincare routines to avoid flare-ups and breakouts.”
Meet the Experts
Brendan Camp, M.D., is a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City.
Marisa Garshick, M.D., is a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in New York.
Erum Ilyas, M.D., is a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology in King of Prussia.
Of course, some skin issues are out of our control, such as psoriasis and eczema, to name a few, however, there are many aspects of our skin health that are in our control, especially during this time of year. Here, dermatologists share the most common ways that the holiday season can wreak havoc on your skin — and what you can do to maintain optimal skin health.
1. Changing temperatures
Fall and winter bring cold temperatures and air that lacks humidity — and these environmental changes can contribute to the formation of dry skin, which presents as pink or red, cracked, itchy patches, warns Dr. Camp. “Taking shorter showers, using gentle moisturizers daily, and sleeping with a humidifier on can help skin stay hydrated,” he says. He also suggests using oil-based moisturizers during the winter or holiday season, especially if you have dry skin, as they can help trap water and prevent the skin from evaporating from the skin surface. “These types of moisturizers tend to be heavier than water-based moisturizers, which are ideal for summer because they are more lightweight and less occlusive,” he adds.
2. Drinking alcohol
You might have an occasional alcoholic beverage during other parts of the year, however, chances are that amount increases during the holiday season. In fact, research by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc., found that as many as 29% of Americans report drinking more alcohol during the holidays. Unfortunately, alcohol can impact certain skin conditions. “For some individuals who are rosacea prone, alcohol can increase flushing, worsen redness and lead to potential flares,” says Marisa Garshick, M.D., a dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in New York. “For others, alcohol can actually be dehydrating and may lead to the skin looking dull. If you can’t avoid the alcohol, be sure to remember to stay hydrated by drinking water and remembering to continue to apply your moisturizing cream.”
3. Eating sugary foods
What is the holiday season without sweet treats like cakes, cookies, and eggnog? Unfortunately, these sweet foods increase blood sugar rather quickly, precipitating a hormonal cascade that leads to the formation of increased sebum or oil, warns Dr. Camp. Whenever possible, he recommends trying to avoid or limit processed foods, sugary beverages, fast food, and desserts to help reduce the risk of breakouts.
The holiday season might bring about a lot of fun, but it also usually comes with high stress caused by increased societal pressures and social events piling up on your calendar. Unfortunately, research, including one study published in the journal Disease Markers, has documented stresses that are linked to triggering certain skin diseases, including flares of psoriasis. “Psoriasis can manifest as pink scaling plaques on the body or even as what appears to resemble severe dandruff on the scalp,” says Erum Ilyas, M.D., a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology in King of Prussia. To prepare your skin for this possibility, she recommends reducing your stress levels whenever possible by knowing when to say “no” to certain events and practicing stress-relieving techniques such as yoga, meditation, and taking warm baths.
5. Not rinsing off your makeup
With more social events, many of which are occurring during the evening hours, you might be more tempted to fall asleep without washing off your makeup. This is a major skincare no-no, according to Dr. Garshick. “Not washing off your makeup is a quick way to cause clogged pores and breakouts,” she says. “If you are tight on time, you can opt for micellar water to help eliminate the makeup or, if you’re going extra heavy on the makeup, consider a double cleanse, first using an oil-based cleanser or micellar water and then use a water-based cleanser to eliminate any residual dirt or debris.”
6. Trying out too many new products at once
If you got a lot of new skincare products for the holidays, Dr. Garshick recommends against trying them all at once. “While certain products and ingredients can be effective at achieving a glow, oftentimes starting too many products at once can actually lead to sensitivity and irritation, which may appear as redness or flaking,” she says. “Instead, plan to introduce a new product each week to ensure your skin is able to tolerate it.”
Holiday travel can definitely take its toll on the skin. As much as possible, Dr. Garshick recommends trying your best to stick with your normal skincare routine and packing as many of your daily products with you on trips. “Our skin likes consistency and for many products to be effective, they need to be used regularly,” she says. “Also, for some individuals, using new products that can be found at hotels or a family member’s home can lead to irritation or sensitivity.”
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