6 Ways the Holidays Can Wreak Havoc on Your Skin (And What You Can Do About It)

BY Jessie Quinn · December 7, 2018

Woman sipping hot chocolate by christmas tree 1

The holidays are a great time to enjoy the company of friends and family, indulge in delicious foods and splurge on a dream vacation. That said, the festive season can also have a tremendous effect on the skin—and not in a good way. We share all the ways the holidays can wreak havoc on your complexion, plus some of the best holiday skin care tips to get you through, ahead.

1. Lack of sleep deprives your skin the chance to repair itself.

Between food prep and party hosting, getting a good night’s sleep around the holidays can be quite the challenge. Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine physician and author of Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day, clarifies what happens when our bodies are asleep. “Our brains have a system—the lymphatic system—that flushes out neurotoxins. This is turned on mainly during sleep,” he explains.

But it’s not just that. According to him, our brains also produce body-repairing hormones when we sleep, such as growth hormones, which are necessary for tissue repair and cell regeneration, as well as myelin, the sheath that surrounds and insulates the nerves. Constantly depriving yourself of sleep also causes an elevation of cortisol, putting your body in a constant state of stress. As the body’s largest organ, skin is usually where the first signs of damage appear, and we’re not just talking about dark circles and eye bags.

“Beauty sleep is essential,” adds Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. “You need to get seven to eight hours of sleep because that’s when the skin repairs itself,” she adds.

Holiday Skin Care Tip #1: Need help in the sleep department? Spritz a fine mist of This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, which is infused with calming ingredients like lavender, vetivert and chamomile, to help relax your mind and body and get you ready for sleep.

2. Sugary treats trigger glycation, which accelerates skin aging.

Let’s be honest, the best part about the holidays is all the delicious treats. That said, Dr. Jaliman warns against indulging too much on sugary desserts, which leads to glycation.

“Glycation is when sugar binds to other molecules in your body, such as protein and lipids,” says New York–based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe. “These sugar by-products do two things. First, they stop your cells from functioning properly, and then they create free radicals, which can further damage your cells. As a result, the molecules in your skin that keep your complexion looking tight and young—namely, collagen and elastin—are no longer able to do their jobs. Furthermore, you become more vulnerable to environmental stressors such as UV light, pollution and cigarette smoke.”

Holiday Skin Care Tip #2: If you’re having a hard time controlling your sweet tooth this holiday season, opt for something that will satisfy your cravings, yet provide your skin with beneficial nutrients. Our holiday go-to? Berries. Chock-full of powerful antioxidants, berries can help protect your complexion from aging, environmental aggressors and more.

3. Alcoholic drinks produce free radicals that damage skin.

In addition to sugary treats, the effects of alcohol from your holiday drinks on the skin can also be substantial.

“Flushing is due to accumulation of acetaldehyde (what alcohol gets broken down to) in the blood. Acetaldehyde is thought to cause flushing by stimulating release of histamine,” explains board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD. “Acetaldehyde [also] produces reactive free radicals and damages DNA. This leads to the breakdown of collagen fibers, skin inflammation, skin hyperpigmentation and can cause wrinkles.”

Holiday Skin Care Tip #2: Instead of a booze-filled holiday drink, try a wine spritzer with sparkling water and a splash of red wine. Red wine spritzers are a great way to satisfy a craving without overdoing it. Not to mention: Red wine is full of antioxidants and a splash of it can actually be great for your skin!

4. Piling on makeup—and not removing it before bed—can clog your pores.

While upping your makeup game for your back-to-back holiday soirees won’t necessarily cause breakouts, forgetting to remove it before you hit the sack can clog your pores and make your skin a breeding ground for bacteria. “People come home late from parties and they forget to take their makeup off,” says Dr. Jaliman. “This leaves [the] skin bumpy and prone to breakouts,” she adds.

Holiday Skin Care Tip #4: While thoroughly washing your face before bed is one of the best ways to avoid breakouts, sometimes there are just not enough hours in a day. For days when you just can’t, keep a package of makeup remover wipes by your bedside table. Our current favorite? boscia’s Black Charcoal Cleansing Cloths.

5. Stress compromises your skin’s natural barrier.

The holidays are a stressful time—and stress can have a tremendous impact on the skin. From breakouts to excess oil, the side effects of stress on the skin can seem endless.

“Distress increases cortisol release, which can thicken hair follicle cells and increase oil product in the skin, leading to stress-induced skin breakouts or acne,” explains Heather Hickman, senior director of education for Dermalogica and the International Dermal Institute. “Chronic negative stress can also disrupt the skin’s natural barrier, which prevents harmful substances from penetrating and fluids from escaping. This can lead to irritated and dehydrated skin and makes lines and wrinkles more evident.”

Holiday Skin Care Tip #5: The best way to help your skin defend itself is by strengthening your skin’s natural barrier. For this, we like Dermalogica UltraCalming – Barrier Repair, which is great for every skin type including the most sensitive skin. As for stress, lucky for you, there are a few ways to de-stress and care for yourself around the holidays without going anywhere or spending a lot. One of our favorite ways to chill out? Take a relaxing bath with Herbivore Botanicals Calm Bath Salts. Formulated with Epsom salts, vanilla oil and ylang-ylang essential oil, these bath salts work to detox the body, balance the skin and relieve tension.

6. Hectic schedules disrupt your normal skin care routine.

Around the holidays, everyone’s busy. Because of that, our skin care can be put on the back burner—especially when it comes to those weekly treatments like masking and exfoliating. “People are busy and don’t exfoliate enough [around the holidays],” says Dr. Jaliman. “This leaves dead skin on the surface, [making it hard for] moisturizers [to] penetrate deep into the skin,” she adds. “Makeup doesn’t go on smoothly, so the skin looks rough and dull,” she explains.    

Holiday Skin Care Tip #6: Want silky soft skin all season long, but don’t have the time for multiple treatments a week? Exfoliating masks, such as Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask, can work to slough off dead skin cells, rejuvenate the skin and leave your complexion feeling silky soft and ready for moisture.

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is a writer and editor with work published in NYLON Magazine, StyleCaster.com, Girlboss.com, Marvel.com, and more. She is a graduate of Academy of Art University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Journa... Read More >