Your festive skin roadmap
From reduced sleep t o sugar spikes, consider this your cheat sheet for combatting Christmas skin
’Tis the season of merriment, of festivities and jolliness. ’Tis also the season where we might find ourselves sipping champagne at breakfast, gorging on cheeseboards at midnight and running on minimal sleep to fit in as much festive fun as possible. According to the Bank of England, households spend over £700 more in December, compared to other months – and if our bank statements are anything to go by, a huge chunk of that is dedicated to food, drink and fun, which, as delightful as they are, can play havoc with our skin.
In a bid to beat the predictable January breakouts, without sacrificing the best bits of your December lifestyle, get a jump start on the skin saviours that will keep your complexion in perfect balance.
Late to bed
In the month of December, life moves into sixth gear and our usual eight hours of solid sleep get compromised. Christmas parties, dinners with friends and late-night shopping can all eat into our much-needed down time, resulting in tired-looking skin. Contrary to popular belief, the purple-tinged pigmentation below our eyes doesn’t get darker when we’re tired; it just appears darker because the skin is dehydrated and thus more translucent, showing the blood vessels beneath. Rehydrate the area with a rich eye cream – they don’t come any more high-tech than Augustinus Bader’s latest incarnation, The Eye Cream, £150. Grounded in the same stem-cell technology as the original cult moisturiser, the cream specifically targets dark circles, puffiness and fine lines, while boosting the skin through a blend of rejuvenating actives such as French seaweed and arjun-tree extract.
Sleep triggers the skin’s repair and regeneration mode, but when we don’t put in the hours, our skin has a harder time turning over dead cells, which means it can begin to look rough, inflamed and a little lacklustre. “Dehydrated skin can appear dull, and it exaggerates fine lines. Adding in ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin to your routine can improve the skin’s moisture, helping it to look supple and giving it a radiant glow,” says Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, skin expert. You’ll find this triple whammy in CeraVe Moisturising Lotion, £9.50, a rich but non-greasy face cream.
Augustinus Bader The Eye Cream, £150, augustinusbader.com
CeraVe Moisturising Lotion, £9.50, boots.com
From boxes of Celebrations scattered across the office, to advent calendars and sugary cocktails, we are essentially 50% candy cane at this time of year. Skinesis founder Sarah Chapman explains the threefold effect: “Sugar causes a process called glycation, which is where sugar molecules bind with proteins in our bodies such as collagen and elastin, leading to sagging, loss of elasticity, wrinkles and other signs of ageing.”
And as anyone who’s experienced a sugar high and subsequent slump can attest, it can also mess with our hormone levels. “Sugary foods can trigger the release of hormones in the body that increase oil production – this excess sebum can then clog the pores and cause breakouts,” Chapman continues. “When we eat foods with high amounts of sugar, our pancreas releases insulin to absorb the sugar, but there is a limit to how much it can process – and when that limit is exceeded, inflammation occurs.”
Thankfully, it’s not all sugary doom and gloom. When applied three nights a week, Sarah Chapman’s Skinesis Overnight Exfoliating Booster, £68, is great at combatting uneven, dull skin. Working on the skin while you sleep, it decreases the appearance of pores and blemishes that sugar can bring on.
“Late nights and sugar can make our skin look puffy,” says facialist Katharine Mackenzie Paterson. “To help combat this, add Decléor’s Aromessence Rose Damescena Serum, £52, to your morning skincare routine and spend a moment of self-care massaging it into your skin – it will really help to increase the flow of blood to the surface of your skin, giving you an instantly refreshed and bright look.”
Sarah Chapman Skinesis Overnight Exfoliating Booster, £68, sarahchapman.com
Decléor Aromessence Rose Damescena Serum, £52, decleor.co.uk
Nothing says Christmas like a camembert tear and share, and the all-essential post-feast cheeseboard has become as much of a staple as the turkey itself. But as with all truly great things, there’s always a downside. “An increase in dairy may also increase mucus in the system,” says facialist Marie Reynolds. “This can provide an environment for pathogens, including Candida, which is linked to many skin conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis and blackheads, and commonly manifests in the skin with red spots around the chin and nose.” A common lactose intolerance (which we’re often inclined to deny) can also make your face puffy and swollen, while the oestrogen and progesterone hormones in milk, when combined with your own, cause an overproduction resulting in blocked pores and spots.
To remedy, try Marie Reynolds London’s Eradic-8 supplement, £20.99, an all-in-one Candida yeast balance, digestion support and detoxifier that helps maintain gut health to process dairy. And have Murad’s Rapid Relief Spot Treatment, £20, on hand in case of breakouts. Packed full of salicylic acid, it reduces blemishes and redness in just four hours.
Marie Reynolds London Eradic-8, £20.99, mariereynoldslondon.com
Murad Rapid Relief Spot Treatment, £20, murad.co.uk
As much as this time of year can be full of joyful celebration, it can also be a factor in increased stress levels. Ticking off a year’s worth of to-do lists, organising people, parties and presents, and looming deadlines can all trigger rises in cortisol, which causes increased oil production in your skin glands. “Stress is well known to flare a number of skin conditions, from acne to eczema, as our brain and skin are intimately connected. So high-pressure situations such as family commitments over the festive period can cause problems,” notes Dr Thivi Maruthappu, SkinCeuticals’ consultant dermatologist. To counteract this, take a deep breath (no, really), as a surge in oxygen in your body will allow cells to optimise antioxidants, then reach for SkinCeuticals’ cult Silymarin CF Vitamin C Salicylic Acid Antioxidant Serum, £145. Its potent blend of triple-antioxidant serum fights oily and blemish-prone skin.
“For an extra helping hand, when you wake up, cleanse your skin and apply a mask, such as Decree SOS Revitalising Sheet Mask, £20, and get back into bed for a lie-in, while your skin is treated to a niacinamide, panthenol, glycerin and silk amino acid mask, which calms, repairs, brightens and restores your skin barrier to its former glory,” says Decree founder Dr AJ Sturnham, a GP specialising in dermatology.
SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF Vitamin C Salicylic Acid Antioxidant Serum, £145, skinceuticals.co.uk
Decree SOS Revitalising Sheet Mask, £20 for one, thedecree.com
Big On Booze
As you reach for a thirst-quenching pint of water after a big night out, you probably don’t need an expert to tell you that the effect of alcohol on your skin is the same as its effect on your body: dehydration. “Alcohol is a diuretic (which means it forces water out of our bodies), resulting in dullness, dryness and more pronounced fine lines and wrinkles,” explains Tiffany Salmon, founder of skincare brand Scientia. “Alcohol is also usually high in sugar content, so along with the dehydration, skin becomes more prone to breakouts due to a disrupted skin microbiome.” As well as the dehydration, alcohol also effects the quality of our sleep, bringing about those darker eyes, too. So if you’ll be enjoying a few glasses of champagne this party season, grab a glass of water too and get hydrating.
Formulated using natural ingredients, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Calming Serum, £175, is as essential to your hangover cure as a Diet Coke. It calms irritation, combats signs of fatigue, reduces redness and strengthens the skin’s defences. Or look to Scientia’s Pure Clarity Purifying PHA Skin Tonic, £24, for support. Using a powerhouse blend of PHA (2.5%), niacinamide (3%) and rejuvenating sacred-lotus extract, it targets breakouts, texture and redness.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Calming Serum, £175, spacenk.com
Scientia Pure Clarity Purifying PHA Skin Tonic, £24, scientiabeauty.com
Baby, it’s cold outside
The temperature has dropped to Baltic levels outside, while inside, with central heating on full blast, it’s positively roasting. And because our lives are at their busiest, we find ourselves yo-yoing between these two climates all day long. “As soon as temperatures drop and central heating kicks in, we notice skin becoming dry and dull,” says Dr Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist for La Roche-Posay. “Look for AHAs and BHAs to help give the skin a gentle exfoliation by giving it a very light peel.”
Also be careful with your choice of cleanser. “Choose a gentle hydrating cleanser that won’t strip the skin and unbalance that naturally acidic pH,” Dr Hextall continues. If your skin feels dry or tight after cleansing, the product you’re using is too strong.” Specially formulated for sensitive skin, La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser, £10, is an everyday cleanser that gently wipes away the day without irritating the skin, and leaves it feeling soothed.
It’s also worth layering skin in a blanket of hydration via a rich barrier cream. Biotherm’s Cera Repair Barrier Cream, £31.30, is light in weight but not in effectiveness. With nourishing ceramides, it’s designed to support the skin’s barrier, while helping to fight dryness, irritation and the visible effects of environmental stressors.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser, £10, boots.com
Biotherm Cera Repair Barrier Cream, £31.30, lookfantastic.com