Studies have found that people with acne often experience worse symptoms in the winter months. “If you have acne and have noticed your skin has worsened in recent weeks, you’re not alone,” says Neel Patel, M.D., family medical physician at Lloyds Pharmacy. “Studies have found that many people with acne report that their symptoms are heightened in the winter.”
According to Patel, winter acne flare-ups are usually caused by four factors: lack of vitamin D; higher stress levels; increased alcohol consumption; and rich foods. Sometimes a combination of these factors may be to blame. “These factors can be particularly common around the holiday season,” he says.” Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent winter from taking its toll on your skin.”
Here are Patel’s tips for addressing winter acne:
Not getting enough vitamin D has been linked with acne. Experts believe being vitamin D deficient is a factor in developing acne. In fact, a 2016 study found those with a vitamin D deficiency were more than twice as likely to have acne.
In the spring and summer months between about April and September, most of us can make enough vitamin D through absorbing sunlight through our skin and eating a balanced diet. However, in the fall and winter months, many of us don’t get enough of the vitamin. If you notice your acne getting worse in the winter months, it’s worth considering a vitamin D supplement to help you get the daily recommendation. You can also try increasing the amount of vitamin D-rich foods you eat. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel, red meat, fortified breakfast cereals, and egg yolks are all great sources.
It’s generally accepted that people prone to acne see their condition get worse when they’re stressed. This is because the stress hormone, cortisol, stimulates the production of testosterone and DHT, two hormones that are known to cause acne. Winter months can be particularly stressful. Perhaps the busy build-up to the holidays is to blame or perhaps concerns about the cost of living are causing you anxiety. Either way, if you find winter stressful, you might see your acne flare up. Prioritizing self-care may help to restore the health of your skin. Different people find different stress-busting techniques work for them. You could see improvement from a daily walk outside or from trying breathing exercises for stress and anxiety.
If you drink alcohol, winter festivities can involve more imbibing than usual, and unfortunately, this can impact your skin. This is because drinking alcohol affects the immune system and hormone levels. Plus, it can lead to skin dehydration, which can trigger the overproduction of oil, resulting in breakouts. Plan your drinking during the winter to ensure you’re sticking within CDC-recommended guidelines. Having drink-free days and choosing lower-strength drinks may be a good idea. You should also make sure to drink plenty of water. Not only will this keep hangovers at bay, but it will also hydrate your body, preventing breakouts over the holidays.
Routines and balanced diets can go out the window in winter. Over the holidays, in particular, you may find you eat more foods that are rich in sugar, carbohydrates and dairy—all of which can trigger acne breakouts by causing rising levels of testosterone and DHT. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. Unfortunately, if you eat too many sugary treats, ultra-processed snacks, and dairy products, it’s likely you’ll notice the results on your skin.