4 Holiday Pitfalls that Ruin Your Skin

Skin Care


’Tis the season for excess. No matter what you celebrate (or whether you celebrate any holidays at all!), chances are good that you’ve been inundated with food and libations up to your eyeballs. All those parties can mean there are a lot of vices, such as skipping out on sleep to socialize.

While you may have already succumbed to some of these, we’ve still got New Year’s coming up, and if your goal has been to improve your overall health, here are some pitfalls to avoid to ensure you start the New Year off with a glow!

Too Much Sugar Causes Acne

It’s not just what we think of traditionally as “sweets” that can be troublesome forms of sugar

When we say sugar, your mind may jump to the white, refined stuff, and visions of sugarplums and boxes of chocolate may pop into your mind. But the sugar you might not think about are those found in foods you don’t think of as “sugary,” such as skin milk. Foods high on the glycemic index will have an unfortunate impact on your skin.

The glycemic index is a system that rates food on a scale from 1-100 based on how much these foods raise blood sugar after eating them (University of Sydney). Studies have shown that low glycemic diets have excellent acne-clearing effects (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

Oh, and as for the milk mentioned above? Stick to hormone-free whole milk, as skim milk falls higher on the glycemic index, and subsequently has been shown to cause more issues with acne (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology). And the hormones in any milk increase acne.

These studies suggest that there is a link between blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, and acne levels. So be sure to keep a relatively healthy diet with a few well-deserved splurges.

Too Much Sugar Can Also Age You, But Don’t Cut It Altogether!

But don’t skip sweets altogether! A lack of sugar can also age you.

Unfortunately, it’s not just those who have trouble with acne who need to be concerned about sugar; it’s everybody, because sugar can age you (and everyone ages!). But that doesn’t mean skipping it altogether! As it turns out, sugar in moderation isn’t totally bad for you or your skin.

You see, sugar affects your skin by affecting your amount of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (fittingly known by the acronym AGE). AGE comes from the processing of blood sugar, which is raised by consuming sugar.

AGE undergoes a multi-step process that ends with AGEs cross-linking into neighboring proteins and causing the hardened collagen that’s a well-known sign of aging. Unfortunately, while free radicals will help to speed up this process, antioxidants won’t prevent the cross-links caused by AGE (Ending Aging). So to keep this process from speeding up, avoid excessive amounts of sugar.

[Read More: Can Excess Sugar AGE Your Skin?]

But that doesn’t mean you should totally forgo sugar.

A study on the Atkins diet (i.e. sugar avoidance) found that these dieters who avoided sugar had nearly double the production of AGEs. Why? Not eating some sugar put the body in ketosis, which, in turn caused increased production of methylglyoxal, an important component of the AGE process (Annals of the New York Academy of Science). So a sugar restricted diet could wind up aging you as well.

The answer is to enjoy some sugary sweets, but not to overdo it.

Drinking Alcohol to Excess Will Do Damage

Overdoing it on the holiday cocktails can worsen skin issues

Anyone who’s ever felt the effects of overdoing the alcohol, know that drinking to excess is bad news. And the holidays are a time when drinks are flowing at parties and fancy dinners, which means your skin might suffer. Just like sugar, alcohol in moderation isn’t bad for you. It can have cardioprotective benefits thanks to vasodilation of blood vessels, among other effects (Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research).

But that doesn’t mean that it benefits your skin. Even overdoing it once or twice can have negative impacts. Having an alcohol dependency problem has even more serious consequences and if you suffer from alcoholism, it’s important to get help.

[Read More: What Alcohol Consumption Does to Your Skin]

Alcohol has been shown to increase reactive oxygen species in skin (ROS) and causes a whole host of problems. This is detrimental to the normal function of cells and causes oxidative damage (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). But this problem, the study said, can be prevented or neutralized to some extent with antioxidants.

Drinking can also exacerbate certain conditions, such as acne and psoriasis. So enjoy a cocktail or two, but don’t go overboard.

And Look Out for Mixers like Soda and Juice!

Along with alcohol often comes sugary mixers!

It’s easy to slurp down pre-mixed drinks without considering that the punchbowl might be your downfall. Even if it doesn’t contain alcohol, the sugars found in many fruit juices and sodas are likely to do a number on your skin.

But don’t think you’re off the hook just because you’re sipping sugar-free diet soda. You might still be doing a disservice to your body and skin.

Aspartame, one of the most common artificial sweeteners found in sodas, increased the appetites of mice, one study found (CBS). And let’s face it, when you’re surrounded by buffets of high glycemic foods is not when you want an increased appetite. Worse yet, over time diet soda drinkers have been shown to see an increase in weight gain compared to non-soda drinkers who consume the same number of calories (Acta Physiologica Hungaria).

[Read More: Is Diet Soda Bad for Your Skin?]

But there are other problems across the board with sodas. While caffeine is a great antioxidant, too much of it can actually thin the dermal layer of skin (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta).

So just like everything else, remember moderation!

One Thing You Probably Aren’t Getting too Much of? Sleep!

Sleep is when your skin heals and when ingredients can better penetrate.

On the one hand, many of us get at least a few days of vacation to rest during the holidays. On the other hand, many of us spend those days running around shopping, meeting up with friends, and socializing at parties. If you’ve been skimping on sleep lately, it could be a detriment to your skin.

While you sweetly slumber, your body goes into maintenance mode, making repairs to your various parts — including skin. Essential hormones are released that have the body working to fix skin elasticity, smooth out wrinkles, and regenerate and repair tissue (Better Nutrition). And it’s prime time for healing inflammation since endorphins and oxytocin are at their highest.

And because your skin temperature increases at night when your body is at basal body temperature, it’s the perfect time to absorb crucial ingredients, such as peptides, retinoids, and antioxidants (Health Magazine, Skin Inc.).

Skipping sleep can cause you AND your skin to look tired. So be sure to get those hours in every night to keep looking lovely!

Bottom Line

The holidays are a busy time and it’s easy to get sucked into the excesses, whether that’s excessive eating, drinking, or socializing. Many of those pitfalls can be detrimental to your skin, causing you to look tired and less-than-your-best. Remember to take care of yourself this holiday season and beyond and keep good habits that help your look fantastic!

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  • Natalie Bell

    @Kat — Thanks for reading! Yes, it should say blood “sugar.” One of those mistypes, you know? We’ve all had them! And now the post should read more clearly: The basal body temperature is the time when skin temperature is elevated. I know it sounds strange, but when your core temperature is low during sleep, your skin temperature is raised.

    @Theresa — Thanks for reading! Yes! I’m sorry I didn’t include it in the article. The evidence is mentioned in this article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9486682&dopt=Citation

  • theresa


    Can you provide the study reference(s) to support the claim that “too much” caffeine thins the dermis?


  • Kat

    Err, don’t you mean that the glycemic index ranks foods based on how blood GLUCOSE (not blood pressure)increases after consuming them? Those are fundamentally different things.

    Also, doesn’t core body temperature decrease during sleep? Not increase?

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