For the most part, the holiday season is not kind to our skin.
First of all, there’s the harsh weather. Most of us deal with cold, wind, and dry air, all of which accelerate aging.
Then there’s the stress. Through the months of November and December, we may have really long “to-do” lists, which leave us with little time to rest and recuperate. We may also have to navigate difficult social situations as we spend time with family, extended family, friends, and more. Air travel or winter driving? Ugh.
As we’ve mentioned on this blog, stress is bad for skin, releasing hormones and stimulating the immune system in such a way as to disrupt the outer layer, inhibit wound healing, and deprive the skin of needed moisture. (Read more about stress and skin here.)
Even if you were on your best behavior, your diet likely suffered over the past several weeks, too. You may have indulged in one too many of those holiday treats. Who can resist? Holiday eating is usually different from our normal everyday diets, particularly if we’re traveling and visiting friends and loved ones. That change in diet affects the skin, potentially robbing it of nutrients, or leaving it without the usual healthy fats it enjoys in your regular diet.
However you spent the holidays, chances are your skin suffered a bit. If you look in the mirror, you may notice larger pores, dryness, dark circles under the eyes, hyperpigmentation, and an overall lack of vibrance. No doubt you’d prefer to start the year looking your best, so we gathered a few tips to help you out.
Below are five tips to get your skin on the road to a speedy recovery-and start the New Year refreshed and radiant!
1. Ditch Dryness
Even if you weren’t reeling from the stress of the holidays, it’s likely your skin would be parched this time of year anyway, because of the cold, dry air. Add stress, travel, little sleep, and dietary changes to the mix and it’s probably gasping for some moisture.
Start by hydrating yourself from the inside out. Drink more water! Begin your day with a squeeze of lemon in a nice tall cool glass and then sip throughout the day. Choose more moisture-rich foods like citrus fruits, melons, kiwi, berries, celery, cucumbers, and green juices. Don’t forget the healthy fats-they restore your skin’s ability to hold onto its own moisture. Look for oily fish, walnuts, flaxseed, olive oil, and fish oil supplements.
Add moisture from the outside with hydrating oils and butters. Think olive, jojoba, sunflower, shea, and aloe.
2. Scrub Away Dullness
Perhaps one of the most disappointing results of holiday stress is a lack of radiance. Skin looks dull and lackluster. How do you get the glow back?
Hydration will help. In addition to that, you need to do two things: 1) exfoliate, and 2) massage.
Start with a mild herbal exfoliating scrub. It will help get rid of that dull, dead skin, revealing more youthful skin underneath. If you usually exfoliate only once a week, step it up a bit until your skin responds. If you have super sensitive skin, try an exfoliant with fruit enzymes, or slather your favorite creamy cleanser on your face and steam it, either by putting your face over a hot bowl of water, or by putting a warm washcloth over your face. After 5-10 minutes, scrub gently and rinse.
On the days you don’t exfoliate, try to get in a good facial massage. You can get this at your favorite spa, or do it at home. Simply apply a gentle facial oil to the skin, and then massage the face with strong strokes, lifting in an upward motion. If you can get a friend or loved one to do it for you, even better! Follow with a deep moisturizing treatment and after a few days, your skin will likely get its glow back.
To get even more brightness to your skin, look for ingredients like licorice root, lemon peel, and arbutin-all of which work naturally to reduce discoloration and liven up the complexion.
3. Banish Breakouts
Those of us with acne-prone skin know exactly what happens during the stress of the holidays-breakouts! Even after they go, they can leave us with scars and dark marks that serve as reminders of our skin’s rebellion.
You can recover from pimples using two approaches: 1) detox inside, and 2) deep clean outside. Start by consuming foods that help flush toxins out of your system. The buildup of sludgy holiday meals may have been a factor in your breakouts, so drink more lemon water, and consume foods that support your liver’s efforts to cleanse your system like dandelion tea, garlic and onions, apples, artichoke, and beetroot. You may also want to add in some supplements like milk thistle and turmeric.
Then, you want to deep clean your skin, getting all that bacteria and gunk out of your pores. If you used steam in step #2 that will help, but even more effective are other natural ingredients that can actually draw impurities out of your skin. Try a mask with Dead Sea mud or clay or fuller’s earth, or make your own with ingredients like honey, baking soda, eggs, oatmeal, or papaya. Add moisturizing oils as needed to create the masks, and leave on for a good 10-15 minutes before rinsing.
4. Restore Your Sparkling Eyes
Do you look tired? Have dark circles or bags around your eyes?
This can often be a result of holiday activities, and unfortunately, it’s one of the worst as far as our appearance goes. If our eyes look lackadaisical, it’s hard to look radiant regardless of how great the rest of the skin looks.
We need three steps here: 1) fade dark circles, 2) tighten skin, and 3) fade fine lines. Start by applying a cool compress or a cool tea bag to your eyes each morning for at least five minutes. Cool cucumber slices or potato slices will also help moisturize and reduce inflammation.
Follow by applying rose water or lemon juice, as both help reduce puffiness, and then your favorite eye cream. Brightening creams that include vitamin C will likely help lighten circles over time. Then make sure you’re getting enough water every day-dark circles can be caused by dehydration.
Next, get enough exercise. Your puffiness and dark circles may be the result of slow drainage in the lymph system, and exercise gets that moving again. Try to avoid alcohol, salty foods, and caffeine, as these can increase the risk of dark circles.
To tighten skin around the eyes, try a homemade strawberry or egg white mask, both of which will help tighten and tone. (Other good ingredients for fading fine lines include pineapple, rosemary, ginger, honey, and coconut oil.)
Apply your mask each night for 5-10 minutes, and follow with an eye cream that contains hyaluronic acid (to help skin retain moisture and fade fine lines), vitamin C, and ingredients to encourage the production of collagen and elastin, which help firm skin and fade fine lines. Some examples include vitamin C, copper peptides, centella asiatica (gotu kola), rice bran extract, and glycolic acid.
5. Reduce Redness and Inflammation
Stress often translates directly into inflammation. You may notice the effects in increased redness, rosacea or eczema flare-ups, increased breakouts, or in general irritation.
Reducing inflammation is one of the most important things you can do for the long-term health of your skin. Inflammation is a factor in almost every form of premature aging. Start by eating more anti-inflammatory foods like walnuts, broccoli, yogurt, and tart cherries (find more examples here).
Then, it’s time to adjust your skin care routine to help skin calm down and recover. (Our Calming Moisture is a great product for calming inflamed skin while adding needed hydration.) Make sure your cleanser contains no harsh ingredients like sulfates and fragrances, and cleanse gently each day. Follow with a calming toner, something like rose water, neroli mist, willow bark, or witch hazel. (Our Rescue & Relief Spray is full of natural anti-inflammatories that instantly cool and calm skin.)
Follow with a calming moisturizer, and add in an inflammation-soothing mask at least a couple times a week. Some good ingredients to look for or to use in your own recipe-oatmeal, turmeric, honey, raspberry seed oil, green tea, coconut oil, yogurt, feverfew, flaxseed, and chamomile.
How do you help your skin recover after the holidays? Please share your tips with our readers.