Four reasons why your acne may get worse in winter

Do you notice you have more spots in winter? Find out four reasons why your acne may get worse around the festive season.

Studies have found that many people with acne experience worse symptoms in the winter months. GP at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, Dr Neel Patel, explains what triggers winter breakouts and how you can avoid flare-ups in the run-up to Christmas.

It’s common for your skin to get worse in winter

If you have acne and have noticed your skin has worsened in recent weeks, you’re not alone. Studies have found that many people with acne report that their symptoms are heightened in the winter. 

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 Christmas. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent winter from taking its toll on your skin. But first, let’s look at four reasons why you may notice more spots in winter.

1) You’re not getting enough Vitamin D

Not getting enough vitamin D has been linked with acne. It’s thought 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 winter months, many of us don’t get enough of the vitamin. If you notice your acne gets worse in winter, it’s worth considering a vitamin D supplement to help you get the 10mg daily recommendation. 

You can also try increasing the amount of vitamin D-rich food you eat. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel, red meat, fortified breakfast cereals and egg yolks are all great sources.

2) Increased stress 

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. 

And the winter months can be particularly stressful. Perhaps the busy build-up to Christmas 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.

Prioritising 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 anxiety. 

3) Drinking more alcohol

If you drink alcohol, winter festivities can involve more drinking than usual and unfortunately this can impact your skin. This is because drinking alcohol impacts the immune system and hormone levels. Plus, it can lead to skin dehydration which can trigger the overproduction of oil which results in breakouts.

Plan your drinking during the festive period to ensure you’re sticking within NHS-recommended guidelines and drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. Having at least a few 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 festive breakouts.

4) The holiday diet

Diets, routine and balanced diets can go out the window over the festive season. 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.

While it’s normal to enjoy a slightly different routine towards the end of the year, 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. 

Four ways you can help keep your skin spot-free in winter

Based on the above, here are Dr Patel’s four tips for for healthy winter skin if you are prone to acne:

  1. Eat vitamin D-rich food or take a vitamin D supplement
  2. Prioritise self-care to reduce stress 
  3. Limit alcohol consumption and stay hydrated if you do drink 
  4. Avoid foods high in sugar, carbohydrates and dairy

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