All I want for Christmas… Is perfect skin
By Dr. Yannis Alexandrides
Excitingly, the festive season is almost upon us for another year. In the run up to Christmas my clinic is fully-booked with patients seeking flawless, soiree-ready skin. Of course, the holidays are a time of cold days, late nights, decadent food, and flowing champagne, all of which can have detrimental effects on your skin. These festivities don’t have to play havoc on your skin if you follow my simple tips; recommendations that I readily offer my patients as we approach this busy, festive period.
The Christmas Conundrum
The holidays are great fun, we catch up with loved ones that we haven’t seen and above all else, treat ourselves to gastronomic delights that we would otherwise avoid the rest of the year. All of this indulgence should be welcomed - although in moderation. This leaves us at an impasse; paradoxically we want unbridled enjoyment and incredible skin - and why shouldn’t we have it all, ‘tis the season for miracles after all.
We allow ourselves a little extra over Christmas, whether that’s food, alcohol, or antics, revelries that all come at a cost. It has been well documented that sugar - simple carbohydrates, high-glycaemic foods, and alcohol - causes insulin spikes which can lead to increased inflammation. It induces a process called ‘glycation’, with sugar molecules bonding to important proteins such as collagen and elastin and hardening them to cause fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.
Savoury snacks are a Christmas staple, although too much salt causes under eye bags by disrupting the body’s natural water drainage processes to cause oedema. These can be quite difficult to hide under makeup and make you appear tired when you are otherwise ready for the merriments ahead.
It will come as no surprise that alcohol is a diuretic (increases water expulsion) and also supresses the hormone ‘vasopressin’ (helps water reabsorption), reducing the amount of net water you have in the body; skin is made up of around 70% water, with the epidermis retaining around 30%, this lack of moisture has a huge effect on the function and aesthetics of skin. Alcohol also dilates blood vessels which can cause a flushed, blotchy complexion, and exacerbate skin conditions such as Rosacea.
While dancing the night away is great fun it also means a lack of sleep, a time your body heals and repairs and boosts levels of the stress hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is important in small doses and is released during instances of strain or anxiety, but prolonged secretion can induce imperfections due to excess sebum production and conditions such as acne or rosacea.
Bah humbug I hear you cry. I promise I’m not trying to be Scrooge, but it’s important for us all to understand that anything in excess tends to have a bad effect on our bodies, and ultimately we should always adopt moderation in all of its aspects of our life, even over Christmas – if for anything, it’s for the benefit of our skin. Trust me on this one!
The Merry Miracle
Of course there are ways of combatting some of these effects for a happy medium, and I wouldn’t want to judge anyone for enjoying the holidays as they come but once a year. The most obvious positive step you can take is moderation. By reducing all the nasties going into your body, making sensible nutritional choices when possible, keeping hydration levels at their optimum, and allowing the body to rest, the complexion is less likely to be affected as severely. You may also want to boost levels of antioxidants and vitamins with the addition of supplements to your nutritional regime for an extra layer of protection.
A skincare routine that has been adapted for this time of the year is also paramount. When the weather is cold, skin is more dry than usual. Use a richer moisturiser than you normally would to replenish moisture and create a protective barrier against the biting wind. Add an exfoliation step into your regime to refine its texture and slough away dulling dead skin cells to reveal ultra-smooth, radiant skin. Make sure that you treat yourself to some masks too, not only are they perfect for some much-needed relaxation, but they deliver ingredients intensely to treat the skin when it’s in need of some serious TLC. Look for brightening ingredients, such as Liquourice Root Extract, to ensure that skin will glow naturally incandescently. Finally, look after the details; lips need even more attention during this period. They lack sebaceous glands, Winter can exacerbate dryness, often leaving them feeling cracked and sore, so a formula rich in Hyaluronic Acid is a must to draw water into this much neglected area to keep them plump and soft.
There are times, though, when something a little stronger is required, and I would recommend visiting a clinic for a course of professional treatments before the season is in full swing as some methods will require some downtime. A medical peel can work very well; applied by an aesthetician, this method uses a clinical-grade acid to slough away the top layers of the skin, improving cellular turnover and unblocking sebaceous glands. It’s perfect for those who have acne, dull skin, hyperpigmentation, and large pores to provide a clearer, smoother, and brighter canvas. Dehydrated skin can be addressed using Restylane VITAL injections, which replenish Hyaluronic Acid under the skin to help draw moisture in, resulting in a smoother and more youthfully plump complexion. Finally, if you’re looking for an aesthetic improvement in the appearance of lines and wrinkles, then injectables such as Botox and fillers are a possible solution. Whatever the concern, a medical practitioner or experienced aesthetician will be able to advise the most appropriate way to go.
So that’s my comprehensive guide to ensuring the very best skin during this - most wonderful - time of the year. From me and my team, we wish you the most dazzling of festive holidays.