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How to avoid a holiday breakout

At DermatologistOnCall®, we love the holiday season. It's a festive time of year when most everyone is in a great mood (probably due to the endless supply of cookies in the break room) and weekends are filled with holiday parties. Unfortunately, this time of year also sees a higher number of breakouts.
Our team sat down with board-certified dermatologists on the DermatologistOnCall network to identify what could cause your holiday breakout and what you can do to help.

Dry Skin

Extended exposure to air conditioning and indoor heating leaves your skin dehydrated and creates an overproduction of oil. Remember that 4-hour flight you're taking to Mom and Dad's? How long will you be in the shopping mall finding the perfect gifts? These spots are notoriously dry from air conditioning and heating. To combat dry skin, try using a humidifier at home, drinking plenty of water throughout the day and moisturizing with an ointment or cream (instead of lotion).


How are you going to dodge Aunt Marge's questions about your single status? Can you avoid the political conversation at your in-law's house? What is the perfect gift for Mom? Your flight was cancelled, now what?

And these are examples we could think of in just a few seconds! The list of stress-inducing situations can be endless during the holidays, and unfortunately, stress may worsen acne. Scientists don't know exactly how stress worsens acne, but research has shown a correlation. So in other words, take a few breaths, and just enjoy the holiday season (if you're lucky, your airport will have a meditation and/or yoga room).

Hair Products

There's a lot happening over the holiday season, and we know you want to look your best (ahem, company party, school reunion). So you may be adding a little extra product to pump up your locks or lock-in extra moisture, but beware! Acne mechania or pomade acne is pimples from excess hair care products that touch the skin and block the pores. To prevent this, look for oil-free hair products, and don't apply them too close to your hairline. Hats can absorb products, so be sure to wash your hats throughout winter.

Change in Diet

This is what we were afraid of hearing! Foods, such as chocolate or greasy messes, do not cause acne, but certain foods seem to make some people's acne worse. Sadly, the extra sugar and carbs you may eat throughout the holidays can increase skin inflammation and aggravate breakouts. Now, we're not saying you can't go near the cookie trays; just eat in moderation and aim for an overall healthy, balanced diet.

What to Try if You Start to Breakout over the Holidays

  • Gently wash affected areas once or twice a day with mild, non-drying cleanser. Vigorous washing and scrubbing can irritate your skin and make acne worse.
  • Avoid astringents, which may unnecessarily dry the skin.
  • To prevent scars, do not pop, squeeze or pick at acne.

If you are traveling and need to see a dermatologist over the holidays, DermatologistOnCall is here to help. Simply create an account, upload photos of your condition and get a diagnosis. Our board-certified dermatologists will provide you with a diagnosis and personalized treatment plan within 24 hours on average. If any medications are necessary, you can even choose a pharmacy nearby and they'll electronically route the prescription(s). Visit to learn more.