“Why do I find that during the holiday season, just when my family and friends are getting together, my acne seems to flare-up?”

The underlying cause of acne is complex, involving genetic factors, as well as a number of different environmental factors. While there is some debate over the extent to which specific environmental factors influence acne, stress and diet are two factors that could potentially contribute to the development of acne or aggravation of pre-existing acne in some individuals.

During the holidays, when routines are frequently disrupted and schedules may be demanding, stress levels can rise and typical dietary routines may be relaxed. In some individuals, this may be enough contribute to a flare up and anecdotally, such relationships are frequently reported by people with acne.

How do stress and diet contribute to acne flares? The role that stress may have in acne flares has been debated in the scientific literature and is not fully understood. It has been proposed that increasing levels of stress may affect hormones in the body, leading to increases in the production of oils or sebum on the skin.

The excess sebum can clog the pores and provide the opportunity for bacteria to overgrow in the pore, which leads to inflammation and a breakout or flare. Diet, specifically foods that are considered to have a “high-glycemic index”, may also increase the production of hormones which regulate sebum production.

During the holidays, be sure to stick to your standard skin care routine and try to control the amount of sebum on the skin through frequently (twice daily) washing and using moisturizers, cosmetics and other products that are light weight, non-greasy and noncomedogenic.