Why is my acne worse in the winter?
Reviewed by Dr Neel Patel
During the winter months our diet, routine and lifestyle change with the weather as we start celebrating the festive period. So it’s only natural that our body responds to these changes. Some people find their skin is drier in the winter, others find their eczema gets worse and others experience acne flare-ups in the colder months.
One study has shown 11% of people find their acne worsens in winter, while another discovered that the overwhelming majority of people studied found their skin worsened in winter. So what causes these flare ups in the winter months? And what can you do to keep on top of them? We’re here to help out...
Vitamin D and acne
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for keeping your body healthy. Most of us get enough Vitamin D from sunshine and certain foods we eat. However, in the winter months (Oct-Mar) it can be hard for us to get our daily dose of vitamin D. Some people find this has an impact on their body.
So is there a link between low levels of vitamin D and acne?
Although the evidence isn't conclusive and larger trials would be needed, one study has suggested that those lacking in vitamin D are more likely to experience experience acne than those who aren’t. 49% of the patients in one study who had a vitamin D deficiency also had acne, compared with just 22.5% of those who had healthy levels of vitamin D. So if you’re lacking vitamin D in the winter, you might find that your acne flares up.
It’s recommended children over 1 and adults get 10mg of vitamin each day. To keep on top of your vitamin D levels in the winter months you can take a supplement.
If you’re inside all day, working in an office or from home, make sure you get some fresh air while the sun’s out. You can also try increasing the amount of food you eat that contains vitamin D, these include:
- Oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
Winter can be a stressful time for lots of people. If you celebrate Christmas, you might be worried about the cost of presents and food, and deciding who to spend the festive period with.
The build up to Christmas can also be stressful. Although it may not be the case this year, lots of us are usually busy with Christmas parties, seeing friends, eating and drinking more than usual.
So, does stress cause acne?
There haven't been many studies into how much stress can cause acne. But it’s generally thought that people prone to acne might see their condition get worse when they’re stressed. Cortisol is a hormone released by the body when we’re stressed. It’s thought that when there’s more cortisol in the body, your body also produces more testosterone and DHT, hormones which are both known to cause acne.
Small studies have shown acne can be aggravated by stressful periods of time such as exams. So if you find winter stressful, for whatever reason, you might see your acne flare up.
Alcohol and acne
If you drink alcohol you might find that during the winter you’re drinking more. Whether you’re at the office party, catching up with friends before Christmas or celebrating New Years’, for lots of us this will involve having a drink in hand.
We don’t have enough evidence to answer the question: does alcohol cause acne? But we do know that alcohol can affect the way the body works, the immune system and your hormone levels, making acne more likely. We also know that alcohol dehydrates us and when the skin is dehydrated it begins to produce more oil, which can cause breakouts.
Drinking lots of water can help acne by keeping the body hydrated. Plus keeping hydrated is great for keeping your body healthy and avoiding any Christmas hangovers.
Does my diet cause acne?
Diets, healthy eating and routine can go out the window during the festive season. But will this have an impact on your skin and are certain foods bad for acne?
Much like with alcohol there is not enough evidence to suggest a direct link between certain foods and acne. However, there have been reports that foods rich in sugar, carbohydrates and dairy can cause rising levels of testosterone and DHT, which can trigger acne breakouts.
Trying to eat a healthy diet all year round is a great way to support your body and avoid any changes that could cause a flare up of acne.
Looking after acne in winter
There are lots of things you can do at home to keep on top of your acne in the winter. These include:
- Washing your face no more than twice a day and applying a moisturiser for acne prone skin. Washing it more than this can cause dryness and irritation.
- Switching to make-up that’s water based (non-comedogenic). Products with a pH close to the skin’s are recommended.
- Not picking or squeezing spots
- Talking to a pharmacist about products that might help treat your acne
If your acne isn’t responding to over the counter treatments you might need to speak to a clinician. They will be able to help you work out what treatment is best for you and if you need a prescription medication to help manage your condition.
Online Doctor acne clinic
Our acne clinic offers a wide range of acne treatments, including topical gels, oral antibiotics and the contraceptive pill. Go through a simple consultation and our clinicians will recommend what treatment is best for you. After 6 weeks of treatment you will get a follow-up with our clinicians to check on your progress and assess if treatment is working.