Along with all the fun and festivities, Christmas can bring with it a host of cosmetic complaints. Waking up with a hangover is bad enough, but when you work up the courage to peek in the mirror, only to discover massive eye bags, tired skin and a constellation of spots sprouting across your chin, it’s enough to make you want to go straight back to bed.


Help is at hand, however, in the form of beauty guru Dr Anita Sturnham, a GP who specialises in dermatology and founder of Decree skincare.

We asked Sturnham to give us the lowdown on the skin issues that are most common at this time of year, and she had some useful advice on how to both prevent and treat them.

How to reduce tired skin during the festive season

Follow these steps to tackle pesky party season problems…

tired skin
Dr Anita Sturnham is a GP specialising in dermatology (Dr Anita Sturnham/PA)

1. Dull Skin

Cause: “Our skin cell remodelling cycle tends to slow down over the winter months, [which can mean] lots of old, dull-looking skin hanging around on the surface layers.”

How to tackle it: “This is where gentle exfoliation can save the day and give your skin a beautiful radiant glow. It removes complexion dulling dead skin cells and allows fresh healthy skin cells to reach the surface, resulting in skin that looks bright and healthy.

“Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) in some products are often harder to tolerate in sensitive winter skin. The exception is lactic acid, as it has moisture-loving humectant properties, helping to hydrate as well as gently exfoliate.”

tired skin

Decree Weekly Decree

2. Rosacea

Cause: “This underlying inflammatory skin condition can be aggravated by cold weather, red wine, central heating and spicy foods.”

How to tackle it: “Less is more with rosacea skin. Don’t overload it with too many products and use mineral make-up where possible to avoid pore-clogging.

“Use gentle cream or gel-based, non-foaming cleansers, follow with a rebalancing toner and a hydrating, epidermal barrier restorative serum, rich in ingredients such as ceramides and squalane. Do this AM and PM. Treat the skin once a week to a salicylic acid-based clay mask treatment.

“We know rosacea can flare in the winter so I advise seeing a skin specialist for skincare guidance.”

The Ordinary: The Daily Set, Three Hydrating Formulas, Amazon.

3. Puffy Eyes

Cause: “Puffy eyes are caused by a build-up of fluid around the eyes. While some degree of puffiness can be normal, it can also suggest an underlying problem such as an allergy to your skin products or make-up. Late nights, salty food and alcohol can also be a trigger.”

How to tackle it: “Keep a hyaluronic acid eye sheet mask in the fridge and use this after a night out. The hyaluronic acid will plump and hydrate, while the soothing cold mask will cause vasoconstriction and reduce inflammation.

“For an extra ‘at home facial’ touch, use a facial roller over the top of the mask, to gently boost lymph drainage.”

Garnier Hyaluronic Acid and Orange Juice Tissue Mask, Amazon.

4. Dark circles

Cause: “As with puffy eyes, late nights, salty food and alcohol can make dark circles worse.”

How to tackle it: “Look for eye creams containing soothing plant extracts – recent studies show that yeast extract is effective at reducing both puffiness and dark circles.

“Aloe is a soothing natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant which helps relieve fluid build-up around the eyes and improves the appearance of dark circles.”

The BodyShop Aloe Soothing Eye & Lip Contour Care, Amazon.

5. Acne breakouts

Cause: “Heavy make-up, sleeping in make-up, food and drink high in sugar, late nights, stress.”

How to tackle it: “Avoid occlusive, heavy-coverage long-wear concealers, foundations and compact powders. Instead, look for mineral-based make-up. The particles are so fine in this type of make-up, the products don’t clog pores [as much], yet still give good coverage. I love bareMinerals.

“Also, use an effective cleanser before bed. Clay-based cleansers purge the skin of dead skin cells and make-up sitting in pores.

“I recommend using the Decree Deep Cleanse ( as it contains a low dose of salicylic acid and lactic acid to gently resurface the skin, as well as an oil regulating clay.

tired skin

“If you are prone to oily skin and breakouts then you should also skip daily primers. Acting as an occlusive layer, this product also clogs pores and can lead to dull and lifeless looking skin.

“To shrink spots, try massaging with an ice cube for around 15 seconds before bed. The ice will help to shrink inflammation. Look for mineral-based concealers with skincare actives, such as salicylic acid, that can relieve breakouts whilst covering blemishes.”

Top tips to prevent spots during the holidays

1. Follow a good skincare routine

tired skin

“Spots result from a build-up of sebum and dead skin cells in the entrance to the skin pore. To tackle the problem, develop a good cleansing routine,” says Dr Meryn Patterson, cosmetic doctor at Woodford Medical.

“For example, use a purifying wash which contains salicylic acid. This has a deep pore cleansing effect while at the same time reducing inflammation without drying the skin.

“Additionally, switching to a mineral makeup line is sensible as the lighter coverage from the minerals avoids clogging pores and therefore doesn’t aggravate the condition.”

2. Stay hydrated

Cold winter months can make your skin very dry due to the icy exteriors and warm heated interiors. Dryness causes your skin to produce more oil to over-compensate, and this in turn can give you more spots.

Dehydration can also give your skin a dull appearance which can lead to inflammation and redness so try to drink plenty of water each day, starting today.

3. Moderate alcohol consumption and rich foods

‘Tis the season to overindulge: “Over the festive period, we tend to consume more alcohol owing to Christmas parties and family get-togethers. Consumption of alcohol can alter your hormone levels and this imbalance in the hormone levels can cause acne,” says Dr Hina Sra, advanced aesthetic doctor at Cosmebeauté.

And then there’s the tendency to eat rich foods, dairy products and high glycaemic foods such as potatoes and white bread which can also make acne worse.

tired skin

So, if you’re prone to getting spots, try to drink alcohol in moderation, limit the intake of dairy and high GI foods. Replace them with low GI foods such as wholegrains, fruit and veg, beans and lentils, all of which can help prevent flare-ups.

4. Book in for a professional facial treatment

tired skin

“We recommend regular cleansing treatments that reduce oil production. Try Hydrafacial which incorporates glycolic peel, extraction of blackheads with salicylic acid and blue LED light therapy which helps kill any remaining bacteria on the skin,” says Sra. “Oil-free moisturisers can clog the pores so try to avoid these.”

5. Try taking zinc supplements or a home remedy

Sra recommends taking zinc supplements which have been clinically proven to help reduce acne. Other home remedies include applying a mask of honey and cinnamon for 15 minutes and then rinse off. Honey has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Alternatively, try a spot treatment with tea tree oil diluted in water, which can reduce skin inflammation.

6. Invest in this spot cream

tired skin

The Purifying Spot Gel is clinically proven to rapidly diminish breakouts faster than leading prescription products. A little dab is all you need, and you can apply up to four times a day until the blemish is gone. Buy it at

7. Learn how to cover-up with a great foundation and concealer

While it’s tempting to squeeze that pimple, broken skin is much harder to conceal so try to leave it alone and that way you’ll get better coverage. Firstly, apply your foundation as normal, and then double up with a concealer that matches the same tone as your foundation.

Gently tap it on the spot, blend and finish with a light dusting of translucent powder. Finish with a double coat of your favourite volumising mascara and all eyes will be on those mega-long lashes, rather than any superficial skin issues.

How to perk up tired skin

Next, we asked a gang of gurus known as the Harley Street Emporium Skintellectuals for their top tips on how to protect skin from getting tired from the ravages of the festive season. Here’s what they had to say…

tired skin

1. Try a raw egg face mask

To brighten dull or tired skin, whip up a quick home-made face mask, says Dr Tympanidis. “Beat a whole egg and apply it to all areas of your face and leave until it dries. Remove it with olive or almond oil.”

Egg whites contain albumin, a protein which is great for tightening pores and helping control oil production. The yolks contain proteins and fatty acids that can help moisturise your skin.

2. Schedule a few early nights

“Try and catch up on sleep in between the late nights,” says Dr Adam Friedmann from the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic.

Why? “At night, the skin relaxes. It’s not under any stress, so can recuperate after a hard day. Your skin cells go into regeneration mode, replacing damaged or dead cells with new ones. When sleep is reduced, due to lots of late nights, so is the body’s ability to carry out these functions. A bare minimum of six to seven hours – but ideally nearer to eight hours – would suit.”

3. Pop on a couple of eye masks

For Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at Skin55, a hydrating eye mask is a must to prevent tired looking skin. But she says there are some ingredients you should look out for to make sure they’re effective. 

“Eye masks are a good, quick, temporary fix for puffiness and dark circles, which can occur after lots of late nights. They are usually gel-like treatments, which are formulated with hydrating and plumping ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, caffeine and colloidal gold. Must-have ingredients to look out for in eye creams include hyaluronic acid, ceramides, retinol, neuropeptides and vitamins C and E.”

Skin Republic Brightening Eye Masks, Amazon.

4. Make a camomile compress

A cheaper alternative for refreshing puffy eyes and tired skin is a camomile tea bag compress. Dr Tympanidis says it’s “great for reducing swelling and inflammation”.

Make yourself a pot of this soothing tea and once the tea bags have cooled, squeeze the excess liquid out and spend a good ten minutes or so relaxing with them on your eyes.

Clipper Organic Infusion Chamomile Tea Bags, Amazon.

5. Don’t forget your 5-a-day

“It’s tempting to overindulge during the festive season, but try to remember to eat well in between the excess,” says Dr Friedmann.

“It’s important to eat a healthy and balanced diet to maintain all one’s minerals and natural oils. Eating lots of vegetables and salads will soak up the free radicals and help the look and feel of your skin.”

6. De-stress not distress

Woman reclining in bathtub

Throwing a party yourself this year may not be on the cards but all that Christmas planning and prep can still send your stress levels soaring. “It’s a known fact that stress and exhaustion lower the immune system and can make skin worse,” explains Dr Friedmann. “So, try and take some time out for yourself and do something you know helps you relax.”

Dr Rupert Critchley, founder of Viva Skin Clinics, adds: “Feeling stressed or having breakouts? Meditation and mindfulness both have a positive impact on the stresses and strains of the Christmas period. They reduce the bodies circulating stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can trigger breakouts.”

7. Always remove your make-up thoroughly

It sounds obvious, but it’s not just the make-up residue that causes problems like tired looking skin, according to Dr Friedmann. “If you haven’t removed your make-up properly, you tend to be heavier handed to try and remove stubborn make-up that’s been on the face a while. This firm wiping action can irritate the skin and encourage flare-ups,” he says.

“The very act of rubbing will usually cause blood vessels to dilate, causing redness. The under-eye area especially is very delicate, so you want to avoid harsh rubbing of this area. When removing mascara and eye make-up, it’s best to gently place a cotton ball with remover over your lid and hold it there for a few seconds to help dissolve the product before wiping it away.”

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water, Amazon.

8. Go easy on the booze

“Excess alcohol consumption can cause blood vessel dilatation, which can make the face look quite red. This is because alcohol dilates the blood vessels and increases the cardiac output, so that everything gets redder,” says Dr Friedmann. 

“Anyone who already has skin disease (such as dermatitis or psoriasis) will often notice it worsening.” So on the nights you haven’t got a party in the diary, stay off the sauce and drink plenty of water or herbal teas to rehydrate.

9. Up your antioxidants

Give your seasonal tipple a virtuous twist with an antioxidant-rich ingredient. “Add a teaspoon of organic matcha green tea powder to your festive gin and tonic,” Dr Critchley suggests.

“It takes mere seconds, but it will give you a potent antioxidant boost, which protects the skin from free radicals.”

11. Watch your water intake

Weight loss tips drink water

“Try and switch over to water or a soft drink in between alcoholic beverages, and pace yourself. Alcohol can cause dehydration of the skin and lead to facial bloating,” Dr Critchley recommends. Having an extra drink of water will prevent your skin looking so tired the next day, and prevent hangovers.

Dr Tympanidis adds: “As well as drinking lots of water, have some citrus juices to help keep your antioxidant levels up. The water will help keep your skin looking plumper, while the vitamins in the juice will help combat the damage caused by free radicals that can age our skin.”

12. Slap on the sunscreen

“Don’t forget your sunscreen – even if it is cold and grey outside,” insists Dr Mahto. “Sunscreen isn’t just for the summer and should be worn throughout the year, as there is still damaging ultraviolet radiation around. Sunscreen should be offering protection against UVA and UVB, and at least SPF 15. Regular sunscreen use will help prevent skin cancer and premature ageing.”

Murad Environmental Shield City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50, Amazon.

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