The holidays are a wonderful time of the year, but they can also be some of the most stressful!

Budgeting for gifts, decorating your home, navigating family visits (both in-person AND virtual!), and cooking — the added stressors we experience this time of year can wreak havoc on our skin and overall health.

When we experience stress, our entire body reacts. Our muscles tense, our blood pressure elevates, our hormones rebel, and our bodies become inflamed. It’s no wonder that so many of us break out with acne this time of year! Here are five signs that your skin is stressed out and that you need to take a step back and prioritize your self-care.

#1 – All of your current skin conditions become aggravated.

Do you have acne, psoriasis, or eczema? If so, you may have already noted the correlation between the holidays and flare-ups of your condition. Heightened cortisol levels from stress trigger can trigger an inflammatory response in our body. This inflammation, in turn, can cause acne. Couple this with the dry weather of winter, and you have a recipe for disaster with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, which already leave skin depleted of moisture.

*Consider seeing your esthetician during this time to help address hormonal breakouts, sensitive skin, dehydration, and dryness.

#2 – Your skin feels itchy all of the time.

Stress can literally get under your skin! Our brains are in constant communication with the nerve endings in our skin. When our stress levels rise, our nervous system can go into overdrive and cause sensory symptoms like itching or burning of the skin. This can occur with or without visible signs or symptoms.

#3 – Your skin is flaky, and your fine lines seem more prominent.

Holiday stress makes your body work harder. In turn, our body’s hydration levels are zapped, and we can become dehydrated and feel sluggish. Because our skin is the last organ to benefit from the water we drink, it can also become dehydrated and appear crepey, sallow, and flaky. That means we not only need to drink more water for our skin to stay hydrated, but we also may need to add a humidifier to our homes and step up our exfoliation and moisturizer during the winter months!

#4 – Your skin doesn’t seem to heal as quickly.

Is that paper clip you got two days ago still bothering you? Stress weakens our ability to heal. In fact, studies show that some kinds of stress can even affect our immune system. (If you’re someone who always seems to get sick around the holidays, take note!). This can lead to prolonged recovery times to any injury or illness.

#5 – You seem to be getting sick more often.

According to one study by the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, extended stress around the holiday season can interfere with the permeability of your skin’s barrier. News flash – our skin serves as our first line of defense against infection and illness. If its barrier is compromised and lets the “bad guys” in, we’ll be more prone to disease and infection. Stress reduces our skin’s ability to retain hydration. This can cause dehydration and dryness and even cracks in the skin’s surface, leaving us more susceptible to infection.

Even though we can’t SEE stress, it is ever-present. If some of these signs present themselves on your skin, it’s time to take a step back and do some serious self-care. Take a walk, a long hot bath, or book a relaxing massage or facial treatment. We can never escape stress 100%, but we can control our response to it over time.