Flying is stressful enough in normal times. Throw in juggling your face mask, social distancing, and going through a Naomi Campbell-style pre-flight disinfecting wipe-down situation before taking your seat, and you might be tempted to vacation closer to home. One thing you won’t have to worry about: Your skin. Dry airplane air tends to result in a jet-lagged complexion, but there are steps you can take on board to thwart those effects.
Here, we’ve rounded up dermatologist-approved tips for dealing with dry air, mask irritation, and other in-flight skincare concerns. Follow them and you’ll be well on your way to arriving at your destination with glowy, well-rested skin.
1. Go Makeup-Free
Taking your makeup off before a flight was always a good idea for keeping pores from clogging during air time, but it’s especially essential now that there is another acne-trigger — the face mask — in the mix. While a makeup-remover wipe will do the trick in a pinch, Beverly Hills-based board certified dermatologist Onyeka Obioha, MD, recommends putting some cotton rounds and a tiny bottle of micellar water in your bag for a more thorough cleanse from the comfort of your seat. You can give your face a quick rinse in the bathroom once the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign is off.
2. Moisturize Like a Pro
It’s not just your imagination that all that time spent with the wheels up leaves you feeling parched. “The air on planes is pressurized and much less humid than normal outside air,” explains Samer Jaber, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Washington Square Dermatology in NYC. If you’re not proactive, this can leave your skin dry and irritated at landing time. But that’s not all. The dry, arid air “can lead to a rebound effect where your skin compensates by producing more oil,” he adds. The result? Post-flight shine.
Your best course of action is to apply a lightweight moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, a powerful humectant that helps skin draw in hydration to keep your complexion happy and protect against the skin-chafing friction caused by your mask. One to try? CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30.
Two areas to show a little extra love: Your lips and nose. Thanks to masks, there’s more of a chance than ever for irritation on these sensitive spots. Dr. Jaber suggests keeping a tube of petroleum jelly (read: Vaseline) in your bag and applying a thin layer to your pout, around your nostrils, and on the tip of the nose as needed. Just remember to wash your hands before and after to prevent the spread of germs.
3. Don’t Forget Hand Care
Once upon a time — you know, before March 2020 — you might have been able to make it through a whole flight without applying hand cream. But now, Dr. Jaber says traveling with your favorite lotion is a must. He has seen a rise in skin conditions like eczema on the hands due to our COVID-19 washing and sanitizing habits, which means regular nourishment is key. You’ll get bonus points if you happen to have a pair of moisturizing gloves (like this set from Earth Therapeutics) to slip on.
4. Mask Up
Dr. Obioha insists planes are a great place to make time for a face mask (of the skincare variety!) that moisturizes, nourishes, and treats the skin because, well, what else do you have to do? One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll still have to wear your virus-blocking mask on top, so you’ll want to look for a foil-backed option — like Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery PowerFoil Mask — that creates a barrier over the serum to prevent a mess.
5. Apply SPF
Even on a plane, sunscreen is a must — especially if you’re in the window seat. “UV rays are more intense at higher altitudes,” Dr. Jaber explains. “In fact, a study showed that pilots have a higher risk of skin cancer due to their UV exposure.” In other words: just as you do when you get to your destination, you must wear it en route, too. Whatever formula you have will do (check out our favorites), and don’t forget to reapply every two hours.
6. BYO Pillow
Flight time often doubles as nap time, but Dr. Obioha warns against placing your face against the window and headrests. “They are a source for acquiring bacteria,” she says. Sure, planes are being cleaned now more than ever. But, if you want to prevent breakouts, it’s better to be safe than sorry. This is when your travel neck pillow comes in handy. The U-shaped cushions you see in just about every terminal gift shop support your head, so that your face stays upright and away from potential skin-sabotaging germs and bacteria. Just make sure to wash it in between trips!
7. Order Wisely
Dr. Obioha says to think of your rendezvous with the drink and snack cart as an opportunity to treat your skin. Airplane snacks like cookies and pretzels tend to be high in sugar and salt, which have an inflammatory effect. Instead, consider bringing your own fruit or nuts on board and ask for water (not soda or alcohol) — with refills. “I recommend hydrating from the inside and outside to help your skin retain moisture and elasticity,” she says.
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