You’ve probably experienced it: recirculated dry cabin air combined with the stress of air travel creating the perfect storm for a complexion crisis. For a special trip you may have even gone the extra mile to look your best – last-minute visit to the hair stylist, pedicure, even a facial or brow wax – but, you unfortunately arrive at your destination looking bedraggled with sallow flaky skin and/or a new crop of pimples.
What can you do to keep your skin looking great when you fly?
I just returned from a big trip to celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary. I wanted to look my best, so I did the pre-trip coiffing, but on this trip I also took the time to care for my skin inflight. My effort paid off.
When you travel, your complexion is up against some pretty tough pressures. First, you need to understand the complexion stressors from flying, then you need to counter them with a strategy that’s thought out before you leave home.
First, according to Boeing,
During flight, the relative humidity in the cabin is similar to a dry summer climate or to being indoors in the wintertime.
The air in the cabin is a continuously flowing combination of air from outside the cabin and highly filtered recirculated air.
Flowing dehumidified air is drying to your skin. Add to that the other travel stressors, including noise, immobility, low nutrient food, biologic clock disruption from changing time zones, and the stressful uncertainty inherent in travel and you can see that it’s a perfect storm for complexion problems.
Dermatologist’s 4 Complexion-Saving Tips for Air Travel
#1: Moisturize your skin effectively
Applying moisturizer to dry skin is not nearly as effective as applying it to wet skin. This trip I took the time to dampen my skin, then apply moisturizer. It made all the difference.
Bring on the plane a rich moisturizer that you know your skin likes. Either mist your skin with water (TSA-approved travel size, of course) or go to the tiny airplane bathroom and splash your skin with water. Blot partly dry, then apply your moisturizer immediately. Do this every few hours while awake and at the beginning and end of your plane ride. This is especially important if you’re prone to dry skin like I am.
For long-haul trips, bring your favorite gentle skin cleanser and wash your face, then apply moisturizer before deplaning. Of course, apply sunscreen if you are arriving during the daylight hours.
#2: Use products your skin likes and don’t experiment with something new when you travel
I see so many patients who return from a trip with an allergic skin rash from new products used during their trip; both new travel-sized products and hotel toiletries will contain a new array of ingredients that your skin may not like, so don’t risk it.
For the most part, I pack my own products and keep my skin care routine simple – and safe – when I travel. For me that means bringing:
Toleriane cleanser (Cetaphil or Aquanil cleansers are other options)
Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy, I never travel without this product because it’s that important to controlling my complexion problems.
Suntegrity BB Cream SPF 30, as well as Citrix Sunscreen, Solbar Zinc Sunscreen, and Raw Elements Sunscreen. This combination of sunscreens gives me a range of products for all my activities, so I’m sure to be sun safe.
Dr. Bailey Skin Care Face and Body Butter. I use my face and body butter as an all-purpose moisturizer that’s safe for my allergy-prone sensitive skin. I’m careful about my hair care products too, as those are notoriously full of potential skin allergens.
#3: Eat healthy foods and avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine during your travel
There really is a “you are what you eat” connection between your diet and your complexion. Airplane food is notoriously bad and it’s best to eat as little of it as possible.
Happily, I’ve noticed a big improvement in the quality of airport food over the past few years. I try to make healthy choices if I have to eat in the airport. Because I find air travel really stressful, I’m at a risk of consoling my travel stress with food treats. My complexion does much better when I don’t.
The acne/food connection is now well established, so, if you’re acne prone, then rein in the sugary carbs and junk food. Needless to say, alcohol and caffeine are body stressors; I’d recommend limiting your intake of those as well. Instead, drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration, which is another stressor to your body and your complexion.
The bottom line is that your best bet is to pack some fruit and veggie travel snacks and to head for the healthier food options at airport.
#4: Give yourself time to reset your internal clock and take care to limit your exposure to environmental stressors during travel
Airplanes are noisy and noise is stressful. Boeing admits that in spite of their technological efforts to reduce noise, the airplane cabin is still noisy and that’s stressful. I can tell you from my recent trip that I think the airports are even noisier; I could barely make the cell phone calls I needed to make to deal with my unexpectedly canceled flight. Limit your noise exposure: bring earplugs, noise reduction head phones, or use your ear buds and play your favorite soothing music on your iPod or smart phone.
Give yourself time to acclimate to your new time zone. Figure out what this means for your body relative to the time change you’ve experienced. Sleep deprivation is a well-recognized cause of stress with release of an entire cascade of stress hormones, and that’s bad for your complexion. I try to arrive and return a day early so I can reset my internal clock without pressure, though my canceled return flight put a wrench in that plan, so it’s also important to create enough space to “go with the flow” of the unexpected too.
Photo attribution: Thanks and Gratitude to PhillipC