Dermatologists, make-up artists, and celebrities who rely on their face to make a living all know exactly how air travel impacts the skin. It wreaks havoc and the longer the flight, the worse the impact. But what does that impact look like and how does it happen? That’s what this installment of the TSLMS blog covers.
Why Air Travel Damages The Skin
The air on planes creates less than ideal conditions for healthy skin. It is dry and recycled and as safe to breathe as engineers can make it. However, it is not good for skin. Here is why. As Allure pointed out in their 2016 article, This Is Exactly What Happens To Your Skin On A Plane:
Your skin’s first beef with flying is the dry cabin air. “Typically, skin is comfortable when the humidity is between 40 to 70 percent,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a clinical instructor in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Most airplane cabins are at about 20 percent. That’s less than half of what we are used to,” she says. So along with that lack of humidity comes a dip in the hydration level of your skin on a plane, Elizabeth Tanzi, an assistant clinical professor in dermatology at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., explains to Allure. The result: dry, flaky, or red skin…
You might be at cruising altitude, but commercial aircrafts tend to be pressurized between 6,000 to 8,000 feet, which is equivalent to what you might feel if you were standing on top of a mountain, says Kanchanapoomi Levin. The higher the altitude, “the less blood flow to the skin, which may make for a dull appearance.”
So this air, which your skin is not usually exposed to, and thus not acclimated to (unless you work in an industry that finds you mid air frequently), as noted, does a real number on your skin.
The Impact Air Travel Has On Your Skin
There are a lot of things that being in an airplane at high altitude can do to your skin. Here we have compiled a short list of the most likely and obnoxious:
- Dehydration: airline travel is one of the fastest skin dehydrators.
- Dullness: flying can take away your glow.
- Sun Sensitivity: sitting in a window seat gives you extra exposure to closer UV rays.
- Extra Eye Baggage: the puffy bags under your eyes can get worse.
- Oily Skin: travel by air can cause your skin to produce extra oils, and because of more sebum production, it can lead to, among other symptoms, acne.
- Chapping: your lips can become super chapped when flying (cuticles are impacted too)
These are all symptoms that are really irritating and inconvenient, especially when you anticipate arriving at your destination looking your best and on your game (whether it is a personal vacation or a work-related event). The bad news is that while people with so-called ‘sensitive’ skin are impacted more, no one is immune from having their skin compromised.
So, what is there to do if you absolutely must, or just for convenience and economy want to, travel by airplane? It turns out that the answers are elegantly simple.
Avoiding Air Travel Impact On Your Skin
The best way to avoid the impact that air travel has on your skin is quite simply to avoid air travel – however, if you are reading this, chances are that is not an option for you. The second best choice is to take a few steps that will help you minimize and ameliorate. Here are our recommendations.
The Washington Post has even addressed this recently, suggesting that the best thing you can do for your skin is to make sure that you are very well hydrated before takeoff, and that you do not wear makeup during your flight:
Start hydrating from the inside out: Before you board, pick up a one-liter bottle of mineral water or a potassium-rich cucumber or coconut water. Pack a durable, reusable water bottle for easy refills in the airport and on the plane.
Go au naturel: A clean, makeup-free face, or a minimally made-up face, is your best defense against oily skin and clogged pores. If makeup is necessary, mix a light moisturizer with your foundation to help keep skin hydrated.
Travel and Leisure Magazine also weighs in on this, noting that the dry air can be combated with serums:
To put it plainly: airplane cabin air is not very nice to our skin. Most travelers experience a bit of post-flight dryness, but those of us who are already prone to dry skin can really struggle with keeping skin clear and hydrated away from home. The Solution: Serums, serums, serums. The nice thing about an oil-based serum is the punch that it packs. You barely need any in order to see results. And they often work their magic overnight, or while you’re asleep, so if you’re stepping on a plane and know you’ll be there for the next six to 10 hours, slipping a serum into your carry-on bag might be a real skin-saver.
Anyone who knows that their skin is going to be bothered by their upcoming travel should have a conversation with the professional they entrust to care for their skin, ensuring that they get specific recommendations that are tailored toward them.