According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more and more people are taking to the skies every day. Total passengers on U.S. airlines and foreign airlines U.S. flights increased 1.3 percent in 2012 from 2011. More specifically, 815.3 million scheduled passengers flew on U.S. airlines and on foreign airlines serving the U.S. in 2012.
That’s a lot of air time, and air time wreaks havoc on your skin. Anyone who’s traveled for any amount of time on an airplane has probably experienced that dry, tight feeling in the face and hands. That comes from the recycled air, which is low in humidity and tends to suck moisture out of the skin, leaving it dry and cracked and dehydrated. Some people experience worse symptoms, including itching, flaking, and redness.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to counteract these effects, so you can arrive at your destination comfortable and looking radiant.
How Dry is Airplane Skin?
Skin care expert Renée Rouleau investigated this issue for herself. She notes that whenever you’re in an area like an airplane that has low humidity, the air draws moisture from your skin, drying it out. She wanted to see just how serious the effects were, so she tried her own experiment.
Renée filled a small mouthwash cap halfway with water and poured it onto a 100% cotton T-shirt, then time-stamped it with a sticky note. She waited until the water spot had disappeared, and time stamped it again. She did this once in a hotel room in Boston on a sunny 50-degree December day, and once at 32,000 feet in an airplane.
The results? The t-shirt took 1 hour and 27 minutes to dry in the hotel, but only 24 minutes to dry while in the airplane.
“I was absolutely shocked,” she says. “My experiment reinforces how it’s so important to pay special attention to your skin.”
8 Tips to Care for Skin While Flying
To keep your skin from suffering like that t-shirt, try these tips:
- Prepare. The night before your flight, gently exfoliate your skin and then apply a moisturizing mask. The exfoliation helps clear out all those dead skin cells so your skin can accept the moisture, and then deeply hydrates the skin as you allow the mask to penetrate. Check out this blog post for a nice homemade moisturizing mask recipe. And remember—your body skin can suffer dryness as well, so this would be a good time to do some dry skin brushing, followed by a nourishing body cream.
- Watch your diet. Foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt are dehydrating to the entire body, and can cause inflammation in the skin. Choose to eat a healthy meal, and take fresh fruit for snacks on the go. Avoid alcohol and caffeine while traveling as these can dry out your system. Take a water bottle and sip frequently. Don’t let your body get dehydrated as this can dry out your skin, too.
- Pack right. Take hand cream, face cream, hydrating mist, and lip balm with you. Just be sure all are under 3.4 ounces so you can get through security. (For a nice, travel-sized moisturizer for hands and lips, try CV Skinlabs Restorative Skin Balm.) Then apply frequently while traveling—more frequently than you normally would.
- Use less makeup. The dryer your skin gets, the higher the risk of your makeup looking patchy and dry. Avoid the heavy foundations and powders. Use a nourishing moisturizer and perhaps a BB or CC cream (these are more moisturizing than other foundations), then feel free to use a cream or other non-drying eye shadow, and a moisturizing lip gloss or tinted balm. This leaves your face skin free for extra moisturizing on the go. Think twice about mascara as it can run if your eyes get dry and start tearing, or smudge your skin if you fall asleep. To wake up lashes, try a clean lash product that moisturizes lashes but leaves behind no color. If you have a meeting upon landing, take a small makeup bag with you and put your face on in the restroom as you get close to your destination.
- Make sure you have the right hydrating mist. Regular water spritzed on your face may feel good during a long flight, but it’s actually makes your skin more dry as soon as it evaporates, unless you put moisturizer on almost immediately afterward. Try a nourishing spray instead, with moisturizing ingredients in it. It’s more likely to leave your skin feeling comfortable, not parched. If you follow with moisturizer on damp skin, you’ll stay hydrated for longer.
- Protect. Make sure you’re still using sunscreen to protect from damaging UV rays. (Choose safer options like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.) Plane windows do not filter out this light, so you’re still vulnerable, and even closer to the sun when flying at 30,000+ feet. In addition, your skin is more exposed to radiation at these heights, so consider using a moisturizer that contains natural antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, plant ingredients, and natural oils like jojoba and olive.
- Turn off the air blower. Unless you’re really warm or are concerned about breathing in germs from those near you, turn off the air blower over your head. It’s very drying for your skin and eyes.
- Put only clean hands and fingers on your face. Your hands are full of oils, bacteria, and germs. If you touch your face without washing them immediately beforehand, you’ll transfer these bugs to your skin, increasing risk of acne and infections. When you want to apply moisturizer, wash your hands first, either in the airplane restroom or with a moisturizing antibacterial wipe.
Do you suffer dry skin when traveling? Please share any tips you may have.