Skin-Care Tips

This Is How Quickly Skin Dries Out on a Plane Compared to on Land

Kells McPhillips

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Photo: Getty Images/Philipp Nemenz

I’ve never taken before-and-after selfies to document my transformation on a plane ride, but I’m sure the results wouldn’t be cute. Airborne conditions don’t exactly set you up to feel (or look) like your best self, and celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau names dry airplane skin as one of many sky-high plights.

“It’s well known that airplane cabins have extremely low humidity [less than 20 percent], which leads to skin dehydration and dryness,” says Rouleau. “That’s because dry air will always seek moisture wherever it can get it, and that means it’s going to take it directly from deep within your skin. If you have a dry skin type, your skin will become drier. And it can even make oily skin oilier because when the skin has no water, it attempts to compensate for the dehydration by producing more oil—which is the last thing that oily skin needs.”

Basically, cabin air does zero favors for any type of skin. In fact, New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD says dryness is just the start. A plane’s atmosphere can cause a domino effect of skin woes. “Inflammation can promote acne breakouts by blocking your pores. Your skin is at risk for UV light damage on the plane, as you are much closer to the sun at 10,000 feet and UVA light can penetrate right through window glass,” he adds. (So make sure to slather on the sunscreen before your flight.)

There’s no need to fret too much, however. Rouleau says you can undo some of the damage of the plane ride. While you’re on board, make sure to drink plenty of water. And Dr. Zeichner recommends bringing a tube of Vaseline Body Lotion ($18) to spread at your discretion. Then, immediately after deplaning, follow Rouleau’s four-step, skin-saving recovery routine.

Save your dry airplane skin with this 4-step, post-plane ride ritual

1. Exfoliate

“When you arrive at your destination, cleanse your skin and use a mild facial scrub to remove surface dry skin cells. Be sure to avoid facial scrubs containing natural grains such as apricot kernels, walnut husks, and almonds as the sharp edges can scratch and irritate the skin. Instead, use scrubs containing natural jojoba beads or polylactic acid beads,” explains the esthetician.

The physical exfoliator will increase the blood circulation below the skin and brighten it after a dulling, dry ride in the sky.

2. pop on a hydrating mask

You don’t have to ask me twice to mask. Rouleau recommends one of her own—the Rapid Response Detox Masque ($152). “I prefer gel masks because they have the highest water content. What’s particularly unique about the Rapid Response Detox Masque is that in addition to providing moisture to thirsty cells, it’s also very antibacterial—hello, dirty airports!—so it can help prevent any post-flight breakouts that may occur.”

For his part, Dr. Zeichner loves a TSA-approved Hydrogel mask that you can wear on-board or after the fact. “They are less messy, but as effective as sheet or mesh masks,” he says. “Neutrogena Hydroboost Hydrogel Mask is the best-kept secret at the drug store. It comes in two pieces, a top and bottom, to fit almost any face.”

3. Hang upside down

“Skin can look sluggish post-flight, so bring some fresh blood to the face by hanging your head upside down for three minutes. You’ll go from tired to radiant immediately,” says Rouleau. Hey, you could try a headstand.

4. Don’t switch up your skin-care routine

If you usually stock up on skin-care samples, Rouleau says to stop it—right now! “A lot of people will pack random free samples they have received and will use them while they are traveling. The potential problem here is that there is already enough change going on with a new city, new climate, new foods, and a different sleep schedule,” says Rouleau. “The last thing you want is to be using all new products that potentially can put your skin in a total state of confusion.”

Stock up on reusable, travel-sized containers and fill ’em with your own beloved moisturizer, serums, and so forth.

A dermatologist shares the common mistakes that make your skin dry:

Inspired to travel? Try a life-changing camping trip or a world-class wellness hotel

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