“It all goes back to the age-old situation with sun, which is that people only [think they can get] sun damage when it’s hot out,” Rouleau says. “In the case of an airplane, you are not in a bathing suit, you can’t feel the heat from the sun, and so you just don’t think about sun damage.” The thing is, sun damage isn’t a seasonal issue, or even just an on-land issue. A 2015 study published in JAMA Dermatology showed that pilots flying for 56 minutes at 30,000 feet received the same amount of UV-A radiation as one would get from 20 minutes in a tanning bed. At that altitude you’re closer to the sun, so naturally you’re getting more UV exposure through an open window than you would through, say, the window of your car. Also, clouds are reflectors for sunlight. You know how people get sunburns while skiing or by the water because of the reflection? Same goes for the clouds—the sunlight bounces off of them.
“The unwritten rule is that the person who sits next to the window gets to do whatever they want with the window,” says Rouleau, which is why she always chooses a window seat—and keeps the shade firmly closed—to avoid UV damage on an airplane. “If for some reason I booked a last-minute trip and I can’t get a window, I’ll try to beg the person sitting next to the window to shut it.”
Rouleau also says that you should wear SPF on any flight where you’ll see daylight, and save your IG-worthy plane skincare routine for night flights. “A lot of people are all about doing masks on an airplane, and doing a skincare routine and all of that… if it’s an overnight flight or long international flight or something like that, like go nuts,” she says. But, in general, your skincare priority on a flight should be sunscreen. “Sun damage is way more harmful to the skin,” says Rouleau. She adds that you can address dehydration from dry plane air once you land with exfoliation and a hydrating mask.
There you have it—a strong argument for skipping the aisle on your next flight.
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