Most people realize that flying can cause skin to dry out and breakout, but they may not know why. Whenever the environment is moisture-free (as with recirculated air in a plane cabin), the air actually draws moisture from wherever it can, including the skin. Dry skin will tend to get drier and oily skin will get even oilier to compensate for dehydration. To see just how damaging flights can be on the skin, I decided to conduct an experiment using a T-shirt and a small amount of water. I poured the liquid onto a 100% cotton T-shirt, then marked the time on a sticky note. On both the plane and in my hotel room, I watched until the water spot had virtually disappeared.
The difference in time between the two tests was astounding! Click over for the results, which may surprise you.
The T-shirt took one hour and 27 minutes to dry in my hotel room, whereas at 32,000 feet, it took only 24 minutes.
Needless to say, I was absolutely shocked! My experiment reinforces how important it is to pay special attention to your skin while actually flying. Skin cells are similar to fish in that they need water to live. Without it, the appearance of one’s complexion (in addition to overall skin health) is compromised.
I’m not suggesting that you forgo planes altogether, but there are a few things you can do to ensure skin is protected during travel, as well as keep it radiant and glowing upon your arrival. Those include:
1. Apply a serum and sunscreen before boarding your flight. Airplane cabins have low humidity, so applying a serum that delivers enhanced hydration and protection is vital. This serum acts as a vehicle to deliver moisture deep within the layers of the skin while providing an occlusive seal to help it retain moisture. You want to apply a sunscreen over the serum to filter damaging UV rays. Because you are closer to the sun when flying (even though you may not be in direct sunlight), skin is still exposed to harmful rays. Use a moisturizer with SPF 15+ for added protection.
2. Don’t mist your skin with a hydrating spray during flight. When the air is dry it looks for water wherever it can. So, when you spray your skin with a mist on a plane, the air literally robs skin of the applied moisture. Basically, misting mid-flight really doesn’t do much at all. Instead, try applying another layer of moisturizer as it is much more hydrating and absorbed into the skin.
3. Drink plenty of water. While drinking water isn't the most efficient way to hydrate the skin, it’s important for the health of your cells.
4. After flying, use a mild facial scrub or light acid peel to remove surface dry skin cells that have accumulated. 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 polyethylene, jojoba beads, or micro-beadlets. To add back essential hydration and brighten the skin from post-flight dullness, apply a gel mask that is both calming and deeply hydrating, like my Bio Calm Repair Masque, so skin gets the moisture it needs. Just leave it on for 15 minutes, rinse well, and apply moisturizer.
5. Be sure to blot. In addition to drying skin out, flying can also increase breakouts for people with oily skin. If oily skin is dehydrated, oil production increases to combat dryness. Dry skin can create surface dead skin cell buildup, which, if not removed post-flight by using an exfoliating product, can cause oil and bacteria to be trapped under the skin, resulting in an increase of breakouts a day or two after flying. On longer flights, it’s important to blot skin with tissue or oil-blotting papers to reduce oil and acne-causing bacteria. Oil is a breeding ground for bacteria and the increased oil may exacerbate breakouts. When you arrive at your destination, immediately exfoliate and cleanse to keep skin clear.
6.Don’t forget to pack all your skin care products to keep your routine intact. Look for travel-size containers for carry on bags because sticking to a routine, especially when traveling, will keep your skin looking its best.
Photos: Courtesy of Renée Rouleau