How To Keep A Long Flight From Messing With Your Skin

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“Vacation, all I ever wanted,” might have originated with The GoGo’s in the '80s, but is certainly a sentiment that everyone can relate to. And, summer is when most of us try to cluster a little extra time for a quick escape to vacation paradise whether it’s a beach, the city of lights, or another exotic locale. But, before the sunshine, great food, and relaxation comes the flight. Recycled airplane air and other conditions tend to wreak havoc on the skin during flight. The air in a plane is extremely dry, causing skin to look less than stellar upon landing, so as a globe-trotter myself, I’ve had to come up with ways to keep my skin refreshed and healthy-looking both pre- and post-flight. Here’s what I’ve learned as I’ve racked up those frequent flier miles.

The cabins of airplanes have extremely low humidity, which can take a huge toll on skin. The worst thing you can do is to spray a facial mist on the skin. Since the air is so dry, it looks for moisture wherever it can get it. Water attracts water, so when you apply a mist, the water from the deep layers in the skin are attracted to the moisture sprayed on the surface and they both get evaporated into the dry air resulting in even tighter, dehydrated skin. Instead, apply a rich moisturizer with SPF prior to the flight to act as a protective sealant and retain optimal hydration in the skin. For an added boost, apply a sunscreen moisturizer over a hydrating serum. If you want to treat skin in-flight, it’s best to apply another layer of moisturizer or a facial oil to help the skin retain its moisture. Additionally, drink plenty of water to keep your system hydrated. (While drinking water is shown to be the least efficient way to hydrate the skin, it’s still important for the health of all cells in the body.)

Wearing SPF while on a flight might not be the norm for most of us, but it’s actually a good idea since during daylight hours, you are closer to harmful UV rays when you’re 30,000 feet above the earth’s surface. This incidental sun exposure coming through the windows can definitely lead to pre-mature skin aging. Keep skin protected with sunscreen by dusting on a mineral blocking SPF powder during the flight to keep skin its most youthful looking. Also, when possible, choose an aisle seat over a window seat, and be sure to get your neighbor to shut the shade. (That’s what I do!)
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Dreaded breakouts can be another side effect of flying. Here’s why: For dry skin, as mentioned before, a long airplane trip can make skin even drier. Those with oily skin, on the other hand, can find that airplanes both dehydrate the skin as well as increase oil. This occurs because when the skin recognizes it is dehydrated, it then increases oil production to combat dryness as a means to protect itself. Therefore, the increased oil production (especially on a long flight) is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can exacerbate breakouts. Blot skin with tissue or oil-blotting papers during these extensive flights in an effort to reduce acne-causing bacteria. And, the surface dead skin cell buildup caused from the dry air can cause oil and bacteria to become trapped under the skin. If you don’t exfoliate post-flight to remove the buildup, you may see breakouts a day or two after flying.

This leads us to what to do post-flight: Once you arrive at your destination, use a mild facial scrub or light acid peel to remove surface dry skin cells accumulated from flying. Rinse and apply a hydrating serum followed by a moisturizing mask with ingredients like sodium PCA, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid to add in essential hydration. Performing a mini facial to your skin after flying will help to restore your skin’s natural moisture balance as well as brighten the skin from post-flight dullness.

Keeping skin looking gorgeous when on-the-go has never been easier thanks to these simple tips. Happy travels!

When it comes to our faces, we don’t rely on just anyone to tell us what our skin needs to get that ever-elusive glow. Instead, we turn to skin-care veteran (and celebrity fave!) Renée Rouleau, who knows it takes more than the right products to get radiant. Each week, she’ll be serving up her expert tips to keep your complexion in tip-top shape.