The Scary Things That Can Happen to Your Skin On a Plane
Flying thousands of miles around the globe to explore new cities and cultures is a thrilling experience. You know what’s not so thrilling? The way a plane can put your skin through the wringer, regardless of whether you’re lounging comfortably in first class or sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a stranger in economy. Curious to know exactly what can happen to your skin at 30,000 feet? Keep scrolling!
1. Your Skin Can Become Really, Really Dry
Fact: Dry, recycled cabin air and skin don't play nice. The low humidity levels—at about 20 percent—on airplanes are less than half of what skin is comfortable in (and probably used to). As a result, the lack of moisture and hydration in the air can suck the life out of skin. The result? Dry skin that’s thirsty and dehydrated.
What to do: To counteract the dry conditions and potentially negative side effects on your skin, stow a hydrating moisturizer or serum—make sure it’s a TSA-approved size!—in your carry-on. Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, apply a heaping portion onto clean skin. Look for a lightweight formula that’s non-comedogenic and non-sticky. Hyaluronic acid—a potent humectant that holds 1000 times its weight in water—is particularly effective, and can be found in SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel. Also, keep hydrated with lots and lots of water.
2. Your Lips Can Chap
Your lips are not immune to the drying effects of airplane cabins. In fact, since lips don’t contain any oil glands, they’re likely the first spot you’ll notice dryness. We don’t know about you, but sitting for hours and hours on a plane with chapped lips—and no solution, mind you—sounds like a cruel torture. No thanks.
What to do: Throw your favorite lip balm, salve, emollient, or jelly into your purse and don’t let it out of your sight. Pick one that’s formulated with nourishing oils and vitamins—like Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1—so your pout can stay hydrated for the duration of your flight.
3. An Oily Film May Pool on Your Skin’s Surface
Ever noticed what looks like a coating of grease sitting on the surface of your skin, particularly on your T-Zone, as you fly? It ruins makeup and makes a complexion look shiny…and not in a good way. Believe it or not, the reason this occurs points back to the dry air conditions. When skin becomes dry, it might try to compensate for the lack of moisture by kicking your oil glands into overdrive. What results is increased oil production that shows up on your skin. That’s a bad idea for a number of other reasons (hello, breakouts!).
What to do: Keep your skin hydrated so it doesn’t counteract the uber-dry air with more sebum. If you’re neurotic about excess shine (or have oily skin to begin with), keep NYX Professional Makeup Blotting Paper handy to absorb oil and keep your skin looking shine-free.
4. Intense UV Rays Could Age Your Skin
Everyone fights for the window seat, but there’s good reason to pass on it the next time you’re flying, especially if you’re not wearing SPF. You’re closer to the sun in the air, which may seem harmless to you until you realize that UV rays—which are more intense at higher altitudes—can penetrate through windows.
What to do: Never skip an application of SPF 30 or higher while on board. Apply it before boarding and reapply during the flight if it’s long-haul. For extra protection, it’s not a bad idea to keep the window shades closed.
6. Your Face Might Look Puffier
Does your face look and feel swollen post-flight? Sitting in a seat for a prolonged period of time, as well as munching on salty foods and snacks mid-flight can do that to you.
What to do: To keep water retention and bloating at bay, limit your sodium intake and drink plenty of water. During the flight, try and move around a bit if the seatbelt sign is turned off. Any extra mobility can be helpful in this scenario.
7. Stress Can Exacerbate Any Pre-Existing Skin Problems
Flying can be stressful, especially if you don’t do it very often. Most people can get anxious, and that stress could take a toll on the appearance of your skin. If you’re losing sleep over an upcoming flight, your skin may look duller than usual. In addition, stress can generally worsen whatever skin issue you may already have.
What to do: Coping with your stress is easier said than done, but do your best to eliminate the factors that can trigger your stress. Chat with your physician about an action-plan. If flying can’t be avoided, remember to breathe and relax while on board. Listen to some music or watch a movie to clear your mind, or even reach for a little calming aromatherapy…who knows, it might help!