Why Flying Is So Hard on Your Skin (And What to Do About It)

Flying is exhausting, right? Dealing with the TSA, cramming into the ever-shrinking seats, judging the hordes from Zone 8 crowded around the gate while they’re still boarding first class—it’s all tiring. But the reason we often end up looking worn-out at the end of a long flight is a lot deeper than the cranky baby in 33B. The air in planes is dry and oxygen-poor, leaving your skin thirsty for love and attention—even on short routes. Add to that the physical and mental stresses of traveling, and it’s no surprise if you often land looking a little worse for the wear. 

But there is plenty you can do to keep your skin hydrated and nourished throughout the flight. Here are seven tips to prevent dryness and post-flight breakouts. (The worst kind of jetlag, if you ask us—horrible for all your vacation ‘grams.)

1. Prep Your Skin Before You Fly

Toner is the great harmonizer in skincare, and it’s the perfect way to balance skin before a flight. It not only normalizes the skin’s pH levels, but it also tempers oil production and helps skin retain moisture, so that you get neither too oily nor dried up.  To stay right down the middle with evenly-balanced moisture levels, then apply a toner before heading to the airport. (We love toner wipes/pads, which you can also tote easily in a ziplock bag if you want to limit the amount you travel with.) 

First Aid Beauty exfoliating toner wipes (28 count)

2. Unpack Your Eye Bags

The eyes give everything away: They’ll always show how stressed, dehydrated, or tired you are, since the skin in this area is thinner and more delicate. That lends itself to sagging or dulled skin (which leads to puffy eyes and dark circles). To minimize this strain, pat a tiny dollop of nutrient-rich eye cream or serum (ideally with hyaluronic acid and/or caffeine) below and at the sides of each eye. It will firm, nourish, and energize the skin, thus minimizing these outward signs of jet lag, stress, or exhaustion.

Vichy eye serum with caffeine and hyaluronic acid

3. Refresh Mid-Flight

Believe it or not, we think airplane bathrooms are the perfect place to refresh. A lot of it has to do with being up in the clouds: This give you a sense of newness, of transition, of landing in a new place with a new perspective. This can also manifest itself as a single-step mid-flight skincare regimen: Just before the captain turns on that seatbelt light one final time (maybe 40 minutes before you are set to land), sneak into that tiny bathroom with a cleansing face wipe in tow. One swipe will soak up accumulated grease and airplane funk, help dissolve dead skin cells, and rehydrate and tone your face. You’ll de-board the plane with a tingle on your skin—like you just went to a mile-high spa.

Ursa Major face wipes for cleansing, hydrating, toning, exfoliating (20 count)

4. Ban All Beverages But One

Coffee, alcohol, and soda will dry out your skin, and can lead to breakouts. Pair this with the dry conditions in the airplane, and you’re practically begging for blemishes and dull skin.Your body loses roughly one cup of water for every hour you’re in the sky, so you need to stay hydrated in order to maintain healthy skin (not to mention pretty much every bodily function). So, order water when the beverage cart comes around, and don’t hesitate to pop back to the service area and request a refill on that H2O.

5. Pack Pimple Patches

Breakouts happen so much more easily when you’re away from the comforts and familiarity of home. So, always always travel with pimple patches in your bag. You never know when you’ll need to wear one as you sleep, but it can often be the difference between waking up with an angry volcano on your face or with no remains of last night’s budding blemish.

Mighty Patch hydrocolloid/micro-dart pimple patches and salicylic acid (6 count)

6. Bring Lip Balm

For your chapped lips, of course. Or to prevent chapping in the first place.

7. Moisturize Upon Landing

You don’t need to travel with a lot of grooming products, especially since your hotel or hosts will (hopefully) have you covered. However, one product you should always stow is a moisturizer. It will restore your skin to its supple pre-flight state, and keep you from feeling brittle and parched as you head to a business meeting, happy hour, or the pool.

Why not choose a moisturizer with SPF, so that you don’t need to pack a separate facial sunscreen?

Cardon SPF 30 face moisturizer

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Eleven practical (and packable) products to tote in your carry on.

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