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Skin

Does Flying Make Your Skin Dry? Here’s How To Protect It During Air Travel

Arrive at your destination looking and feeling refreshed.

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Flying to see family is a part of many holiday routines. In fact, a recent travel report by NerdWallet estimates that 44 percent of Americans will book flights this holiday season. Whether you’re a frequent or occasional flier, a lot goes into preparing for a trip; comparing ticket prices, organizing transportation to the airport, packing. It’s a lot to keep track of.

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A less-considered but no-less important issue is how your skin will fare while in the air. Flying at high altitudes for extended periods substantially reduces skin’s moisture, leaving it extra dry after landing and requiring a good bit of work to recover. Fortunately, Enrizza Factor, MD, clinical dermatologist at My Vitiligo Team, has provided First for Women with some tips on how to best protect your skin during air travel.

Why does flying dry out your skin?

The air on airplanes is dry and recirculated, which can disrupt your skin’s outer layer and cause inflammation. Your skin may also be exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation while in the air: Being above 10,000 feet increases your risk for sun damage with UVA light penetrating the plane’s windows.

Additionally, the humidity level in planes is significantly lower than what our skin is most comfortable with — 20 percent compared with 30 to 60 percent. This lower humidity can leave skin feeling either extra dry or extra oily. (Skin will produce more oil to compensate for the decrease in humidity.) The lower air pressure and higher altitude also reduces the amount of oxygen your blood carries, and this lower oxygen flow causes the skin to appear dull and lackluster. Finally, you may experience water retention when sitting for prolonged periods of time, resulting in a “puffy” appearance, especially under the eyes. 

How can I protect my skin when flying?

Skin requires extra TLC when flying. Begin hydrating ahead of time by drinking water prior to your flight; the more moisture you have in your body, the more hydrated your skin will be. Before boarding the plane, use vitamin C and E ferulic acid serum to replenish dull skin on your face and neck. Then, as you travel to your destination, periodically spritz your face with a refreshing facial mist to prevent dryness.

Sean Kelishadi, MD, FACS, board-certified plastic surgeon and the founder of SSK Plastic Surgery, advises that you also protect the skin on your hands and lips. “For longer flights, bring a travel-sized facial moisturizer, hand lotion, and chapstick to apply during the flight,” he says.

Your In-Flight Skincare Checklist

Consider using these three products before and during air travel to prevent skin dehydration:

  • Apply before a flight: Try the C Level Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum by Silex Skincare (Buy from SilexSkincare.com, $40). It absorbs quickly and shields skin from sun exposure. Plus, it’s a skincare brand created by pilots for travelers.
  • Seal in moisture prior to take-off: Reach for La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer (Buy from Amazon, $19.99), a fragrance-free cream that replenishes skin. It works for all skin types and provides 48-hour hydration protection.
  • Hydrate during travel: Tone and refresh facial skin with Colorado Aromatic mist (Buy from ColoradoAromatics.com, $6). Scents include lavender, cucumber, and lemon balm.

When packing skincare products in your carry-on, be sure to follow TSA liquids rule: “You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.”

The Bottom Line

Maintaining healthy skin during air travel doesn’t have to be cumbersome. These simple tricks combat dryness and UV radiation exposure while flying — allowing you to step off the plane looking and feeling refreshed.

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