Question: How harsh is flying on skin and what are the best ways to protect against the damaging effects?
Answer: To put it bluntly, unless your last name is Kardashian or Trump, flying sucks. There’s nothing glamorous about the middle row, an $8 cup of Sutter Home Chardonnay or watching a movie with your face an inch away from the screen because someone decided to recline their chair back into your lap. But worse than all of that is what air travel does to your skin. According to Dr. Bruce E. Katz, M.D. and Director at Manhattan-based JUVA Skin & Laser Center, “the pressurized environment of a plane is totally unnatural and completely sucks moisture out of the skin, leaving it looking dehydrated and dull.” Add to that the anxiety factor, which leads to an increase in stress hormones that cause redness, inflammation and acne being released, the eye-irritating allergens in the air and increased exposure to bacteria and you have a recipe for a skin disaster if you don’t counterbalance the effects. Basically, being on a plane is akin to “being in the desert in 95-degree heat,” says Dr. Howard Sobel, dermatologist and founder of DDF Skincare.
Here’s how to take care of your skin before, after and during a flight:
1) Apply a moisturizing mask night before. “Choose one with olive oil, honey, aloe and/or jojoba oil as these are extra nourishing and pack on the hydration,” says Katz.
2) Go minimal with your makeup. Going on a plane with clean, makeup-free skin is always your best bet, but it’s especially crucial for travel longer than seven hours, so “oil and dead skin cells don’t clog pores and result in blemishes,” says Sobel, who adds that you can get by with using a hydrating mist over light makeup every hour on shorter flights.
3) Don’t skip SPF. “You’re being exposed to UV rays through plane windows, so wear a moisturizer with SPF,” says Katz. He recommends Neocutis Journee Bio-Restorative Day Cream.
4) Wear 100% cotton clothing. “To prevent rashes on your body, wear loose-fitting, cotton clothes, which are better than rayon or nylon,” says Katz.
5) Stick to water. Complimentary alcohol and coffee may seem like the only small pleasures on-board, but you’ll feel and look your best if you resist. “If you must indulge,” says Katz, “green tea is best as it’s 100 times more potent than vitamin C as an antioxidant to fight free radicals.”
6) Keep your nose moisturized. “If your nose is dry, it’s easier to get sick, so make sure to keep the inside of your nostrils moisturized with Vaseline or an antibiotic ointment,” says Katz.
7) Gently exfoliate and moisturize post-flight. “After landing, use a glycolic wash or disposable pads to wipe skin clean of pollutants, then reapply a light, hyaluronic acid moisturizer to damp skin to help hold the water in,” says Sobel.