Ugh, THIS is why your skin freaks out whenever you fly on an airplane
Flying is a form of transportation that we certainly need, but most of the time, isn’t all that fun. You’re usually stuffed into a tiny seat with very little leg room, snoozing comfortably becomes nothing short of a miracle, the air is somehow freezing and too hot, and you might find yourself seated next to an overly chatty human who doesn’t understand that the presence of headphones means, “Please leave me alone.” To top it all off, flying seems to wreak havoc on your skin.
Allure recently had a few top dermatologists weigh in on the ways plane air effects your skin, and how to keep it as clear as the sky. In addition to intense UV rays at high altitudes and dry mucus membranes (ick), there are several ways plane air can mess with your complexion.
Humidity doesn’t always suck.
It turns out that the dry plane air is also making your skin dry. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a clinical instructor in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC, told Allure, “Typically, skin is comfortable when the humidity is between 40% to 70%. Most airplane cabins are at about 20%. That’s less than half of what we are used to.”
And to combat the dryness, your inclination might be to whip out your refreshing facial mist, right? Bad idea. Kanchanapoomi Levin says that immediately after the water from the mist evaporates, the dry skin gets even drier.
No mo’ blood flow.
Just because the plane reaches cruising altitude and you can access Wi-Fi doesn’t mean it’ll be smooth sailing for your skin. Kanchanapoomi Levin told Allure that commercial aircrafts tend to be “pressurized between 6,000-8,000 feet, which is the equivalent to what you might feel if you were standing on top of a mountain.” Your skin will start to appear dull with that lack of blood flow.
Things are about to get greasy.
When skin gets dry, it tends to work overtime to create oil to balance things out. And while the effort to keep everything neutral is much appreciated, it can also lead to excess grease. Elizabeth Tanzi, an assistant clinical professor in dermatology at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., told Allure that “increased oil production is just your skin’s way of trying to counteract the superdry air.”
Bloat leads to puffiness.
Flying plus sitting for long periods of time plus consuming too much sodium will inevitably equal water retention, which is just a more pleasant term for being über bloated. Any kind of bloating can also cause facial puffiness, so Tanzi suggests aiming “to get a bit of exercise, even if it’s just a brisk walk. Exercise can mobilize the extra fluid.”
Travel stress is your enemy.
Stress has a major impact on your skin, and since there’s always a certain amount of stress that goes hand-in-hand with travel – the fear of missing a flight, rushing out the door on time, thinking you left your straightener on – you’re destined to experience those effects. “There is a level of anxiety that happens when we fly, and that can lead to an increase in the stress hormones,” says Kanchanapoomi Levin, “which we know increases redness and any inflammatory conditions of the skin, like eczema or psoriasis.” She suggests sticking to your normal beauty and skincare routine, and remove makeup before or mid-flight with a gentle cleansing wipe.
So basically, once you get settled into your ridiculously tiny seat, make sure your skin gets settled too.