skincare tips
BY: Khalid El Khatib

Avoiding Airplane Skin: How to Protect Your Skin While Flying

Expert skincare tips for flying

Most of America spent 2020 at home, or at very least, within driving distance due to the pandemic. While U.S. airlines carried 60% fewer passengers in 2020 than in 2019, experts are optimistic that air travel will continue to rebound as it has within the last several weeks. That means the trips you’ve been putting off will soon be a possibility. It also means that you have a lot of pent-up Instagram posting to do, and you’ll want to look and feel your best.

I’ve always had a job that required a lot of travel — sometimes up to fifty flights a year. Here are some skincare tips I’ve collected over the years that ensure you step off a long flight feeling good and photo-ready:

1. Pack and prevent dryness

The biggest skincare challenge with flying is that the air onboard planes is arid. The humidity level on planes is about 20%, whereas most people try to keep their homes at a dermatologist-recommended 50% humidity level.

I have two pre-flight rituals that I complete without fail, starting with a moisturizing overnight mask the night before my flight. I love Marie Verotinque’s Micronutrient Hydro Mask, which is intense enough to feel its effects throughout the next day. Also, check out LaserAway Beauty’s Jetsetter Hydroserum Facial Mask, which is infused with plant extracts and powerful antioxidants that protect and repair skin. My other ritual is to change my sheets before I leave; returning to clean, crisp sheets seem to soften the blow of a vacation’s end.

2. Substitute wine for water

One of the best things you can do to save your skin and land looking fresh is to skip the cocktails served on board. The first time I flew in first class, with its open bar, I learned the hard way that hangovers incurred in the air are exponentially worse than those on land. Even a single glass of wine can dry out your skin, and if you’re on a redeye, alcohol can ruin what precious little sleep you’re able to get. Opt for water instead.

Sure, chugging a glass of water every time a flight attendant passes means you’ll have to use the restroom a lot. But bonus: standing up and walking around can help reduce the puffiness that often occurs on flights by reducing water retention.

3. Keep the shade down or pack the SPF

Even though it makes intuitive sense, people are often surprised to learn it’s possible to incur UV damage on a flight. Not only are you closer to the sun than you would be on land, but clouds also serve as a reflector of the damaging rays. The easiest solution here is to keep the window shade down, but if that means skipping out on gorgeous views — or worse, you’re in a middle seat and have no say over whether the shade is down or up — apply SPF before your flight just like you would leaving your house for the day.

4. Skip the sheet masks and slather on moisturizer instead

People who wear sheet masks on planes look ridiculous. It turns out sheet masks on planes don’t work so well either. Most sheet masks activate by pulling moisturize from the air, and there’s not much on a plane. You’re better off slathering on a thick cream to seal in your skin’s moisture, especially with your air vents turned on high. Once, on a flight from LA to JFK, I passed by an A-list celebrity renowned for her gorgeous skin, generously massaging La Mer into her face. Any cream you’d typically use before bed, like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, works. I especially love LaserAway Beauty Drenched Peptide Enriched Moisturizer that immediately hydrates the skin and strengthens its protective barrier. You also want to pay special attention to your under-eye area and lips, which are especially prone to get dry on planes.

Khalid El Khatib is a Brooklyn-based writer and marketer who tweets too much.

  1. “How to Take Care of Skin Before, During, and After Flying on a Plane,” Teen Vogue, November 18, 2019.
  2. “The Unexpected Reason Why You Should Always Choose the Winder Seat While Flying,” Well + Good, December 1, 2019.
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