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How to Prevent Dry Skin and Acne When You Fly

Airplane air always sucks the life out of my skin—but I FINALLY figured out how to beat breakouts and dehydration.

Chrissy Teigen goes for a mid-flight sheet mask. (Source: @chrissyteigen)

Travelling is great... except for the travel part. 

If only we could skip the whole airplane thing—line-ups, security checks, irritating seat-mates, etc.—and just arrive at our destinations well-rested and fresh-faced. 

Well, maybe I can help you with that last part. 

Two weeks ago, I was in Los Angeles for a quick press trip with Pantene (you might've seen this on Snapchat!), and happily, my skin did NOT freak out. 

That's despite getting only three hours of sleep the night before I left, and spending five hours each way in the lovely recycled airplane air. In the past, that would've broken me out for sure, plus given me a complexion so severely dehydrated that I'd land at my destination feeling 100 years old (and probably looking it, too). 

Didn't happen this time—I present you the Snapchat evidence: 

Surprisingly well-behaved skin during my recent trip to Los Angeles with Pantene.

Granted, I was in a good part of my cycle. But I think it was also because I fine-tuned my routine, did a little pre-planning, and brought the right products.

Want to know my travel skincare strategies? Read on...

How Airplanes Mess With Your Skin

First, a quick word on in-flight air quality. As you know, it's dry as hell up there. In low humidity, moisture is pulled from the deeper layers of your skin, which makes a complexion prone to dryness look and feel even drier. 

On the flip side, people with normal to oily and combination skin can actually experience more oiliness in dry environments such as airplanes. This is because the skin is trying to compensate for moisture loss by ramping up its oil production. I can tell you, it's no fun when you're simultaneously dehydrated and shiny.

The worst part is that this combination of dryness and oiliness can also lead to pimples. Think about it: you've got more sebum than usual (which can host acne-causing bacteria), but it's getting trapped under a build-up of dead skin cells. Add the stress of travelling, hopping time zones and losing sleep, and it's no wonder so many of us break out upon arrival. 

While travel is always going to be stressful on some level, I still think there's a lot you can do to negate its impact on your skin. Here's what works for me:

Before You Fly

PMD Personal Microderm System.

  • Load up on moisture. I'm a huge believer in serums, and a good hydrating one will help banish dryness before you board. I know I talk about it all the time, but Consonant HydrExtreme really is the best. That's because it contains a polysaccharide, cassia angustifolia seed, that locks in the humectant, glycerin—so effectively that my skin doesn't need any other moisturizer in warm weather. However, by all means, top up with a cream or lotion if your skin requires it. Decent moisturizers are few and far between (I think it's best to avoid silicones and crappy oils), but a couple I like are Acnessential Niacinamide Cream and CyberDerm H2O Hydration. If you prefer the feel of an oil, my top pick is Lilly & Lola Renew Your Face With Coconut Oil Overnight Oil Treatment.

Consonant HydrExtreme.

Ingredients: Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide, Vegetable Glycerin.

  • Consider intensive masking. I did a couple face-masking sessions in the days preceding my flight, and I think it really makes a difference. If you have the time and inclination, I'm sure a week of nightly masking would be as good as a getting a professional facial! Éminence is basically my go-to for natural, non-sheet masks, especially the Stone Crop Masque—it has a jammy texture, and is so hydrating. 

Éminence Stone Crop Masque.

Ingredients: Stone Crop, Stone Crop Juice, Aloe, Honey, Bioflavonoids, Natural Moisturizing Factor, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Biocomplex (Vitamin A, Vitamin C Ester, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, Alpha Lipoic Acid), Xanthan Gum, Vitamin B5 From Soy, Lavender Oil, Lemon Oil, Chlorophyl, Glycerin, Glycine Derivative.

  • Get in your vitamin A. Since I'm prone to breakouts when I travel, I make sure that I'm getting enough vitamin A before and during my trip as extra "insurance." I think it's the single most important nutrient for skin health, and it really works to my keep skin clear. If you want to get it from food, beef liver is the best source. But I suspect some people (including me) have particularly high vitamin A requirements, so I also use a supplement. Currently, I'm taking Genestra A-Mulsion with fantastic results. More on vitamin A benefits over here

Genestra A-Mulsion.

Ingredients: Each Drop (0.027 ml) contains 3,0000 mcg or 10,000 IU Vitamin A (Palmitate). Non-medicinal ingredients: Purified water, xylitol, modified tapioca starch, lemon oil, xanthan gum, natural mixed tocopherols, citric acid, potassium sorbate, stevia leaf extract (glucosylsteviosides).

  • Skip makeup (if possible!) the day of the flight. If you can get away with a bare face, your necessary in-flight moisturization tactics will be easier to execute. This is where I'll make the case for flying at the crack of dawn—nobody expects to see a flawless face at that hour! If you do feel you need a little coverage, RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up with a light dusting of "Un" Powder (pure silica powder) would be perfect. I actually consider this stuff to be skincare. Unlike most foundations and concealers, they contain all-natural ingredients, and no pore-clogging silicones. Plus, the oils will keep your skin hydrated AND act as a barrier against moisture loss. For application tips, see here and here.

RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up.