As for your eyes, they rely on a moisturizing tear film to function properly and keep you comfortable, the National Eye Institute (NEI) explains. When you’re in a low-humidity environment, you keep on making that tear film like normal, but the dry environment makes them evaporate more quickly than they otherwise would, Alex Nixon, O.D., assistant clinical professor of optometry at The Ohio State University, tells SELF. This can lead to symptoms like the obvious dryness, plus irritation, stinging, sensitivity to light, and more. Also, if you’re spending the flight watching that teeny TV on the seatback in front of you, working on your laptop, or reading, you’re probably blinking less than you typically would. This also saps your eyeballs of moisture because blinking spreads that important tear film across your eyes.
With your mouth and nose, it really comes down to the lack of humidity and dehydration, Omid Mehdizadeh, M.D., an otolaryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. Like your eyes, all the lovely moisture that’s naturally in your mouth and nose can evaporate more quickly in a low-humidity environment, he says. Couple that with the fact that you may not be drinking as much on the flight (either because you only drink when the beverage cart comes around or to avoid constant trips to the bathroom), and you’re just setting yourself up for a case of dry mouth and nose, Michael Zimring, M.D., director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center and co-author of the book Healthy Travel, tells SELF.
Obviously, everyone has different areas that tend to feel dried out after a flight, and you may not need to do all of these. Still, experts say they can really, really help.
1. Slather on a ton of thick moisturizer. Thick ointments and creams are more effective than thinner lotions at adding moisture to your skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). If you want to get even more specific, look for something that contains mineral, olive, or jojoba oil to lock in moisture, the AAD says. Lactic acid, urea, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, glycerin, lanolin, and shea butter are also good options.
While you can start applying your cream mid-flight, it’s actually better to get started before that. “The more hydrated your skin is before boarding the plane, the better foundation you have to start off with when you are flying,” Dr. Zeichner says. Continue moisturizing as necessary post-flight until your skin feels normal again.