When it comes to your skin on a plane, let's just say that flying is for the birds. Setting aside the fact that you’re probably wedged into a seat about the size of a toaster and sleeping sitting up is nearly impossible, your skin on a plane can be a serious problem, whether you’re stretched out in first class or fighting for the armrest (and an overhead bin—if your bag can fit inside of one) in economy.
So what exactly happens to your skin at 30,000 feet—and how the heck can you ease the damage from frequent (or not so frequent) flying? Top dermatologists explain the effects of airplane air on your skin, plus how to keep your face moisturized, calm, and, yes, even glowing on long-haul flights.
Your skin’s first beef with flying is the dry cabin air. “Typically, skin is comfortable when the humidity is between 40 to 70 percent,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a clinical instructor in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Most airplane cabins are at about 20 percent. That’s less than half of what we are used to,” she says. So along with that lack of humidity comes a dip in the hydration level of your skin on a plane, Elizabeth Tanzi, an assistant clinical professor in dermatology at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., explains to Allure. The result: dry, flaky, or red skin.
Your best defense: lots (and lots) of water and smart product picks (that you actually use) in flight. Look for items that contain hyaluronic acid. “When there is no water in the air, moisturizers don’t work as well since there is nothing to grab onto,” says Tanzi. Hyaluronic acid—a sugar molecule found naturally in the skin—has an amazing ability to bind to water. [...]
Need another reason to take your in-air moisturizing routine seriously? Arid air and low humidity have been known to lead to oily foreheads…and chins…and cheeks…and noses. It makes sense. Increased oil production is just your skin’s way of trying to counteract the superdry air, says Tanzi.
You might be at cruising altitude, but commercial aircraft tend to be pressurized between 6,000 to 8,000 feet, which is the equivalent to what you might feel if you were standing on top of a mountain, says Kanchanapoomi Levin. The higher the altitude, “the less blood flow to the skin, which may make for a dull appearance.