Cover Here's what you need to keep your skin in top shape in-flight (photo: Getty)

Here's your face at 36,000 feet, and some expert tips on how to care for your skin

When you’re 36,000 feet above the ground, it’s not always smooth sailing—especially for your skin. Flying can wreak havoc on your skin—planes have low humidity, dry cabins, and recycled air that can dehydrate your dermis, increase oil production, and exacerbate acne in all skin types. But you can prevent a flight’s skin-damaging affects with a few smart moves before and after you board. Here are five skin problems you might experience when flying—and more importantly, how to prevent them.

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“With cold, dry air on the aircraft, our skin becomes increasingly dry and thirsty for hydration,” says dermatologist Rina Allawh, MD., of Montgomery Dermatology. To combat that dryness, she recommends applying a moisturiser before you board. Not only will it provide the moisture your skin will soon crave, but it may act as a barrier from potential irritants, too, she explains.


Above the clouds, you’re closer to the sun than any other time, says Dove dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. What’s more, airplane windows aren’t UV proof, which means they offer no sun protection. To prevent UV rays from damaging your skin, Gohara recommends applying high-SPF sunscreen before and throughout your flight.


When your skin becomes dry in flight, it will likely produce sebum to counteract that dryness. And extreme oil production can cause acne, warns Nexus Clinic aesthetic physician Jasmine Ruth Yuvarani, MD. Yuvarani recommends carrying a travel-size, oil-free moisturizer in your carry-on bag, and re-applying moisturizer whenever your skin feels tight.


“The whole rigmarole of getting to the airport on time, the lines, and packing can put a strain and stress on your body, which increases cortisol, our stress hormones,” and can cause acne, Gohara says. That’s why she recommends as soon as you get on the plane and into your seat, you take a minute to relax and breathe deeply. (You can bring a calming aromatherapy oil on the plane to rub behind your ears and breathe in.) Keeping calm can reduce cortisol and the chance of acne.

What’s more, leaning your head against the head rest or plane could contaminate your skin with bacteria and lead to a breakout, says Allawh. “Simply leaning your face against these surfaces may cause occlusion and friction, which can further exacerbate acne,” she warns, and suggests avoiding these surfaces all together. But just in case, pack gentle cleansing wipes in your carry-on bag. That way, if you accidentally touch your skin to these surfaces, you can wipe your skin with a cleansing cloth to whisk away any excess grease or bacteria you may have picked up.


Long periods of sitting—like on a long-haul flight—can stunt blood flow and cause fluid to seep into extracellular compartment, says Yuvarani, causing bags to form under your eyes. “You do not want to walk out from the plane with that big and dark eye bags that make you look tired,” she says, and recommends that you get up and walk around frequently to avoid those dark bags. 

Buy these products before your fly

Johnson’s Makeup Be Gone Refreshing Face Wipes: Naomi Campbell’s flight-bag makeup-removing wipes of choice are suitable for sensitive skin types and contains no alcohol.

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate 12.5% Vitamin C: Anti-oxidant Vitamin C not only fights free radical damage, it boosts the efficacy of sunscreen—which you’ll need when you’re 36,000-feet closer to the sun than you are on an ordinary everyday basis.

Crème de la Mer Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UV Protecting Fluid: A full-spectrum sunscreen will help protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays—choose a tinted product or an SPF with coverage if you prefer not to be makeup-free.

Cle de Peau UV Protective Lip Treatment SPF 30: For supple lip protection, choose an SPF with ginseng, Gingko Biloba leaf, Argan oil and vitamin E.

Dior Prestige La Crème: Apply a layer of rich, luxurious cream before boarding—and reapply liberally throughout the flight to keep skin protected and fresh.