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You always start out your trip looking fresh, with your skin glowing. But by the time you walk out of the airport, you feel less of yourself, and more like a prune – dull and dry. It’s important to remember that this is not an inevitable condition, and with the right steps, you can feel like a better version of yourself!

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Why does our skin condition worsen when we take the plane?

skincare for air travel

The plane is a very unnatural environment that doesn’t bode well for our skin. It’s a pressurised cabin that’s very dry because of the unusually low levels of humidity. This causes the moisture in our skin to evaporate quickly, making dry skin an issue regardless of the flight duration. Those with dry skin will sometimes notice that skin either becomes slightly inflamed or flaky. On the other hand, if you have combination skin, you may experience oilier skin, as your skin produces more oil to lubricate dehydrated skin.

Additionally, travel in itself induces stress. This leads to the release of a hormone called cortisol in our bodies, a key player that can cause inflammation of the skin. Besides becoming red and itchy, our skin is also threatened by an impending acne breakout. (This is on top of the bacteria and dust that we are exposed to in the air and surfaces, and our skin’s reaction as it acclimatises to our destination’s weather.)

Lastly, if your eyes are not already puffy from watching the latest Rachel McAdams movie inflight, it probably will be anyway due to fluid retention in the body. Apart from collecting in your feet and ankles, water can also pool around your eyes, resulting in puffy eyelids and the appearance of dark eye circles. This is worsened when you’re not well-rested prior to your travels, as it adds to the other signs of fatigue.

So how do we make the best of the situation? Here are the tips you need:

1. Stay hydrated

drink water for good skin

We know that beauty isn’t skin deep, what’s inside truly reflects on the outside. So remember to keep your bodies hydrated by drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to the trip. A wise old lady once shared her pearls of wisdom. She told me that the first thing we should do in the morning is to drink a cup of warm water. This is because throughout the night, our bodies are dehydrated, and the water helps to flush the toxins out before we put anything else in our bodies. If you’re flying, experts also recommend drinking up to two cups of water per hour to stay hydrated. While it’s tempting to grab a glass of alcoholic beverage to relax or have a cup of coffee to help you finish the movies you intend to watch, you should avoid them because of their diuretic effect.

2. Exfoliate gently and moisturise

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If you have the time, going for a facial in advance would probably be a good idea. Otherwise, home facials would be helpful too. Either way, exfoliating the skin gently to get rid of accumulated dead skin cells and unclogging pores go a long way in helping to prevent breakouts. After this, remember to pamper your skin with moisturiser and to pack a small amount (less than 100ml!) for the flight. Bringing along a heavier moisturiser and your trusty lip balm for the rest of the trip is certainly a good idea as well! And if you’re sure you won’t be scaring anyone, bring along a sheet mask to use during the flight.

3. Wear little or no makeup

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For fear of stepping out of the airport looking like a zombie, some of us decide that we want to wear makeup to hide those dark eye circles and redness on our skin. However, the caveat of having makeup on at all is that dry air will suck the moisture out of it, making your skin look cakey and accentuate the wrong kind of lines – wrinkles. More importantly, you can’t apply your moisturiser or put on a mask to hydrate your skin if you’ve got foundation on.

4. Cool down that puffiness

puffy eyes lack of sleep

As the air stewards walk the aisle offering towels, ask for a cold one to apply it on your eyelids or under your eyes to help reduce the puffiness. Avoid putting the towel on your face. While it might be tempting, that refreshing feeling is momentary and will eventually cause your skin to dry out even more as the water from the towel will take away existing moisture from your skin when it evaporates. After arriving at your destination, you could do the same with a towel and crushed ice to feel refreshed.

5. Get that blood pumping again!

It might be tricky to find a pocket of time for this, but exercising for even just 15 minutes will make a difference to our skin’s radiance. Just as how our legs crammed up and begin to stop working, our skin is also an organ that goes dormant when we travel, because we’ve been in the same position for hours and blood circulation is poor. Walking along the aisle and doing some simple stretches whenever you can will help keep you looking fresh as you travel.

6. Catch a wink

sleep on plane

The importance of being well-rested goes beyond caring for your skin. If anything, it is a highly effective preventive step to avoiding signs of fatigue and feeling stressed in the first place. So, be sure to catch some sleep to help you feel more refreshed when you step off the plane later.

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