Naturally, they sanitize everything before they sit down.

By Elizabeth Swanson
March 04, 2020

It happens to the best of us: As you get ready for a flight, you perfect your hair and makeup so that you can step off the plane looking as put together as when you boarded. But the reality of the situation, upon looking in the mirror after landing, is usually the opposite (think flat hair, dry skin, and crumbling mascara, for starters).

Getty / DuKai photographer

It's not just you—airplanes are detrimental for your skin and hair across the board. The high altitudes and dry, circulated air (plus long hours, and time changes, too) can wreak havoc on your complexion. That said, stepping off a flight feeling and looking great is possible, if you're armed with the right tools, tips, and tricks. That's why we reached out to a few dermatologists and asked them to share what they always—and never—do when they fly. Ahead, how to travel like your dermatologist.

Related: How to Sleep More Comfortably on a Plane

Wipe Everything Down

"I always travel with a large pack of fragrance-free, sensitive skin baby wipes," says Dr. Morgan Rabach, MD, co-founder of LM Medical. "I use them to wipe down the surfaces at my seat including the arm rests, screen, and tray. Most people touch their face on an average of three times per hour, so keeping the space clean on the plane can cut down on acne breakouts and decrease your chances of getting sick."

Keep Drinking Water

Hydration is equally as important, she notes. "I always buy a large bottle of water before getting on the plane to keep track of how much I am drinking. The air on the plane has super low humidity, which contributes to the overall dehydration of your body, skin, and hair," Dr. Rabach explains. "My recommendation would be to drink six to eight ounces of water per hour on the plane to keep hydrated. I avoid soda, juices, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol on a flight. I do eat the salty snacks, though. I can't resist!"

There's a reason why those salty nuts and pretzels are so appetizing. "One of the things that happens at altitude is that taste buds aren't as sensitive, so snacks on planes have 40 to 45 percent more salt to add more flavor," says Dr. Ranella Hirsch, MD, co-founder of Atolla. As for other healthy snacks, Dr. Hirsch likes to cut up fresh fruit and bring it along on any flights. "It contains lots of hydration and nutrients—it's a great way to stay hydrated without having to drink so much water."

And Hydrate Your Skin, Too

Hydration applies to skincare, too; Dr. Rabach recommends applying hydrating products while you're in the air. As for her favorites? "I use two products consistently on my skin and also on my kids: SkinMedica HA5 ($178, dermstore.com), a topical hyaluronic acid (it has five different types of hyaluronic acid), which draws moisture into the skin without oil. I also use Aquaphor ($15.99, ulta.com) on my lips and around my eyes and hands for a moisture boost."

Prep Your Skin Before You Fly

"Before getting on an airplane, I wash my face with the most moisturizing cleanser I can find," says Dr. Hirsch. "The label should say creamy—you don't want it to say 'clarifying' or use anything that strips the skin. Just a thick, creamy cleanser. Then I leave my face slightly damp and do a two-step hydration process. Step one is using an oil or serum. I use my Atolla custom skin antioxidant serum (from $20, atolla.com) which is TSA-friendly. Then on top of that, I apply a heavier cream to seal in the moisture."

Go Makeup Free

For Dr. Shereene Idriss, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology, radiant post-flight skin starts with a blank canvas. "I always make sure to not wear any makeup when traveling. I always go to the airport with a bare face. Before I leave my house, I use glycolic acid, a vitamin C serum, and a thick moisturizer," she says. In flight, she sprays her face with a water mist for additional hydration. And if she's traveling for longer than four hours? "I'll use a biocellular face mask to lock in moisture. Additionally, I apply Weleda Skin Food ($18.99, target.com) and Vaseline ($6.49, walgreens.com) to my lips every hour."

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