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Plane good skin

Tired of the unpredictable effects that long-haul flying can have on your skin? Kelly Doune explores how to prep and prime skin, so that it’s ready to face the challenges of travelling.

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Most of us who have walked across an airport tarmac in pursuit of the tropics have primped and prepped our pre-holiday skin and itineraries with equal fervour, only to welcome an acne breakout that most certainly wasn’t there at take off. Airplanes are ruthlessly impartial when it comes to our bodies — they can leave you with bad breakouts and a bad cold no matter how stellar your genetics or immune system. Both are the result of a festival of physical factors that play off one another at 35,000 feet.

“Long haul travel causes oxidative stress to the skin, this is the same damage as caused by the sun’s rays, eating a bad diet, pollution and smoking etc., so yes it can speed up the visible signs of ageing appearing,” says Debbie Thomas, well-respected skin specialist and owner of the dermatology clinic, D.Thomas, in London.

The most well-known of these stressors is the severe dryness of cabin air, which leads to dehydrated and flaky skin. But there are more insidious culprits that you don’t even notice, like the influence altitude has in drying up the mucus membranes that keep you safe from bacterial infections, the increased exposure to the UV rays peeping through your seat window, and the stress your body endures when re-calibrating to new time zones.

Hello vacation.

“Your body and skin repairs when you are in deep sleep, so jet lag interrupts this repair process. Once your body cycle is upset it can take days for it to get back on track,” says Thomas. “During this time you will be missing out on skin regenerating beauty sleep”.

So, what preventative steps can we take to ease the blow? We ask Thomas, and other experts, to share their advice on how best to protect your skin while you fly.

Water

Before anything, you have your free-to-all, free-of-product measures that, yes, we know you tell yourself you will make a habit of eventually, at some point, sometime… like hydration. Hydration is critical in all aspects of maintaining your skin’s health, but especially on planes where the 10-20% humidity levels rob you of moisture. So skip the wine and take a big bottle of water on board. Another contentious question is to spritz or not to spritz? While using facial mist on board is recommended by some, others suggest that the drying effect that cabins have on moisture will lead to further dehydration.

Photo: Anna Sastre

Diet

Sticking to a plant-based diet for your journey can add antioxidants and water – both of which you’ll most definitely notice aren’t there roughly nine hours in to any long-haul flight. Vegetables, like peppers, have 92% water and will keep circulation up and puffiness in the face to a minimum.

Masks and serums

Dr Thomas recommends using antioxidant serums while travelling. Sheet masks work well in theory, but they are not always practical on a flight full of people. A clear gel or thick cream masks that aren’t visible once applied could do just the trick.

Max and Tanja Gruber, the duo behind Austrian bio brand Max and Me, recommend products with high-vibration ingredients which repair skin on the outside, while balancing your mental being on the inside, combining ingredients that are both nourishing and relaxing.

Sunscreen

“It is actually true that pilots have a higher incidence of skin cancer because of their time in air. It is also true that in general you are exposed to more UV at high altitudes,” says Shanyn Lancaster, a physician from Aurora Medical Center Kenosha. If you’re sitting by a window seat, you definitely need to apply an added layer of SPF, as you’ll be in have direct access to UV rays that have no clouds or earth’s pollution haze to act as a buffer.

Photo: Chris Slupski

Make up, or no makeup ?

Avoiding makeup is one of many airplane travel myths, to a certain degree. A generous helping of heavy foundation is going to clog pores and hold on to dirt and germs recycling through plane air, but a lighter, hypoallergenic, oil-free alternative is perfectly fine, as long as you’re treating your skin and keeping hydrated.

“I wear a very minimal amount of makeup when I travel,” says Gloria Noto, seasoned traveller and founder of NOTO Botanics, whose all-natural vegan elixirs have been mentioned in Allure, Vogue and  Into the Gloss. “To be honest, I still try to look fun when I travel, in my own way. One of my most favourite memories of travelling when I was younger was looking at all of the interesting people from other parts of the world dressed up in unique ways. I don’t look like I’m rolling into bed when I get on a plane”. Noto recommends wearing some mascara, a brushed eyebrow and some concealer to allow the skin to breathe, without treating your airplane seat like your own private living room.

Keep it light

At the end of the day, lightness is key. “My advice is always keep your skin hydrated during the flight, but don’t overdo the heavy creams at other times,” adds Thomas. “You want your skin to work more effectively and behave, more youthful, oils and heavy creams can make it sluggish and lazy.”

Happy travelling.

Words: Kelly Doune

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