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.