How flying affects skin

How to look after your skin before, during and after flying

While sun-kissed, glowing skin may be a winner, dry and dull airplane skin most certainly is not!

Whether you’re off for a mid-term shot of sunshine or taking a big trip of a lifetime, one thing is for sure, the plane journey there will 100% have an effect on your skin.

What happens to our skin when we fly?

The contained, recirculated and repeatedly filtered air within an aeroplane is incredibly dry, with only 10%-20% humidity.

As we breathe this air, our bodies become dehydrated from the inside out, and moisture is drawn out of the skin, leaving it tight and lackluster.

This extreme and rapid dehydration is a nightmare for all skin types, but in allergy sufferers already prone to dryness it can lead to excessively itchy, cracked or flaky skin. For others, it can lead to breakouts.

Aside from the environment itself, anyone who’s flown will know that it can also be stressful – a trigger for all manner of skin woes. Travel is wonderful, but nervous energy (think delayed flights and misplaced passports) and early morning flights can play havoc with our cortisol levels, causing skin to flare.

If you can, move around in the airport before you fly to de-stress. Once you land, fit in a quick nap before you head out to explore, or find 10 minutes of quiet to meditate and unwind.

Why do I always break out after flying?

The last thing you want on your first day of vacation is a breakout, but unfortunately the low humidity, imbalanced skin and the stress of air travel – like lack of sleep and poor food – combine to create ideal conditions for a breakout.

As we said above, the air on planes is very dry – with humidity usually below 20%.

This air dehydrates the top-most layers of skin, causing the oil glands to spring into action, overproducing sebum in an attempt to correct the balance.

This overproduction of oil, combined with the stress of a snoring neighbor and questionable plane food, causes blackheads and inflammation, resulting in a breakout.

People with oily or blemish-prone skin often have a real fear of using moisturizers or facial oils, worrying they’ll “clog” up the skin. But ensuring your skin is properly hydrated before, during and after a flight will lower the risk of a blemish appearing as you hit arrivals!

woman with fresh skin

Top tips to protect your skin when flying

No matter what your skin type, hydration is key to ensure you land looking refreshed. Here are our top skincare tips for pre-flight, in-flight, and once you touch down…

Pre-flight skincare routine

Cleanse properly using a detergent-free cream cleanser, such as Middlemist Seven. Follow with a normal application of your moisturizer – don’t fall into the trap of assuming you should use a richer cream. It’s much better to apply little and often, than to overburden the skin with heavy products. If your skin is already on the dry side, follow with a little eye cream around the orbital bone to avoid dehydration lines.

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While we all like to arrive on vacation looking semi-respectable, an aeroplane is no place for a full face of make-up, which can start to look powdery as the skin dries out. We recommend going make-up free if you can – if not, opt for lighter application and hydrating formulas.

In-flight skincare routine

Remember, skincare isn’t just about what you’re putting on your skin. Make sure you have a big bottle of water that you sip from regularly throughout the flight to help combat dehydration. Not only will this ease the effects on the skin, but it will also boost and protect our immune system, which is weakened by the dry cabin conditions.

However, while our top tip is to drink (water!), go easy on the bar menu. Though the odd tipple may help us through the monotony of a 12hr flight, dehydrating drinks such as alcohol, tea and coffee are best avoided from take-off to landing.

If you’re on a long-haul flight, every hour or so, get up and stretch your legs – follow this with a refreshing spritz of our Century Flower tonic

 woman holding face mist

It contains antioxidant-rich lotus flower extract, which works hard to soothe skin and keep redness flare ups at bay, while the living waters in the orange blossom helps stimulate circulation to leave you with a glowing complexion. 

While waters hydrate the surface, moisturizers and serums really drive water deep into the skin, and hold it there. To avoid dry skin after flying, keep yours handy, and slather on whenever you need a more thorough top-up.

Post-flight skincare routine

As soon as your reach your final destination, head to the bathroom and cleanse again using your detergent-free, gentle cleanser.

Next, exfoliate! Even short flights can leave skin looking lackluster by the time you land. Refresh tired skin with gentle exfoliation – our brightening exfoliator gently buffs away dead skin cells, while nourishing moisture-sapped skin with a blend of omegas.

Follow with an application of our Rosehip face mask Curtain Call to repair skin and leave it looking radiant.

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If you can feel a blemish lurking under the surface, apply a pump of our All Becomes Clear serum for blemish-prone skin to the area – it works brilliantly to reduce inflammation as an on-the-spot treatment.

Obviously, your final step for truly protected skin is a broad-spectrum SPF - slather plenty on before you leave your hotel, and when you return, give your skin some post-sun nourishment once you’ve cleansed it away. Try our ultra-light natural After Sun, or if you’re travelling light with your beauty stash then a few drops of your Rosehip Oil will help soothe and repair.

Shop our range of travel-size skincare here


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Pai Labs Boosters

Pai Labs Boosters

Concentrated actives that are kind to skin with no compromise on performance. Blend with your Pai moisturiser or serum, oil, SPF, body cream....you decide!

Concentrated actives that are kind to skin with no compromise on performance. Blend with your Pai moisturiser or serum, oil, SPF, body cream....you decide!

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