The Worst Things Airplanes Do to Your Skin

Between the stress of traveling and the effects of cabin pressure, traveling by air can do your skin dirty. That said, if you come prepared — i.e., pack your carry-on with nourishing beauty products — and follow a few skin care travel tips, you can ward off the effects airplane travel with ease.

Ahead, we share the worst things airplanes to do your skin — plus, what to do about it.

1. It can seriously dehydrate the skin

Young woman is drinking coffee in airport

Coffee and cocktails can make dehydration worse. | S-dmit/iStock/Getty Images

Have you ever exited a plane only to be faced with ultra dry, dehydrated skin? It’s not just you. Thanks to the lack of humidity in an aircraft cabin, which is a whopping 20% to 50% lower than what the skin is most comfortable in, air travel can leave your skin in desperate need of hydration. And to make matters worse, that mid-flight cocktail can also suck the moisture from your skin.

To counter this, make sure you drink enough water before, during, and after a flight. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also apply a hydrating overnight mask to your complexion before boarding. In addition to nourishing and replenishing the skin, overnight masks are typically transparent. So luckily, you can rock your skin care without looking like a total weirdo.

2. It can dull your skin

beautiful businesswoman resting on airplane

Keep your skin looking fresh. | Michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

Thanks to altitude and cabin pressure, air travel can strip your skin of its glow. Altitude has a serious impact on blood flow to the skin, and the higher the altitude, the lower the blood flow. This can cause your skin to feel dull and dreary.

Counter this travel faux pas by giving yourself a facial massage upon landing. To do so, simply wipe your skin clean with a facial wipe, apply a hydrating facial serum or moisturizer to your complexion, and use upward, circular motions to gently massage the product into your skin. The nourishing product will rehydrate your skin while the massaging motion will increase blood flow and promote a healthy-looking glow.

3. It can make your skin more sensitive to the sun

Woman using smartphone at airplane

Don’t forget your SPF! |

Another thing you need to watch out for when traveling by plane? The sun. Yes, you read that right. Believe it or not, just because you’re inside a flying vessel in the sky, doesn’t mean the sun can’t still get you. In fact, when flying, you’re actually closer to the sun, making your skin more susceptible to the sun’s damaging UV rays.

If you’re sitting by a window seat, be sure to keep your shade down. And don’t forget to apply — and reapply, if your flight is longer than an hour — sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin.

4. It can cause puffy under-eye bags

Caring for the skin around the eyes

Skip those salty snacks. | PavelKriuchkov/iStock/Getty Images

Whether you’re munching on salty airplane snacks or forgetting to get up and “move about” the cabin every 20-30 minutes, chances are you’ll get off the plane feeling a little puffy, especially around the eyes. Thanks to water retention — caused by the above — airplane travel can cause the skin to puff up, which in turn can make you look ultra-tired around the eye contour.

To avoid the extra under-eye baggage, ensure that you stay hydrated throughout your flight, get up and walk around every 20-30 minutes, and stay away from the salty plane food.

5. It can cause oily skin

Female airplane passenger looking out of window

A toner can work wonders for oil control. | iStock/Getty Images

Another way air travel can wreak havoc on your skin? Thanks to the low humidity levels, your skin may try to overcompensate for the dryness with increased sebum production. And an increase in sebum production means oily skin and the possibility of a breakout.

If you’re experiencing oily skin post-flight, give your skin a good cleanse, tone with a pH-balancing toner, and follow up with an oil-free moisturizer. Contrary to popular belief, moisturizer — especially one that’s lightweight and oil-free — can actually help your skin regulate sebum production and decrease the amount of excess oil it produces.

6. It can make your lips ultra chapped

woman applying balsam on lips

Keep your lip balm handy. | Petrunjela/iStock/Getty Images

In addition to parched skin, the low humidity levels in airplane cabins can also cause ultra dry, chapped lips. To avoid any discomfort, be sure to pack a nourishing lip balm — such as the Manuka Latte Lip Balm from OY-L — in your carry-on bag. And don’t forget to drink water!

7. It can dry out your cuticles

Woman in a brown sweater with yellow manicure applying cosmetic

The dryness hurts your cuticles, too. | Iprogressman/iStock/Getty Images

Another way the low humidity levels can wreak havoc on your skin? It can go after your cuticles. When it comes to dry skin, cuticles are one of the first places to fall victim. That’s because there isn’t a lot of moisture there to begin with. When traveling, be sure to keep hand cream, or — even better — cuticle oil in your carry-on. These products will help you nourish your cuticles and keep them from cracking, bleeding, and causing you some serious discomfort.