I fly many air miles a year; mainly between North America and Europe, and one thing is certain: Extended periods of time in flight are simply terrible for the skin!
One main reason for this regrettable fact: Despite numerous ergonomic and technological advances in passenger aircrafts over the decades, little progress has been made concerning cabin air systems.
An estimated 50% of cabin air on a modern aircraft is recycled, because vacuuming fresh air from the outside of a cabin uses copious amounts of energy and fuel. Airlines are under increasing pressure to reduce fuel costs, and price competition between carriers today is fierce. Therefore, little incentive exists for airlines to reduce the use of recycled air, and there is currently no legislation in place to restrict the recirculation of air, nor any minimum standards on aircraft filtration systems.
Recycled air is detrimental to the skin because filtration systems eradicate much of the moisture from the air – normal air humidity is between 40% and 70%, but in an aircraft cabin humidity drops to about 20%. Recycled air also creates a particularly germ infested environment that contributes to facilitate the spread of colds, flu and other airborne diseases.
On a short flight, this isn’t too much of an issue, as our bodies are able to cope with short-term environmental changes; but, on long-haul flights (any trip over three hours), recycled air dehydrates our bodies, which impacts the skin negatively.
In fact, dehydration on a long distance flight can be so severe that in order to maintain a normal level of hydration, a passenger would need to consume about a pint of water every three hours.
Following are my tips for maintaining healthy and hydrated skin before, during, and after airline travel:
1. Buy two large bottles of water at the terminal
Take matters into your own hands and purchase two of the largest bottles of water that you can find in a terminal store after passing through TSA screening, since you are no longer allowed to bring liquids through these checkpoints.Water bottles are usually within reach in first class. If you fly economy and, do not have enough time to buy water before boarding, do not be embarrassed to ask a flight attendant for two or three cups of water at once. Get up and walk to the flight attendant’s service area about once per hour to request more water. Getting up from one’s seat during a long flight is also essential for proper circulation and to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) from setting in.
2. Book flight time and seat assignment with care
At 35,000 feet in the air, ultraviolet rays are more intense, and radiation levels are higher – which can cause longterm damage to your the skin. To lessen this unsafe exposure, it is preferable to fly at night, when possible. Even though the sky may be dark during evening flights, be certain to draw the shade anyway in order to avoid the bright, glaring lights during takeoff and landing.With a window seat, one has better control over the shade and does not have to inconvenience another passenger with requests to close the screen. If you must fly during daylight hours, a large pair of sunglasses and a hat worn in-flight can help to shield one’s eyes and facial skin from harsh UV light. Sunscreen is imperative during such flights!
3. Remove make-up before boarding
Boarding gates are usually located close to restrooms, which makes it easy to remove make-up prior to embarking. On a flight, the last thing people are looking at is you, so don’t worry about flying au natural. Having a bare face is essential in order to maintain hydration during the flight. (TIP: Try our Luminous Cleansing Elixir!)
4. Moisturize every two to three hours
Apply moisturizer to clean skin at regular intervals mid flight. I usually reapply our Intensive Replenishing Facial Moisturizer every two to three hours, which is simply the most nourishing moisturizer I’ve ever developed. (TIP: The Retrouvé Quartet is excellent for travel, as it contains our complete collection of facial moisturizers in convenient, half-size (15 mL) bottles.) Additionally, the oil content in this formulation provides a barrier to help prevent desiccation of the skin’s moisture. In any normal situation, such frequent reapplication might be overkill, but in an airplane cabin filled with dehydrating recycled air, it can be needed.
5. Skip alcohol and caffeine
Beverages that contain alcohol never have a beneficial effect on the skin, but their consumption close to or during flight-time can be particularly detrimental. Alcohol catalyzes dehydration and will disrupt hydration efforts undertaken during flight. Caffeine is also dehydrating. It is advisable to skip both.
6. Do not take sleeping pills
Some frequent flyers swear by sleeping aids and prescription drugs such as Valium as a way to relax and fall asleep on a flight. While that might sound like an enticing proposition, falling into a deep sleep on a long haul flight is generally not a good idea (unless you can lie horizontally), as sitting upright for prolonged periods of time constricts blood flow, which can lead to DVT. Plus, if you’re in a deep sleep on a flight, you won’t be consuming any liquids at all which is crucial for the healthy appearance of your skin post flight.
7. Take a nap
Getting a bit of sleep on a long distance flight is a good idea, because our bodies repair cellular damage then. I always take earplugs, a comfortable pillow and a soft blanket that I hide under for warmth, blocking the sun and overhead lights and keeping me semi protected from nearby coughing and sneezing passengers. Comfortable noise cancellation headphones or relaxing music can be helpful for lulling the body into a nap.
After disembarking from the plane, make an effort to rehydrate post-flight with water, tea, or other clear liquids.
9. Finally, bathe and moisturize
Post flight, bathe first, then moisturize. It is important to remove the grime, germs, etc. from the flight. (Always have a change of clothing as well!) The combination of the moisture from a shower or bath and the moisturizer itself will hydrate your skin deeply. I always feel a sense of relief and gratitude to feel clean again after hours of air travel!
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