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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Airplanes, travel, and skin care: Help for dehydrated skin

Have you ever wondered what the effects of air travel are on our bodies? Certainly humans were not designed to fly. Our digestive systems, for instance, work in conjunction with the earth’s gravitational pull. So what really happens to the digestive process 30,000 feet up in the sky? Perhaps you’ve even experienced indigestion after taking a flight somewhere. Other than the possibility of bad airplane food and dehydration, isn’t it possible poor digestion comes from the change in altitude? (Unless you fly 1st Class, you aren’t “served” food up in the air anymore, so what you eat is in your control.)

Not only do our inner organs have to adapt to the altitude, but our outermost organ—our skin—seems to take the brunt of all things bad in an airplane as well. Although this environment isn’t ideal for optimum health or healthy skin, there are several things you can do before, during, and after your flight that will do wonders for keeping your skin in tiptop shape and help to make your traveling experience more enjoyable. Follow some or all of the suggestions here and in (2) future blog posts on air travel and you may find your skin (and body) feeling better when you fly.

Curbing dehydration. Dehydration is the number one concern when you are flying. Ask any flight attendant and they will tell you, dry (dehydrated) skin is a chronic problem. Misting your face with water is the best and most immediate way to get moisture to your thirsty skin. You can purchase small Evian® water bottles that spray, or you can make your own. Get a travel-size plastic bottle at your grocery or drug store and fill it with clean, filtered water. I mention clean water because why spray chlorinated tap water on your face? You are trying to improve the conditions for your skin during your flight, not reinforce negative ones.

If you have already put your toner in a spray bottle (something I talk about often and highly recommend), you can use this instead of plain water to mist your face with. Not only will you receive superficial hydrating benefits due to the toner’s high water-content, you will also get the benefits of all the other soothing ingredients from your product. Obviously, if you are using an astringent-type toner that contains alcohol—something I do not recommend—this would not be appropriate to spray on your face. Even the word astringent brings to mind something that would be drying. Small, travel-sized spray bottles are widely available in stores or online.

The next order of business is exfoliation. I will repeat that word over and over again since it is one of the most important things you can do to help your skin survive air travel.
  • Getting rid of the dead cell buildup will go a long way to helping your skin retain water, which you lose a lot of when you fly.
  • Lessening the dead skin also allows any hydrating products you’ve put on your face do a better job of moisturizing.
  • The fewer dead cells a moisturizer has to penetrate, the better it will work, and the more hydrated your skin will feel.
  • Finally, while exfoliating improves and refines the texture of your skin, it also increases the blood circulation to your face, bringing out the natural, healthy color of your skin. 
You should consider exfoliating the day of your flight, getting your skin ready for what’s to come. Exfoliating ahead of time will diminish the amount of cell buildup on your face so anything you do to hydrate the skin will be more effective. Less dead cells equals better quality hydration.

You may not have thought of doing this, but if you are on a long flight (I consider long over five hours), you might try exfoliating en route. When I went to Australia several years ago, I was in the bathroom of the plane exfoliating (a couple of times) during the 15-plus hour flight. Although the quarters were cramped, exfoliating helped my skin combat the extreme dryness from the airplane.

I even have a client who exfoliates right at her seat! She always flies first class and her attitude is, “If someone thinks it’s weird, so be it. At least my skin will feel good!” She puts a towel on her lap and does a gommage right then and there on the plane.

I choose to exfoliate in the bathroom, but however or wherever you feel most comfortable doing it, do exfoliate on long (or even short) flights. Your skin will reap the rewards. And if you do it at your seat, you might even strike up an interesting conversation with someone sitting next to you.

I also recommend exfoliating upon arrival at the hotel or wherever you are staying. Obviously you can wait until you are getting ready for bed, but do exfoliate before retiring on the day you reach your destination. Your skin will benefit from getting all the dirt, debris, and unclean air out of your pores along with lessening the dry, dead cells on the surface of your skin. Don’t hesitate—exfoliate!

For some additional insurance to keep your skin hydrated during your flight, try using a hydrating elixir or mask under your moisturizer. An elixir might come in the form of a special oil or serum, which will not only add a lot of moisture to your skin but will also act as a humectant, drawing in moisture from the air.

Elixirs (especially oils) are best used by those of you with normal to dry or true-dry skin. If you have an oilier complexion or problem skin, I would recommend using a gel-type hydrating mask or glycerin product underneath your moisturizer. These will essentially do the same thing as an elixir without adding extra oil to your already oily skin. (Actually, any skin type can use the gel mask or glycerin approach, but oils should only be used by those of you with drier—oil dry—skin types.)

Whether you travel a lot, or even just a little, there are ways to help your skin get through the sometimes rough time it goes through when flying. For more information, see: