4 Things that Happen to Your Skin in Flight


Whether you travel regularly for business or are getting packed for a long-awaited weekender away from it all, your skincare routine doesn’t stop the minute you leave the ground. When you board that plane, there are a few skin stressors you need to consider. One of The Derm Group’s board-certified dermatologists in New Jersey, Avnee Shah, M.D., shares her top tips for taking care of your skin when flying.


Stressor 1: Decreased Humidity

A combination of low cabin humidity and artificial air pressure can be very drying on your skin and mucosa (moist tissue that lines certain parts of the inside of your body, including your mouth, nose, lungs, and stomach). Skin dehydration can also be compounded by drinking alcohol in flight. Sorry.

What You Can Do About Dry Skin and Mucosal Dehydration

There are a few ways to combat decreased humidity on a plane. For one, apply moisturizer before you board, and reapply on board. Try hydrating eye drops and 1-2 pumps of nasal spray in each nostril every 2-3 hours. It may also help to thwart illness due to stagnation of recirculated air. For your lips, apply Vaseline or a similar emollient. And while it may be embarrassing, you can also apply a hydrating face and/or eye mask. Your face may go viral, but your skin will thank you for it.

Stressor 2: Fluid Retention

Between being sedentary throughout the flight and all those salty snacks and drinks the flight attendants offer, your body and skin can really start to retain fluids. This can cause bloating, puffiness, and swelling.

What You Can Do About Fluid Retention in Flight

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and avoid high-sodium snacks and drinks. Wear compression stockings during long flights, and walk around when you can to keep your circulation flowing.

Stressor 3: Increased Skin Cancer Risk

Because you are at a higher altitude, you can be exposed to more UV rays than normal, particularly if you are in a window seat. According to Dr. Shah, “Studies have shown that flight staff tend to have higher risks of melanoma due to regular exposure to higher levels of UV radiation.” 

What You Can Do About UV Exposure on Planes

Simply put: wear sunscreen. 

Stressor 4: Travel Stress Can Trigger Inflammation

“Whether it’s flight cancellations, last-minute travel prep, running to your gate, or a generalized fear of flying, you are likely to encounter one or more travel situations where your stress increases,” says Dr. Shah. “Stress happens to be one of the most common triggers for a flare of any inflammatory skin condition, from acne to eczema.”

What You Can Do About Skin Disease Flare-ups

If you are prone to breakouts, remove makeup before your flight and carry acne medication with you. “Dabbing a pea-sized amount after cleansing your face should aid in preventing a major flare,” says Dr. Shah. And don’t forget to clean your travel pillow. It’s one of the more overlooked triggers for in-flight breakouts.

If you have an inflammatory skin condition such as eczema, try to maintain your regular skincare routine. Apply moisturizers regularly, and keep you your medication schedules. Routine is important here.

For further guidance on skin care while traveling, Request a Consultation with The Derm Group online or call us at (973) 571-2121.