Tips For Perfecting Your Travel Skincare Routine

Even those with the most perfected and religiously followed skincare routines struggle to adapt that routine to accommodate their travel plans. Limited luggage space and TSA laws that prohibit you from carrying liquids in large amounts tend to leave travelers with not a lot of extra room for their full selection of go-to skincare products.

Not only are you limited to the number of products you use while on the go, but traveling by commercial methods and even taking a road trip in your car can dry out your skin due to the temperature control systems. "All travel methods, especially planes and trains, involve large commercial vehicles with artificial air circulation systems," says dermatologist Scott Flugman, MD, via Everyday Health. "This results in prolonged exposure to dry heating and cooling methods, which can result in a significant loss of moisture in the skin."

Additionally, delayed flights and traffic on the way to the airport can contribute to stress — which Harvard Medical School attributes as being a contributor to skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. While a busy travel schedule might leave you tempted to skip your skincare altogether, and fun vacation plans may steal your focus and leave you forgetting to apply the essentials; you don't have to abandon your skincare routine every time you take a trip — it's possible to perfect it.

Hydrate from the inside out

Even if you are vacationing in a tropical destination with a humid climate, your skin is still prone to significant dehydration while traveling. According to Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a clinical instructor in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, your skin naturally craves a humidity level between 40 to 70 percent. "Most airplane cabins are at about 20 percent. That's less than half of what we are used to," she adds (per Allure). Exposing your skin to hydration levels that are lower than this leaves you susceptible to dehydrated skin.

To best combat the realities of dry air while traveling, it's best to start prepping in the days leading up to your departure — and experts say the best way to do so is simply by drinking water. A 2015 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology found that increasing your water intake by two liters a day over a month was linked to more hydrated overall skin. Upping your hydration levels starting a few days before your departure and continuing through your return will give your skin and body the best chance at staying hydrated. You might want to replace your pre-flight cocktail with water, as U.S. Dermatology Partners notes that alcohol can dry out your skin and lead to signs of early aging, like fine lines and wrinkles.

Try to stick to your usual products

As a general rule of thumb, it's always best to use the skincare products that you would use at home while you are traveling if you can. That way, your skin won't have to adjust to new products, and you won't risk any adverse reactions or breakouts while on vacation. "If you know your skincare routine works, you should stick with it, even when traveling," dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, says via Everyday Health.

While it's always possible to fill empty, travel-sized plastic bottles with your favorite creams and cleansers to accommodate air travel laws, Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, the president and a co-founder of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut, and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital recommends instead opting for existing travel-sized versions of your regular products whenever you can. "Most skin care needs to be stored in a specific way to preserve its effectiveness, so don't pour it into a travel-sized bottle without doing your homework first," she says (per Everyday Health). She adds that specific serums, for example, might not retain their effectiveness when poured into generic jars, as most need to be stored in dark bottles to protect them from light exposure and heat. Basic products like cleansers, however, are usually fine to transfer to an empty toiletry bottle if you have to.

Avoid complimentary hotel products

While the free soaps and moisturizers in your hotel room might be tempting (who doesn't love free stuff? And the packaging? So cute), experts say it's probably better to avoid using them altogether and plan to bring your go-to products from home. According to Scott Flugman, complimentary travel skincare products "frequently contain fragrances and preservatives that may further compound the usual travel-related dry skin problems" (per Everyday Health). Added fragrance can be of particular concern for people with sensitive skin. Dr. Diane Madfes, the consulting dermatologist for Garnier, adds that fragrance can lead to red, itchy skin and even hives.

In addition to the skincare products at your hotel probably not being of the highest quality and containing potential skin irritants, it's not ideal for introducing your skin to many products it's not yet used. Packing travel-sized bottles of your favorite products to bring with you and sticking with products you know your skin loves is the best way to avoid your vacation photos being ruined by any rashes or breakouts.

Step up the SPF

While you should wear some form of SPF every day to protect your skin from the sun, it's exponentially more important to slather it on before flying. And while you may be tempted to skip the sunscreen on travel days since you'll be inside the shelter of the plane, experts say you're more exposed to direct sunlight on a plane than you might think — after all, for every passenger who wants to close the window shade to take a nap, another wants to leave theirs open to look at the clouds.

As it turns out, your skin is far more susceptible to UV exposure from the sun while flying than it is while you are on the ground. A 2015 study analyzed pilot exposure to UV radiation levels while flying and found that 56 minutes exposes a person to the same carcinogenic radiation levels as 20 minutes in a tanning bed. Even if you pull down the window shade, you aren't entirely protected, as the plastic doesn't wholly filter all sunlight. "Unless your airplane blinds are made of metal, which reflects all UV, they won't completely block out all those rays," says dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross (per The Cut). Taking the time to ensure you thoroughly and adequately apply your SPF before boarding your flight (and ensuring you reapply if you have a layover or a long duration) will help defend your complexion.

Focus on the essentials

If you have limited space in your luggage and aren't able to bring all your favorite products with you, don't worry — experts say it's fine to skip certain aspects of your regular skincare routine and pack the absolute essentials. While leaving behind your favorite bottle of serum or facial mist may be difficult, you can rest easy knowing skipping them for a bit won't completely throw you off your skincare game. "If [you're] traveling somewhere which necessitates light packing, I consider the essentials to be: Sunscreen with at least SPF 30, makeup wipes, facial cleanser, and nighttime moisturizer," says Carol Cheng, M.D., health sciences Assistant Clinical Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Director of the Acne Procedure Clinic at UCLA Medical Center (per SELF). Additionally, dermatologist Shari Lipner, M.D. adds that if you are prescribed topical medication for your skin by a doctor, you should always consider that to be an essential, as stopping your medication unplanned can have adverse effects and lead to a flare-up of the condition your medication was prescribed for.

If you are struggling with limited space, bringing multi-tasking products is also a good idea, so you don't need to pack as many. For example, instead of packing your mattifying setting spray, bring the makeup setting spray that doubles as a facial hydrator so you feel better about leaving your serum at home.