Taking Care Of Your Skin Post-Flight Is Key For A Healthy Traveling Complexion

Nobody likes wasting time on boring chores or routines during a big travel adventure. And between balancing all the logistics and anticipation of your trip, it's easy to let things fall through the cracks. But whether you're trying to make a good impression on a work trip or want to look your very best for all those vacation selfies, skincare is one everyday consideration that can't be left behind when you travel.

"The skin is an organ, and like all organs, it functions best when it's in a state of equilibrium," plastic surgeon Lara Devgan tells Allure. "Our home environment is like a little microbiome, a mini-world, and when we disrupt the natural conditions of that world, we're giving our environment a little earthquake. The aftershocks of that earthquake can show up as irritation, dermatitis, and acne." In other words, travel can leave your complexion looking for a little normalcy, and skimping on your skincare routine is bound to make matters even worse.

Of course, big trips can be busy and stressful. Your head is probably buzzing as you try to keep track of tickets, get everywhere on time, and avoid common packing mistakes. By the time you finally arrive at your destination, it can be tempting to fall face-first into bed — or to skip sleep for now and immediately run out to see the sights. But before you do either, it's crucial to set the tone by giving your skin a quick refresh. To keep your complexion happy throughout your trip, don't forget to give it sufficient attention before, during, and especially after your flight.

How traveling and jet lag impact your skin

If you've ever taken a long trip, you're probably well acquainted with the concept of jet lag and know that it's notorious for disrupting your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm. But you might not realize that it can also have a noticeable effect on the health of your skin. Sleep disruption is a major risk factor that can quickly undermine the quality and clarity of your complexion. 

"Rest is incredibly important for cell turnover and skin recovery — in fact, regeneration happens three times as fast while asleep," dermatologist Gary Goldfaden tells British Vogue. Turns out the age-old concept of beauty sleep as a skincare savior may have real clout, as sleep deprivation is tied to various consequences — such as dark under-eye circles, premature signs of aging, poor moisture retention, and acne.

Sadly, when it comes to traveling's impact on your complexion, jet lag is only the tip of the iceberg. As Goldfaden expounds, "Stressful security checks, unhealthy airport food, omnipresent air conditioning, cabin pressure, and dry air can all wreak havoc on even the most resilient complexions."

Many travelers also struggle to normalize their skincare routine while traveling, which adds fuel to the fire. "In this day and age of restrictions on bringing creams and lotions on planes, many people will leave their usual products at home and use whatever is provided to them at a hotel or resort," dermatologist Scott Flugman tells Everyday Health. "These products frequently contain fragrances and preservatives that may further compound the usual travel-related dry skin problems." 

Long story short? The whole travel experience is fraught with obstacles to clear, glowing skin. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take throughout your trip to help your skin weather the journey.

How to prep your complexion for travel

There are two schools of thought around getting ready for travel — those who dress to the nines just to navigate busy airport terminals and those who show up basically in their pajamas. In the same vein, travelers' beauty routines can run the gamut from a totally bare face or everyday makeup look to a full face of extra-glam cosmetics. But for the health of your complexion, you may want to start prioritizing skincare over makeup as you travel.

To take the best care of your skin throughout a stressful flight, it seems that little to no makeup is the best choice. "You'll already be submitting your skin to harsh conditions when flying — adding makeup into the mix just makes it harder for your skin to maintain a healthy balance," board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav tells W Magazine. However, skincare is another matter entirely, and it's important to prep your complexion before exposing it to the severe conditions on an airplane.

For the very best pre-travel routine, try the following. Start in the days before your departure by drinking plenty of water, which will encourage lasting hydration. On the day of your flight, double-cleanse your face for a clean, fresh start to the trip. Then apply an SPF of 30 or higher — which you should be doing every day, by the way. Finish up with the richest moisturizer that works with your skin. This will help ensure that your skin is protected against dryness and irritation from environmental stressors as you travel.

Mid-flight tips for healthy skin

You might be accustomed to completing your skincare routine at certain times of day, like right after waking up and just before going to sleep. But during travel, things might not be so clear-cut. Especially if you're on a long journey — flight itineraries from the U.S. to Australia can take 19 hours or more hours one-way! — waiting to touch up your skincare could mean an unusually long gap where your complexion is getting no love.

Depending on your skin type, leaving your complexion to its own devices for too long could leave it parched or oily, not to mention the general grubby feeling you may get after extensive travel. To ensure your skin doesn't end up veering too far in either direction, indulge in some quick skincare during the flight.

If your face is oiling up, keep some face wipes or oil-absorbing blotting sheets handy to perform an on-the-spot mini-cleanse. After that, it's all about maintaining moisture. One easy way to top up your waning hydration is with a restorative face mist. Then, seal in this freshness by topping up your moisturizer. You may also want to apply layers of moisture-rich lip balm and eye cream to protect the extra-delicate skin in these areas. And don't forget to sip on some water throughout your day of travel, to ensure you're hydrated both inside and out.

Reset your skincare routine post-arrival

At last, we come to our key final step: reviving your complexion after your flight has arrived. Don't delay this vital self-care too long. As Persaud notes, "After just one night of disrupted sleep, you can see the impact on your skin with dehydration and dark circles. This means that while jet lag may not show on your skin as you land, it may become more evident as your week goes on if you're not able to reset your routine quickly."

Fortunately, preventing this downturn doesn't require anything too outlandish. One of the best ways to perfect your travel skincare routine is to simply keep it consistent with the products you normally use at home. Treat yourself to cute, travel-sized editions of everything in your regimen, or transfer them into generic travel containers. Maintaining your routine provides your complexion with some normalcy, plus helps you avoid using cheap, hotel-provided products.

Post-flight, it's also important to cleanse your skin and restore any hydration it may have lost during the journey. Whether in the airport bathroom or in the privacy of your hotel, make it a point to run through some basic skin maintenance ASAP. First, cleanse away any dirt, makeup, and other debris that may have accumulated during the trip. If you can, consider indulging in a mask. Rather than choosing a purifying or exfoliating product, be sure to opt for something soothing.

Finally, treat your skin to a rejuvenating moisturizer. You may even want to layer a hyaluronic acid serum underneath for peak hydration. With your skin reset and your usual routine ready to see you through the rest of the trip, you can set your complexion up for healthy radiance no matter your destination!