In a few days I will be taking a 13 hour direct flight from Seoul to Toronto. That’s a long-ass time to be on an airplane, but I tend to prefer direct flights rather than wasting time with layovers. However, 13 hours stuck on an airplane can be pretty brutal to your skin, so I wanted to do some research on the best ways to combat this inevitable issue.
Recently, it has become almost “trendy” to see various skincare/beauty influencers doing full-blown skincare routines during their flight.
Often complete with the trademark sheet mask application, these posts on social media can seem pretty enticing.
Skincare is very important to me, so should I be going the extra mile to also apply a full routine in-flight?
Well…not so fast…
Upon a little research, I’ve discovered that applying skincare while on an airplane is way more likely to cause more harm than good.
So leave your essence-soaked sheet mask for the hotel room when you land.
But why is it such a bad idea to apply skincare while on an airplane?
There are two major factors at play:
1. Airplanes are actually really, really gross.
Seriously, have you ever thought about how dirty an airplane is? How many germs are literally flying (ha!) around?
It’s not exactly a place where you should be continuously touching your skin, whether or not hand sanitizer is involved.
Also, airplane restrooms? Yeah…don’t put that water on your face…
Not to promote unnecessary fear-mongering, but there has been some concern over the water stored in tanks on airplanes. Those tanks get emptied and re-filled a lot without being properly cleaned out. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria you don’t want to be putting on your face (or in your mouth!).
Check out this study if you’d like to read a more scientific analysis of this issue.
Ultimately, an airplane is probably not a place to a) touch your face unnecessarily, or b) wash your face with water from the restroom sink.
OK, but what if you just bring some makeup removing wipes and avoid the potentially nasty water? Could you still do a full skincare routine without leaving your seat?
2. Airplanes are extremely dry places.
This second point is probably the most important and yet seemingly overlooked aspect of why you shouldn’t do your skincare routine on a plane.
Humidity on airplanes is super, super low. Like 10-20% low. Compare that to many of us who are probably used to levels more around 40-60%.
Beyond the fact that low humidity can be drying to skin in general, humidity levels this low can really impact your skin negatively.
Most hydrating products contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which function by pulling moisture from the air and into your skin. For most people who don’t live in extremely dry climates, ingredients like these can be wonderful for keeping skin plump, dewy, and hydrated.
But what happens when there isn’t much moisture to be pulled from the air?
It gets pulled from your skin.
Basically, water attracts water, so if your skincare products can’t pull water from the air they will actually pull it from your skin. This obviously has a completely opposite effect than intended.
So let’s say you rinse your face on a plane (or use a wipe). Now you’ve got clean skin that is already pretty depleted post-cleanse. So you go ahead and apply the rest of your routine, your essences, serums, moisturizers, etc. The problem is while you’re applying these things the low humidity levels are already at work pulling out that moisture. In the end, you’ll probably just end up being dryer than if you just avoided the routine altogether.
So if we shouldn’t apply skincare on the airplane, how should we prep our skin, especially for long-haul flights?
For a long-haul flight, especially an overnight one, applying your skincare routine at the airport before you fly is probably the best option.
For me, I plan to apply my full nightly routine at the airport, about 45 minutes to an hour before I board as to ensure things are well-absorbed before I fly.
One product ingredient that will be especially helpful before you fly is an occlusive.
Something like the Lineage Water Sleep Mask, squalane oil, or even straight up Aquaphor or Vaseline are all good options. The reason is that these will all lock in moisture, helping to prevent the dry airplane air from sucking it all out! Think of them like your skin’s bodyguard against low humidity.
I plan to apply a generous layer of an occlusive product pre-flight and hope for the best!
If you happen to be flying during the day, do not forget to apply your sunscreen! UV rays are significantly higher on airplanes, something many folks tend to forget!
Another tip for keeping your skin hydrated during a long-haul flight is a simple one, drink a ton of water (from a bottle, that is…)
Our bodies are also at risk for dehydration so it’s really important to drink water, this will also probably help you feel better overall.
Do not do your skincare routine while in-flight, do it before you board
Do not use the water in the restrooms on your face
Do not touch your face unnecessarily
Drink tons of water
Apply an occlusive before you fly to help protect your skin from moisture loss
The main take-away here is that airplanes are not really suitable for skincare routines, plain and simple.
It is better to do a full-blown routine after you land and are comfortably at your next destination! You want to whip out your fancy 100-step routine?
Save it for the hotel!