10 Ways to Protect Your Skin on a Long Haul Flight

woman with red bag at the airport

While you may board the plane looking fresh and dewy, flying can really take its toll on your skin. To help your skin to maintain its natural glow while you are 30,000 feet in the air, here are 10 ways in which you can protect your skin on a long haul flight.

1. Some Extra TLC Before Your Flight

Preparing your skin for a long haul flight needs to begin a day or two before you travel.

Having a facial a couple of days before will help to give your skin an extra boost of nutrients and moisture, strengthening it just in time for your journey.

The night before you are travelling, apply a moisturizing facial mask to your skin. The most hydrating masks will contain ingredients such as:

  • Jojoba oil
  • Honey
  • Olive oil
  • Aloe vera

2. Remove Any Makeup

Many people board a plane with a face full of makeup, but this can be extremely detrimental to your skin. Leaving your skin bare is the best option, but, if the thought of navigating the airport without any makeup on is too frightening, you can always remove your makeup as soon as you board the plane.

steps to remove makeup

What will happen if you don’t?

Well, not only will the dry cabin air suck all of the moisture from your skin, leaving your makeup looking flaky and cakey, but your makeup will also prevent any moisturizer from penetrating into your skin.

An oil cleanser is the best way to go when removing makeup on a plane, as this will not only cleanse your skin, but nourish and protect it at the same time. Alternatively, a micellar water along with a cotton pad is a quick and convenient way to remove your makeup without having to leave your seat.

Don’t want to bring a cleanser on board with you?

In that case, give makeup remover wipes a try. Although these do leave a bit of residue on your skin, this will still be far better for you than leaving your makeup on.

If you feel as though your skin really does need some extra coverage during your journey, opt for a tinted moisturizer instead, and opt for cream-based makeup formulas instead of powders. 

3. Keep Moisturizing

The air in a plane cabin is pressurized and recycled, meaning that it is usually extremely dry. On average, a plane cabin will contain around 12% humidity, which is even drier than the majority of deserts around the world. 

This means that, even if your skin is soft, supple and hydrated when boarding, it is likely to quickly become parched and rough during a long haul flight.

So, what can you do about this?

Your best tool in this situation is a hydrating moisturizer, but, due to the dry air, your standard moisturizer may not work as well as it does when you are on the ground. The best ingredients to look for in a moisturizer that you will be taking with you on a long haul flight are:

  • Hyaluronic acid – a natural sugar molecule that can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water
  • Ceramides – these are lipid molecules that strengthen the epidermis and protect against moisture loss

A moisturizer will protect your skin by forming a thin layer over its surface. This not only prevents germs and bacteria from entering your skin’s layers, but also keeps moisture in, stopping it from evaporating.

effects of moisturizer

To Mist or Not to Mist?

Facial mists are often extremely popular on planes, because many people believe that they are hydrating and refreshing their skin by giving it a spritz of the mist.

However, this is not at all true…

While it may feel great to give your face a spray of moisture, this water will end up evaporating from your skin, into the dry air, in no time at all, which will then leave your skin even drier than before. As tempting as it may be to use a facial mist, you will be best off giving this a miss.

Facial Oils

If you can tell that your moisturizer is simply not going to cut it, you may want to also bring a facial oil on board with you. These will provide your skin with pure moisture, and will evaporate much slower than a regular moisturizer will.

Do you stay away from facial oils because you have oily skin?

While you may think that adding oil to oily skin will only make your oiliness much worse, this is actually a myth. Instead, a facial oil will help to rebalance your skin’s natural oil production, resulting in a less oily complexion in the end.

Massage your facial oil in gently, concentrating on your cheeks, forehead and chin in particular. By giving your skin this little massage, you will also be boosting your circulation, which would have otherwise decreased due to the high altitude.

4. Apply Some Sunscreen

While you may think that being enclosed in a plane will protect you from the sun’s UV rays, plane windows do not filter this out. Not only are you around 30,000 feet physically closer to the sun, but you are much more susceptible to radiation due to thinner air, making sunscreen essential. 

When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, you have two options:

  • A chemical sunscreen – these are the easiest to find in stores, and contain chemicals that absorb UV rays, preventing them from penetrating into the skin.
  • A physical sunscreen – these contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and work by reflecting and scattering UV rays.

If you have dry or sensitive skin, a physical sunscreen will be more suited for your skin type, as the chemicals in a chemical sunscreen can sometimes irritate the skin.

physical vs chemical sunscreen

5. Hydrate From Within

Those mini bottles of alcohol can often make a long haul flight so much more bearable, but, unless you want to dehydrate your skin even more, you should stay well away from these. In addition to alcohol, you should also try to avoid these other dehydrating ingredients:

  • Coffee
  • Soft Drinks
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Fat

Instead, stick to water, or even herbal teas and drinks that contain electrolytes, as these are the best for hydrating your body.

How much water do you need to drink?

If you want to keep your skin fully hydrated while in the air, the general rule of thumb is one standard-sized bottle of water for every hour that you are on the plane.  

Yes, this might mean that you end up spending more time than usual queuing for the toilet, but healthy and glowing skin makes this more than worth it!

In addition to drinking plenty of water, you should also be opting for hydrating foods whenever possible. Fruit is a great snack to eat on a plane, as the natural sugars will help to satisfy any sweet cravings, and the antioxidants will give your skin an extra dose of nutrients.

in-flight meals

6. Blot Oily Skin

While the main skin problem when flying is dryness, a long haul flight can also contribute to an increase in breakouts for those who have oily skin.


Well, when oily skin becomes dehydrated, oil production increases in order to combat this dryness. This extra oil, along with all the bacteria that your skin will pick up from the plane, gets trapped underneath the skin, which will then likely result in breakouts the next day.

This is not such an issue for shorter flights, but, on a longer flight, it is important that you continuously blot your skin to reduce the amount of excess oil that settles into it.

If you do not have any oil-blotting papers, tissue will work almost as well, but be sure to just gently pat your skin rather than rubbing it.

7. Turn Off the Air Blower

The majority of planes feature individual air blowers above each seat, and while this may feel great if you are feeling particularly warm, having this air constantly blowing on to your skin will dry it out so quickly.

If it is not possible to turn your individual air blower off, simply twist it so that it is pointing away from you.

8. Wash Your Hands

While it is essential to apply moisturizer and other skin-hydrating products during your flight, there is no point doing this with dirty hands.

Planes are full of bacteria and germs, and these will no doubt end up on your hands during your journey. Rather than transferring all of this to your face, make sure that you only touch your face when you have clean hands.

But, don’t forget…

Each time you wash your hands, you need to apply a layer of hand cream or moisturizer to them. If not, the skin on your hands will end up drying out, and will look rough and wrinkled by the time you land.

9. Get Some Sleep

When you are asleep, your body works to heal and repair itself, and this applies to your skin too. In addition to directly benefiting your skin, getting some shut-eye will also help to reduce the stress that comes with travelling, decreasing the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, within your body. 

Since cortisol contributes to a number of skin issues, it is extremely important to keep this in check while travelling.

Do you find it difficult to sleep on a plane?

Here are some ideas that you can try:

  • Pick a window seat – this will mean that you can lean against the side of the plane and rest your head on this, rather than having to try to fall asleep upright. A window seat also means that you can control your light exposure, and will not have to deal with annoying neighbours opening and closing the blinds while you are trying to get some rest.
  • Stretch out – if you can book yourself a seat that has extra legroom, this will really help you to sleep, and will also be much better for your circulation.
  • Bring some home comforts – bringing some home comforts onto the plane with you will help to relax you, making it easier to drift off. Whether this may be a blanket, warm socks, an eye mask or some soothing playlists, these items will really help you to feel comfortable and at-home.
  • Lean back – when trying to sleep on a plane, always recline your seat. This reduces the pressure that your lower spine experiences, making it easier for your body to relax.

woman sleeping

10. Cleanse and Exfoliate Once You Land

Your skin is exposed to so many different pollutants on a long haul flight, and these need to be cleared away as soon as you land.

For those who travel with a cleanser, this can be used quickly as soon as you are off the plane, and then followed up with a layer of moisturizer. Once you arrive at your final destination, it is then important for you to exfoliate your skin

Why is exfoliation so important?

Well, while cleansing clears away the dirt and bacteria on the surface of your skin, exfoliation goes a little deeper. Since you will have been travelling for a while, you will likely have quite a bit of oil and dirt settled into your pores, and this is something that a cleanser will simply not be able to properly reach.

After exfoliating, apply a hydrating facial mask, or use a hydrating moisturizer, as these will help to add some extra moisture back to your skin.


A long haul flight means that you will have likely travelled quite a distance, and will be in a location where the climate is quite different from where you previously were. This means that you need to tailor your skin care routine to your new environment.

How can you do this?

If you are in a hot and humid environment, opt for a stronger cleanser to tackle the extra oil, and a lighter lotion rather than a thick moisturizer to allow your skin to breathe.

If you are somewhere cold and dry, a rich and greasy moisturizer will help to protect your skin, but make sure that all of the ingredients that you apply to your skin are mild and gentle, as your skin will be much more susceptible to damage and irritation in this environment. 

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