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Skin School  >   Acne Basics

Why You're Experiencing Airplane Acne

Woohoo! It’s finally time to shut off your computer and get away from the city! If you ever left a flight with a pimple right after, know that you’re not alone! Being over 30,000 feet in the air does something to your skin. And arriving to new places, experiencing different climates and eating new foods is going to shake things up in your body. But don’t worry! You can prevent travel breakouts by taking precautions and bringing with you the right products. 


Probably the easiest reason that’ll cause you to break out. Planning trip activities or running late to the airport gives you a massive pre-flight cortisol spike. And during your vacation, navigating through the city and trying to find the best restaurant that your friends and family will all like (and won’t hate you for)... that’s tough. With your stress levels so high, your hormone levels will also rise to prepare the body for the stressful experience–and then your hormones and androgens will lead to breakouts! 

Quick fix: Prep early and meditate. If you plan super ahead, then you won’t freak out at the last minute. And sitting on a plane may be the only time to meditate for some of us. 

RELATED READ: Meditation for Your Mind, Body, and Acne

Jet lag

If you’ve ever traveled to Europe or Asia, you probably understand the struggle of falling asleep at night. Jumping between time zones confuses your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock). And when you don’t get enough sleep, your body increases inflammation and release more stress hormones (cortisol) that’ll produce more sebum and oil. For example, if you’re flying to Asia, trying to fall asleep at night is hard. Your circadian rhythm still thinks you’re in it’s 11AM in New York when it’s actually 11pm in Taiwan. And if your not getting enough sleep, then what you have to do is to fix your sleep. 

Quick fix: The #1 thing that affects your circadian rhythm is light. Sleep psychology proves to us that if you’re travelling east, your body is in advanced sleep phase so take melatonin and wear sunglasses at night and expose yourself to bright light in the AM. If you’re traveling west, then you’re having a delayed sleep phase: expose yourself to bright light at night and take melatonin and wear sunglasses in the AM

hand grabbing travel skincare products from dopp kit

Routine revamp

The most difficult thing to pack is trying to fit our complicated 10-step skincare routine into a plastic bag. We’ve got products our skin needs but we’re forced to leave home because of TSA’s liquid limit–thus opting for minis or sample products that our skin isn’t used to. And when we don’t have our favorite toner with us, our skin sometimes freak out because she’s missing her holy grail serum!

Quick fix: Use a gentle chemical exfoliant. This will help you maintain fresh skin by removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores wherever you are. Use it twice a week or as necessary. 

Climate changes

Global warming is real–and the earth is getting warmer. But summer is still vastly different everywhere. If you’re hopping between cities that are far apart, your skin won’t be used to New York’s humid 90º weather when your entire life has been about soaking up the Malibu sun. With your body shifting temperatures so rapidly, breakouts are very common in warmer cities due to sweat and bacteria. 

Quick fix: Use products high in antioxidants–it’ll kill the free radicals trying to attack your skin. And of course, wear sunscreen and reapply every two hours!   


We’ve spoken about how your diet and gut health greatly affects your skin. And it’s very easy to let healthy eating go when you’re on holiday (we’re guilty of that too!). But this is another common cause to skin changes while traveling. Trying new cuisines, drinking a different country’s water, or treating yourself to lots of sweets and alcohol–your gut won’t like that! 

Quick fix: You don’t need to give up food to have clear skin! But you can control your food intake by eating a good amount of low-glycemic foods and drinking plenty of water. 

RELATED READ: The Gut-Skin Connection


Cabin air pressure is a mixture of air from outside the plane and recycled air inside the plane. The World Health Organization reports that the humidity in aircraft is usually less than 20%, while the humidity in our homes is normally over 30%. Low humidity causes your skin to be dehydrated–sound familiar to you? Yep, this usually happens about a few hours into the flight and now you’re feeling dry and icky not just on your skin, but also in your eyes, nose and mouth. Dehydrated skin also comes with other problems too, such as producing excess oil and sebum. 

Quick fix: The truth is that recycled air holds more moisture and the back of the plane has more people, thus creating more moisture in the air... so choose your seat wisely! Make sure you drink a full glass of water hourly, bring with you a hydrating moisturizer, facial mist or even sheet mask if you dare! 

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