How To Prevent Plane Breakouts In 3 Simple Steps

Because airplane acne is a real thing!


When I was little, I absolutely loved flying. Not only did I enjoy the overall experience of being on a plane, I even found turbulence exciting. “Let’s do that again!” I’d exclaim after the plane stopped rocking, while my parents gripped the armrests with white-knuckled fear.
Now that I’m older and less blissfully ignorant, I’m less enthused about flying. Sure, I love travelling. But every time there’s the slightest bit of turbulence my heart races and I jump to crazy conclusions. Plus, there’s the fact that unless you’re in first class (#goals), it’s generally pretty cold and uncomfortable on the plane. But possibly the most unpleasant thing about air travel is the fact that even on short domestic flights, my skin always seems to freak out.

It’s rare for me to leave the aircraft without a smattering of spots that most definitely weren’t there before. I know I’m not alone either, as most of my friends and colleagues have confessed that they’re plagued by the dreaded aircraft acne, too. As for why it’s a thing? There are a few different reasons. Firstly, the air on planes is extremely dry — the humidity is usually below 20%. To put that into perspective, the average humidity in Sydney is around 60%. The dry air dehydrates the top layers of skin, which causes your oil glands to go into overdrive to produce sebum in attempt to correct the balance.
Couple this oil overproduction with airborne bacteria, dodgy plane food and the stress of flying and you’ve got yourself a one-way ticket to breakout city. Oh, and speaking of stress on the body, this is made much worse when you’re crossing time zones (and happen to be female).

When you are flying east-west, you’re crossing multiple time zones and that means at a certain point, your internal clock has to be reset. It’s very stressful to your body, which deals with stress by secreting cortisone from you adrenal gland. But every time the adrenal gland makes some cortisone, it also leaks a little bit of male hormone, androgen, out at the same time. In men who have normally high levels of male hormone, that little bit of male hormone doesn’t make any difference. But in women, who normally have low levels of male hormone, that extra little bit of male hormone makes a big difference.

-Dr. Neal Schultz, NYC Dermatologist and creator of Beauty Rx, via Marie Claire.

Obviously, the last thing you want before you go on your long-awaited holiday is a breakout. While there’s no way to guarantee it won’t happen, there are a few simple things you can do before, during and after your flight to minimise the damage. Scroll through the gallery to find out how.

How to prevent airplane acne

Before your flight

  • Cleanse well: If you have a Clarisonic (or another electronic facial cleansing brush), the day before your flight is the time to use it! Your skin needs a really good cleanse to avoid dry skin buildup. Better yet, if you can, treat yourself to a facial with extractions a few days before you’re due to jet off.
  • Take it off: Leaving your makeup on during your flight is an absolute no-no. Your skin has enough to contend with, it doesn’t need to be irritated by a layer of makeup! If you really can’t deal with the thought of wandering through the airport bare-faced, take some makeup wipes like Neutrogena’s Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes to remove it after take-off.
  • Apply a serum: Applying a serum before your flight is essential for not only providing hydrating to counteract with the dry air but also providing a layer of protection against it. We recommend Hylamide Pore Control, as it’s specially formulated to control sebum production.

During your flight

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  • Get your blot on: Once you’re on the plane, you’re going to want to do something to soak up the excess moisture. That’s why blotting papers are an absolute must-have in your carry-on luggage. We’re fans of the Not So Slick Oil-Absorbing Blotting Papers from natural beauty brand, Tarte.
  • Apply moisturiser: While many celebs and models swear by spritzing a face mid-flight, this actually doesn’t do much to rehydrate the skin (it may perk you up a bit, though!) This is because when air is dry, it looks for water wherever it can — so it actually robs the skin of that added moisture! Instead, apply a layer of a high quality, hydrating moisturiser as this will actually be absorbed into the skin. We love Drunk Elephant’s Lala Retro Whipped Cream.

After your flight

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  • Scrub it off: So, you managed to get off the plane without any major breakouts. Yay! But it’s not over yet. Once you get to your hotel (or home), it’s a good idea to scrub your face with a mild exfoliant. This is because when all the oil from the plane gets stuck behind a layer of dry skin, that’s when the breakouts strike. Our pick is Dr Brandt’s Pore Dermabrasion.
  • Do a mask: To help your skin get its glow back, it’s worth apply a hydrating mask. We love Frank Body’s Glow Mask, because it only takes 5 minutes (so you can slap it on while you’re unpacking your suitcase!)

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