The Travel Skincare Habits That Actually Make A Difference (And Which Are BS)

According to experts.

Updated 10/11/19
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 Hallie Gould

If you’re even a little bit into skincare, then you’ve probably thought a lot about exactly what type of products to bring on a plane. Do you go minimal and only bring a couple? Do you whip out the sheet mask with zero shame? Do you simply drink 100 gallons of water and hope for the best? It’s hard to navigate travel skincare tips when there seem to be roughly one million floating around the internet. Everyone from your favorite influencer to your go-to YouTubers are sharing what they put on their faces while on long haul journeys. Needless to say, it can be difficult to choose the routine that actually makes sense for you—and to discern which tips are legitimate and which are, well, total BS. I spoke to a handful of experts about the skincare travel tips that are actually worth it (and the ones that you should probably skip on your next vacation).

As Dr. Howard Sobel, board certified dermatologist of Sobel Skin, says, "Between the dirty cabin air with unnaturally dry air, change in humidity level, lack of sleep, and uptick in travel-induced stress, your skin becomes compromised [during travel], leading to breakouts." Even though breakouts while traveling may ultimately be impossible to ignore altogether, it’s still worth the effort to avoid as many of them as possible.

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Do: Wear sunscreen—even in the air

Almost every expert I spoke to mentioned the importance of SPF while traveling, even in the air. “Regardless of where you are traveling, always wear sunscreen — even on the plane,” Dr. Palep shared. “I recommend a broad spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 50”

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Don't: Use a makeup wipe to remove your makeup

As much as it might pain some of us to make more room in our toiletries carry-on bag, the experts say makeup wipes aren’t enough to really help your skin. “If you are going to use a makeup cleansing wipe, still use a hydrating gentle cleanser afterwards to make sure you’ve removed the dirt and oil from your face,” Dr. Palep says.

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Do: Tie back your hair

As Dr. Sapna Palep of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City points out, pulling your hair back may be a simple, yet effective habit that will protect your already vulnerable skin while traveling. “Wear your hair back and off your face when you can, especially in flight to avoid breakouts,” Palep says.

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Don't: Wear long-lasting makeup on your flight

Although it might be tempting to put on makeup that’s sure to last the entire flight so you’ll arrive at your destination looking amazing, almost all experts warn against this. Julie Dalton-Brush, founder of B3 Balm, says that it’s especially important to skip long-lasting lipstick on a flight, as it “will completely dry your lips out.” Instead, Dalton-Brush says using a hydrating lip oil rich in fatty acids is the way to go, recommending the B3 Balm Veritas Lip Oil as her favorite (and noting it can also be used for dry under eyes).

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Do: Wash your hands again and again and again

Priscilla Tsai, founder and CEO of skin care brand cocokind, says that washing your hands as much as possible is a key travel skin care tip. “Wash your hands before touching your face. Planes and trains are basically breeding grounds for bacteria, and you definitely want to avoid transferring them to your skin. Bloggers and YouTubers love to do whole skincare routines during travel, but please at least make sure to wash your hands first,” Tsai says.

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Don't: Use a lot of different, super heavy products

Dr. Palep points out that just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean your skin care routine has to be much more intense than usual. “Keep your skincare routine simple, do not fall in the trap of too many products when you travel. You don’t want your skin to react. The number one thing I tell my patients when traveling is to avoid heavy serums and oils as this can be acne producing nightmares,” Dr. Palep says.

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Do: Get travel-sized versions of your favorite products

Angela Kim, natural Korean beauty expert and founder of Savor Beauty, recommends to always prepare ahead of time and get your favorite products in travel-size versions. “I never leave without my Savor Beauty Ready, Jet Set, Glow Travel Kit with a cleanser, toning mist, serum, and cream so I can glow on the go,” Kim says. 

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Don't: Forget to think about your destination's climate

Dr. Adriana Lombardi the director of Skin Cancer & Cosmetic Center of NJ says to always consider where you’re doing when packing skin care. “If warmer, make sure your products say non-comedogenic (they won’t clog your pores). If you go to a humid climate and you don’t consider this, your pores get congested leading to a break out,” Dr. Lombardi says. “If an environment is colder, make sure that you bring a good moisturize,” suggesting Skinceuticals' Lipid Repair for cooler climates and ISDIN's Eryfotona Actinica in warm environments.

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Do: Think about what products you use before you get to the airport

While you may be thinking a lot about exactly what products to pack in your carry-on, don’t forget to assess exactly what products you’re using at home, before your trip as well. For example, Marlena Snell, CEO and founder of Makeup Geek, says she “loves using a hyaluronic acid the morning of my flight under my intense moisturizer. If it’s a long flight, I avoid wearing face makeup and just keep applying an intense moisturizer.”

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Don't: Wear a sheet mask on the plane

I know, I know. This goes against everything you’ve heard and seen on Instagram, but the experts say it’s not worth it. Cocokind founder Tsai says that it’s fine to wear the mask before flying, but the “30-40% reduction in humidity” while flying will just dry your sheet mask out. “Instead, do your sheet mask at home before flying, and top if off with a good facial oil, like our chia facial oil, to seal in hydration before you get on your flight."

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Do: Bring a jade roller

Caitlyn Chase, founder of Caviar & Cashmere Skin Care, tells me that her secret to in-flight skin care is actually a jade roller — something that’s super easy to stick in a carry-on bag. “After applying eye cream and moisturizer, I like to go the extra mile in order to prevent puffiness by using a jade roller or Gua Sha tool during my flight. Additionally, it’s a great self-care ritual that helps to promote relaxation,” Chase says. 

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Don't: Use facial mists, even if you’re tempted to

As Dr. Shuting Hu, Cosmetic Scientist and Founder of Acaderma, tells me, as good as face mists feel — they don’t actually work. “It feels good, but the water evaporates, which ultimately leaves your skin feeling drier.”

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