Most people would say that LA is a dry climate to live in. I thought so too, until I started visiting relatives in Sun Valley, Idaho. At 6,000 ft. elevation, the climate of Sun Valley is considered High Desert. In the winter, it’s freezing. In the summer, the days are hot and the evenings are cold. No matter what season it is, the air is consistently drier than a piece of century-old newspaper. As soon as I would get off of the airplane, I could feel my sea-level equilibrium was already disrupted.
Like clockwork, I’d see that my skin would start to flake, crack, break out and sometimes bleed from the lack of moisture in the air. I’ve also noticed that my perioral dermatitis likes to flare-up there too.
For a skin-obsessive like me, this kind of turbulence is really daunting. I’ve always been lazy about drinking water, which I learned is extremely detrimental in high altitudes. I’m not going to try and say that topical products are the only things to keep skin from dehydration and breakouts. Of course, internal hydration combined with the correct skincare routine (and a humidifier) is the ideal formula for maintaining a great complexion at any elevation. However, finding the correct products to uphold these checks-and-balances is crucial.
Luckily, I’ve done boots-on-the-ground research. Whether you live in the mountains, or you’re planning a trip to Amangani (feel free to invite us too), add any of these tried and trusted products to your toiletry bag and/or survival kit.
If you have just one high-ticket beauty item in your bag, it should be this hyaluronic serum. This is a pricey product, yes, but I’ve always been on the side of prevention rather than treatment. For me, clear skin is a component of my mental health and overall happiness and confidence. Like all of Dr. Sturm’s products, this one shows results—fast. Apply a pipette of serum to your face after cleansing and your thirsty skin will really thank you.
Niche Swiss brand Cellcosmet knows how to keep skin barriers in-check at altitude; these residents of the Swiss Alps test and formulate skincare at 10,000 ft. Their trade secret cellular formulas use live plant cells (as opposed to freeze-dried) for optimum cellular health and most importantly, lots of benefits. This is the perfect mask to reduce redness and clear up skin that’s been breaking out or having trouble acclimating.
In ultra-dry climates, I only wash my face at night. In the morning, I clean my skin with micellar water and a cotton pad to avoid over-drying and redness. In addition to washing once a day, I stop using retinoids, AHAs, or other potent chemical exfoliators while at altitude. If you tend to break out or get ultra-dry, use the morning micellar trick and try to cut back on all-over medicated products.
Sleeping with an organic lip mask on is an infallible way to wake up with a hydrated pout. If you are disciplined enough to sleep on your back and can keep the product from smudging during slumber, even better.
At low humidity levels, I’ve found it’s hard to find any foundation that will sink into the skin without looking dry, flaky, or like a creased powder cake. I’m not normally a fan of cushion color-correcting products, but this new dewy foundation is an exception. The cushion formula gives a really light, healthy-looking coverage while protecting skin with SPF 45. Higher altitudes mean increased UV exposure. I aim to incorporate sunscreen into skincare whenever I can to avoid layering and any potential makeup pilling.
Sometimes, no matter how much water I drink at altitude, my under-eyes are still dry and weary. The easiest solution for quick plumping are these fast-acting eye gels. Keep the jar in the fridge for a little added de-puffing power.
The good thing about a dry climate is that blowouts last longer. The bad thing is, hair often feels brittle and totally witch-like. Wear this fan-favorite hydrating mask as an at-home treatment, or, if you’re in a hurry, use it as conditioner in the shower.
The thought of handling a cotton pad with dry skin makes my insides cringe. For moisturized hands, I baste them in this cult lip product to avoid excess dryness. Make sure to apply it to cuticles to banish bleeding hangnails—ouch.
Sunscreen is vital no matter what climate you’re visiting. EltaMD’s tinted SPF gives a nice blurring effect with mineral protection. EltaMD also makes a non-tinted formula specifically to help clear acne-prone skin.
I slather on this trusted drugstore body oil almost the second I get out of the shower. It’s the best thing I’ve found to prevent the imminent shriveling skin and dry itchiness I always experience at altitude.
A rich moisturizer is as essential to high altitude environments as wasabi is to Nigiri. Victoria Beckham’s preferred version of everyone’s favorite cream is perfect for thin, mountainous air. Warning: the results of this cream may cause excessive smiling—I can’t help but wonder how V-Becks deals with that.
Next, read up on how to sleep on wet hair without hating your life (or your soggy pillow).