Don't hate us for adding to your vacation prep checklist, but consider this when packing your beauty bag: Those skincare staples that work so well at home might cause complexion chaos wherever you're headed. Just as you pack your wardrobe according to your destination's climate, your skin regimen needs a little tinkering too.
So whether you'll be landing in Bermuda, Sydney, Vermont, or anywhere in between, we've mapped out your foolproof guide to tackling the elements face on—so a breakout, flaky skin, or sunburn won't ever have to factor into your travel plans. Keep reading for your ultimate guide to a flawless complexion on the go.
You've heard it before, but we'll say it again: SPF is just as essential on the slopes as it is in the sand, because snow is basically a giant magnifying mirror for the sun's rays. The difference is that while in steamy temps your goal is to provide ample UV protection without clogging your pores, you want to aim for heavier, ultra-moisturizing formulas in cold climates to help protect your skin from the harsh elements. And yes, you need to reapply just as often as you would on the beach.
But SPF isn't your endgame. "Non-comedogenic moisturizer is an essential prep step for going outside on a cold winter's day, because it creates a protective barrier from harsh winter weather," advises NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum. So layer that sunscreen with a lightweight but hearty moisturizer.
"In cold and snowy weather, skin can quickly become raw and chapped if not carefully moisturized and protected," adds Dr. Donna Bilu Martin, consulting dermatologist for Clark's Botanicals. She advises paying special attention to your hands and lips, which are especially prone to dryness. Up the ante with a deep hydrating mask to help your face recover after a day outside.
And finally, don't neglect the skin on the rest of your body: Conditions like keratosis pilaris, eczema, and general dryness are aggravated by cold temps (not to mention dry, climate-controlled heat indoors). Long showers and over-cleansing can worsen all of these, so choose formulas that are specifically hydrating.
Headed to Miami, the Caribbean, or any other tropical locale? Lucky lady—but it would be quite a bummer to dampen your turn in paradise with a bad breakout or sunburn. The good news is that both are quite preventable.
First off, picking lightweight formulas is key here, since heavier products can clog pores when combined with humidity and sweat (not to mention they'll likely be pretty uncomfortable). Dr. Martin actually recommends forgoing a cream-based moisturizer altogether, in favor of a serum. This is, of course, not including SPF. You can stick with a lightweight sunscreen—just make sure it packs a protective punch. "I always recommend my patients apply mineral-based sunscreens (with zinc or titanium as the active ingredient) as it blocks harmful sun rays without penetrating the top layers of skin," says Dr. Nussbaum.
It's also important to pay special attention to recovery after a day spent at the beach, since your skin has braved sweat, saltwater, sand, and sun—a recipe for angry blemishes and irritation. Step one: Wipe yourself down. "Bring a few glycolic acid–containing pads to help with sweat and oiliness, and to keep the pores open," suggests Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, founder and director of Capital Laser & Skincare in Maryland. Ocean water can also mess with your skin's pH balance, so pick a face wash specially formulated to restore order.
Mild Southwestern climes are certainly agreeable in most respects but can sneakily wreak havoc on your complexion—the hot temps steer you away from using anything too substantial for fear of breaking out, but the air is also extremely drying.
"It is crucial to stay hydrated by drinking water and using topicals without using heavy creams," says Dr. Nussbaum. "Serums are a great choice in this type of climate, particularly ones containing hyaluronic acid and antioxidants, which can mitigate free radical damage to the skin, which causes both skin cancer and aging." Keep showers short, and add an extra dose of hydration (and target sunburn) with an aloe-based sheet mask. Dr. Nussbaum also advises to stay away from retinoids, which can irritate.
And yes, as always—always—you still need SPF. The trick is to pick something that's both immensely hydrating and quite lightweight. (The Avène formula above ticks both of those boxes.)
Ugh, the plane: the climate-controlled cave where supple, happy skin goes to die. "The unnatural pressurized environment of a plane draws moisture out of skin, leaving you dehydrated with cracked lips and dry flaky face and hands," says Dr. Nussbaum. Fun times.
Our go-to plan of attack is to pack an array of travel-size goodies—pampering helps pass the time anyway, right? A hydrating face mist is an easy, mess-proof way to give yourself an instantaneous boost of hydration. Masks are also great, and you don't have to reach for the sheet variety if you're worried about funny looks. Pick an invisible leave-on formula like Boscia's Tsubaki Sleep Mask and you're good to go. Dr. Nussbaum also recommends keeping blotting papers on hand for long flights in order to prevent oil buildup—and right after deplaning, head to the airport bathroom and wash your face.
Got any fun travel plans for the holidays? Any to-go skin advice you'd like to share? Sound off below!