It’s the holidays and flying on airplanes is inevitable. And that means that extra care for your well-being and skin, is more important than ever.
This reminds me of a bad break out I had earlier this year when I was flying nonstop from New York City to Los Angeles for a shoot with beauty guru Michelle Phan. It was an unremarkable flight, one that included a generic inflight meal, three forgettable movies and brief naps on the plane’s scratchy pillows. But after five and a half hours on the plane, I realized I walked out of the airport a prepubescent teen, one with many new zits and pus-filled pimples that formed all over my face. Disgust-filled, I realized it had to do with the flight I just experienced.
I knew that flights dried out your skin and the air quality was probably not so great for your system. But after doing some research online, I found that airplanes were more disgusting than I previously conjectured. Did you know, for instance, that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get in contact with bacteria wherever you sit on an airplane? It’s even worse, apparently, if you’re sitting in the aisle seat (this due to more people passing by). Worse, you could get E.coli, a bacteria found in fecal matter, from drinking water given to you by flight attendants or from simply washing your hands from the bacteria-infested sink.
“In general, the most common bacterial skin infection involve an overgrowth of staph bacteria, which is a normal component of the skin, but in times of upheaval, such as an airplane flight, may become overgrown,” explains Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, CEO and Founder of Miami Skin Institute, to Very Good Light.
It makes sense. People are filthy. And when they’re clustered together? Filth volcano. Bacteria eruption. Impending doom.
Let’s start with just the lavatory alone. The average bathroom sees around 75 passengers, according to Gizmodo. That means there’s lots of room for diseases to spread, especially when a few passengers won’t wash their hands afterwards (or simply can’t because their hands are way too big for the teeny tiny sinks).
Humans, (or the average human, at least), shed 30,000-40,000 skin cells every hour, which is completely covered in bacteria. Some, which can actually kill you. According to a Time report, an estimated 1% to 2% of people in the U.S. alone could be carriers of methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) AKA totally life-threatening if it enters your bloodstream. Yikes.
According to the New York Post, the following are the most bacteria-prone spots on a plane:
- Tray tables
- Magazines and in-flight entertainment touch screens
- Bathroom handles
- Toilet and lid
- Water faucet and soap dispenser
- Paper towel dispenser
- AC knob on the ceiling
- Headrest (includes blankets and pillows that are never washed, simply reused)
The most troubling part of this all, though, is that you really can’t do anything about it. You can’t avoid the air circulation (which airlines claim is 97% “fresh air”, uh, what’s the other 3% then?), can’t choose who sat in the seats you’re sitting in now, and surely can’t control who comes into contact with you. So what is it that you can do? Pray. Well, that and a few proactive steps you can take.
Try the below to avoid acne, splotchy skin, a dehydrated complexion and more:
1 Bring sanitizing and antibacterial wipes
Use these before you sit down on your seat handles, actual seat, inflight touchscreen monitor and especially your trays. Apparently, airline attendants do not wipe each down before a new flight. We recommend Wet Ones, which has packaging perfect for being on the go.
2 BYOW (bring your own water!)
As per mentioned, inflight water is deplorable. It’s also infested with bacteria and incredibly harmful. According to Time, the United States Environmental Protection Agency found traces of E. coli in inflight water for the past six years. Also, coffee and tea is made before each flight and don’t reach high enough temperatures to kill certain bacterias. Watch out for any and all water that’s served outside a container. It’s best you bring your own.
3 Makeup wipes
Since there’s so much bacteria in the air that’s harmful to your skin, it’s pertinent you wash your face every few hours. Since we’ve heard how unsanitary bathrooms are, this is obviously not a choice. Instead, try a makeup wipe from Burt’s Bees in a grapefruit scent. It isn’t oily, the fragrance is fresh and goes on with a clean feeling. Use every other hour or whenever you’re feeling in need.
4 Face masks
Another reason for breakouts could be an overproduction of oils to make up for low humidity levels. Keeping hydrated throughout (with your own water!), is important yes, but also hydrating the exterior is very essential as well. We recommend a face mask. It’s easy to put on in small spaces and is easy to take off. There’s nothing else you need to place on and off. Though warning: Your neighbors might get rightfully spooked. Bring an extra one for them and do it together as a bonding experience. You can buy a variety of them but our favorite is from Amore Pacific. It isn’t juicy like most and sticks to your face much like a sticker.
5 Sleeping masks
Sleeping masks are great during long flights because they totally hydrate while you doze off. They’re also extremely hydrating. After your face mask, apply (with clean hands!) all over your face. We recommend one from Laneige Water Sleeping Mask. It’s a water mask that goes on lightly and seeps deep into your pores.
6 Face mists
Mist every so often to rehydrate your skin. A good option is Kiehl’s own In Flight Refreshing Mist, a product designed just for this experience. It’ll keep your face supple and ward off dehydration.
7 Balm it up
Prevent chapped hands and lips with a nice balm. We’re really into Lucas Papaw Ointment, a beauty secret for tons of people for over 100 years. Apply as needed.