This is what really happens to your skin on a plane

By Fiona Embleton

Even the most diligent skincare application is challenged on a flight. Here’s what happens to your skin when you fly – and how to ease the damage

All products featured on Vogue are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Air travel has glamorous connotations of jetting off to far-flung corners of the world but its effects on the skin are less than stellar. Much of this comes down to dehydration caused by the pressurised cabin, which can trigger a cascade of skin woes, including redness, sensitivity and flaking.


In Sweden, the average humidity in the air is around 75 per cent, which skin is typically comfortable with. However, at 30,000 feet (the average altitude for most flights) humidity in an aircraft plummets to just 12 per cent – drier than most deserts. Your best defence is to apply a nightly face mask rich in hyaluronic acid and antioxidants for two weeks before take off to bolster your skin’s defences. For a luxurious option, look no further than Woods Copenhagen Intense Hyaluronic Mask.

Travel can also lead to a certain degree of anxiety and an increase in stress hormones. Likewise, flying tampers with your circadian rhythm – your sleep-wake cycle— and when you don’t sleep, your body responds by releasing another burst of cortisol. “Adaptogens can help your body bounce back by mitigating some of the reactions caused by stress,” says Daniel Collins, founder of health brand Forest Spa Finland, who recommends taking the Nordic Adaptogen Supplement week before travel. “Reishi mushroom is also great for improving your REM sleep,” adds Collins. “I love KÄÄPÄ Health’s Reishi Mushroom Tincture as it really helps with jet lag.”

Pre-flight essentials

Intense Hyaluronic Mask

Woods Copenhagen

Nordic Adaptogen Supplement

Forest Spa Finland

Reishi Mushroom Tincture - Ganoderma Lucidum Extract

Kääpä Health


On board

On board, keep a stash of products containing hyaluronic acid in your hand luggage. Hyaluronic acid—a sugar molecule found naturally in the skin— binds to water and sucks it into the skin for juicy plumpness. Use a hyaluronic acid serum such as Lumene’s Nordic Hydra Arctic Dew Quenching Aqua Serum, followed by one pump of ceramide-rich moisturiser to create a barrier, effectively locking moisture in. Likewise, avoid alcohol and caffeine as they are diuretics.

Given the pressurised cabin simulates conditions found at 7,000 feet, blood oxygen levels drop to 93 per cent – not unlike being at the top of a mountain where there is less oxygen in the air. “Oxygen is crucial for cell formation and renewal,” says Dana Nell, Skin Therapist at Björk and Berries. “When skin’s cell turnover is slow, it manifests in a dull, tired complexion.” For immediate brightening, lean on Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum, which contains banana-powder-inspired pigments to immediately breathe life into a lacklustre complexion.

On-flight needs

Arctic Dew Quenching Aqua Serum


Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum

Ole Henriksen

Biomolecular Distress Mist



On landing

‘Plane face’ is a look you’ll be keen to shrug off once you’ve landed. Fluid retention, air pressure and dehydration create the perfect storm for making your face look sunken and your jawline puffy. Facial massage can lift muscles, drain away excess fluid and
soften the surface of your skin. “First, warm a few drops of face oil between your hands,” says Trice Angie Christiansen, founder of Raaw By Trice, who swears by her Blue Beauty Drops to calm and soothe. “Take your thumbs to the sides of your nose and push firmly underneath the cheekbones, up to the ears. Using firm pressure, pinch along your jawline with your index finger and thumb to encourage lymphatic drainage. Finish by gently tapping your face with your fingertips to activate the blood circulation.”

You may also find your chin, forehead and nose are oilier than usual, given increased oil production is your skin’s fallback when defending against arid conditions. About 50 per cent of the air in a plane cabin is recycled, too, which can lead to added congestion. When cleansing, use a charcoal konjac sponge, as charcoal is so porous it attracts up to 100 times its own weight in impurities.Follow with a cream rich in niacinamide such as Björk & Berries Vitamin Moisturiser. “Not only does a plane’s dry air deplete the skin of moisture, but it also interferes with the skin’s barrier, causing sensitivity and flare-ups,” warns Nell. “Niacinamide, or vitamin B3, is a powerful antioxidant that improves skin’s elasticity and resilience as well as increasing

Flying from East to West is especially hard on the body as you’re adding daylight hours. Longer days shorten the time your skin has to renew itself so wear an eye mask to block out light and help normalise your circadian rhythm. The Beauty Sleeper Holly Golightly Eye Mask is one of the most luxe on the market. Finally, opt for gentle exfoliation to boost sluggish cell turnover.

Landing plans

Blue Beauty Drops Balancing Facial Oil


Vitamin Moisturiser

Björk & Berries

The Beauty Sleeper

Holly Golightly