Can I wear makeup when I fly?

I was recently asked the following questions by beauty journalist Jacqueline Kilikita for an article she was writing for Refinery29. You can read my answers here in full.

What happens to our skin in the air?

The aircraft cabin is unlike most other indoor environments with exposure to low pressure, reduced available oxygen, noise, vibration and disruption to our sleep cycles.

Conditions are controlled to protect passengers and crew from most of this harsh environment and their effects are negligible on short-haul flights. Low humidity levels in the cabin over long distances, however, can lead to a decrease in hydration of the outer layer of our skin which probably accounts for the dryness and discomfort experienced by many travellers. This may manifest with a sensation of tightness and some people experience peeling of the skin, dry eyes and chapped lips.

Can wearing makeup on a plane cause longterm damage to my skin?

Frequent air travel may mean regular disruption to your normal skincare routine, disturbed sleep and increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation which could in theory impact your skin health if repeated over many years.

I wouldn’t, however, expect that wearing makeup on a plane should increase the risk of long-term skin damage such as wrinkles providing attention is paid to good skincare practices e.g. following a routine, covering up in the sun and avoiding cigarette smoke the rest of the time.

Why do so many of us get breakouts after flying?

Much like Dermatologists advise taking off your makeup before you go to bed, the obvious reason for getting spots after flying is failure to remove makeup thoroughly and to cleanse your skin on board so that grease, dirt and dead skin cells can build up and block your pores. I expect this is also more of an issue for long-haul travel than for shorter flights.

It may not be as simple as this though. Passengers are not only exposed to the physical stress of flight, but also to social and emotional stress before departure e.g. hurried last-minute packing, rising earlier than usual to get to the airport. The combination of these factors along with the disruption to your normal skincare routine may lower your threshold for breaking out.

If we can’t bear to go without makeup, which types should we be choosing for flying?

If you can’t bear to board the flight without makeup, I would use a non-comedogenic tinted moisturiser and concealer as a base and then mineral makeup for anything else. Tinted moisturisers and BB creams should make dry cabin conditions more comfortable and if there is a chance that you won’t be removing your makeup, non-comedogenic formulations and mineral makeup are less likely to clog your pores. My top picks for these are Bare Minerals Bareskin complete coverage concealer and Original SPF15 Foundation or Perricone MD No Foundation foundation.

I would, however, suggest taking some cotton pads and decanting your favourite micellar water into a small travel-size bottle for removing makeup before you sleep. Follow with a hyaluronic-acid based moisturiser for extra comfort and hydration and don’t forget plenty of lip balm to prevent chapped lips.

I love Garnier micellar cleansing water for sensitive skin or Bioderma Sensibio micellar H20 for makeup removal, Filorga Nutri-filler Lips or La Roche Posay Cicaplast Lips as lip balm and Skinceuticals HA Intensifier for a moisture surge.

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