Post-aeroplane acne is a thing – and this is how you can avoid it

Zoe Cripps OK! beauty editor

By Zoe Cripps

Zoe is OK! Head Of Beauty and covers celebrity beauty news, product launches and helpful beauty hacks.
Post-aeroplane acne is a thing – and this is how you can avoid it

If you’ve ever boarded a flight with clear, hydrated skin only to step off the plane with blocked pores, pimples and an unsightly greasy sheen, you’ve almost certainly been served a dose of aeroplane acne. 

It’s a common issue for many of us, and those breakouts we experience after flying can take days to clear up. So how do you avoid them? And what is it about planes that causes pimples to pop up in the first place? We have all the information you need here, plus helpful product suggestions to make sure you don’t kick off or end your holiday with skin woes.

Why do we experience break-outs after flying, then?

"The number one problem is dryness. Planes are basically a flying desert. Aircraft air is recirculated and chilled, which leads to low humidity,” explains Bruce Green, chartered chemist and founder of SOS Serum Skincare. “Humidity in a plane can drop to 20% – a whopping 45% lower than the average humidity in London. Your dehydrated dermis becomes increasingly dry and, in defence, the skin provides more oil which in turn can exacerbate acne.”

"The other reasons you experience aircraft acne are similar to the reasons people typically get breakouts: lack of sleep, stress and bad food. However, there’s also a hormonal element that factors into our ‘aircne’. Long flights that cross time zones force our internal clock to reset itself, which is very stressful to the body. Our adrenal gland deals with this by producing cortisone,as well as secreting androgen. This isn’t a problem for men, but since women have naturally low levels of androgen, this elevated production is enough to create a biological imbalance that leads to acne,” continues Julia Marinkovich, COSRX UK representative.  

How can we prevent aircne?

Step one: Make sure your skin is hydrated on your flight

It’s best to board the plane with clean, make-up free skin so that you minimise the risk of foundation blocking your pores. Then, once you’ve in the air, you can turn to a sheet mask to get an in-flight boost of hydration to keep your skin’s moisture levels topped up.

Shop our go-to hydrator pick: Our new Glow & Go Beauty Box edit contains a Dr.Pawpaw Your Gorgeous Skin Glowing Sheet Mask, worth £4.99. The mask combines a unique blend of eight hyaluronic acids and papaya to leave skin feeling super-soft and hydrated.

The contents of this month’s box are worth an impressive £95, but it’s just £7.50 if you’re a new sign-up to the OK! Beauty Box.

Step two: exfoliate as soon as you can when you land

While sadly there isn’t anything you can do about your skin’s oil production while you’re on the flight, Julia suggests you keep the oil from getting trapped under dead skin cells – which causes spots – by exfoliating your complexion. 

Shop our go-to exfoliator pick: You can nab a travel-size tube of Murad Vita-C Triple Exfoliating Facial, worth £9.38, in our Glow & Go edit.

Incredibly, this product has been clinically proven to give smoothing effects as good as a session of professional microdermabrasion. It combines micro-minerals, enzymes, and both AHA and BHA acids, and the formula even cleverly changes colour when you’ve scrubbed for long enough.