The Ultimate Traveler's Guide To Skincare

Woman on beach sunscreenwoman on beach putting sunscreen on
Mariia Boiko/Dreamstime

The experts give us their tips for giving your skin the care it needs on the road.

Though we often talk about the importance of staying fit, eating well, and monitoring our sleep when we travel, we don't always give as much attention to our largest organ: our skin. "Skin is the house that you live in. You need to protect it and keep it healthy because healthy skin is gonna be beautiful skin," says Allison Tray, founder of Tres Belle Spa in Brooklyn. We checked in with a few experts to learn the do's and don'ts of skincare when you're on the go.  

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. AND DRINK.

With fresh air often pumped in to maintain oxygen levels, not to mention recycled air and high altitudes, cabin air can be a recipe for dehydration. When moisture is depleted, your skin's barrier function is impaired, making it feel dry, look sallow, and become red and irritated. The simplest solution isn’t to slather on moisturizer, but to feed your skin from the inside—all the fancy beauty products in the world can’t come close to the importance of water. (Pro tip: Bringing an empty water bottle through security and filling it before you board your flight makes it easier to stay hydrated than looking for a flight attendant for each four-ounce pour. In a perfect world, you’d drink a liter of water for every four hours in the air.) 

There are a few basic things you can do—or not do—to prevent your skin from losing too much moister at 35,000 feet. First: don’t drink alcohol on the plane. Do pack fruits or vegetables, Allison suggests, because they naturally contain water. Also, take a break from makeup. It'll help your skin breathe. And when you're on the ground, don't forget to keep sipping. “Be sure to drink lots of water throughout your trip, whether embarking on day-long tourist adventures, hiking through woods or relaxing poolside,” says Donna Regii, a beauty expert who’s worked with brands like Stila and Bliss Spa. “It’s the best way to help your skin behave, and look its radiant, glowing best.” 

MOISTURIZING: IT GOES DEEPER THAN YOU THINK

But the skin cannot hydrate by water alone. Just remember these three words: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Even when it doesn't seem necessary. “A lot times when skin feels oily, it’s that it’s dehydrated underneath,” Allison explains. “Glands that produce oils work overtime to protect and hydrate. A lot of times your skin feels oily, and you break out because there’s not enough hydration to balance everything out.” 

Donna recommends looking for a face moisturizer with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate, which help bind moisture to your skin. Water-based moisturizers feel lighter and more refreshing on the skin during the summer and in warm or humid climates. Ingredients like shea butter are ideal for dry skin types and during cooler weather, she says. Whatever you do, though, don't use the moisturizer in your hotel room on your face. It's typically body lotion. 

Before any moisturizer can work its magic, though, it has to have a clean canvas. The day before you fly, exfoliate with a gentle facial scrub, then apply a hydrating mask. The exfoliation gets rid of the dead cells, which allows the moisturizing ingredients from the mask to penetrate deeper in the skin.

BEAUTY SLEEP

Just like our bodies, our skin needs sleep to rejuvenate. “During the night, your skin undergoes repair, renewal, and detoxification, but if you don’t get proper sleep, these processes aren’t rescheduled. That’s why you get dark circles and sallow, dehydrated skin when you’re sleep deprived," says Donna. 

From crossing time zones to sleeping in unfamiliar surrounds to perhaps a little more eating and drinking than we’re used to, travel can mess with sleep in big ways, wreaking havoc on our skin performance. Donna turns to aromatherapy to help her sleep. A lavender-infused pillow spray is a natural fix for falling asleep faster. Brands like This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray come in 2.5 fluid ounce bottles so you can take it in your carry-on. Just a spritz can help ease you into slumber.  

PACK IT IN

As any seasoned traveler knows, less is more when it comes to packing—how else to ensure you have room for everything you buy? Your own moisturizer should be as necessary as your passport and phone charger. “It’s best not to change up your usual regimen too much when you're on the road, because your skin may get stressed out from travel and not respond well to unfamiliar products,” Donna says. But there’s one major exception: Add sun protection if it’s not already part of your daily routine. 

When Allison travels, she packs products that do double-duty to minimize her load. Many brands make moisturizers with sunscreen, and if you opt for a tinted product, it multitasks three-fold as a light foundation. She recommends sunscreen by SkinCeuticals, which has a universal tint. An exfoliating cleanser is also on her list of necessities. A hydrating skin serum with hyaluronic acid helps hold onto water, and you can also dab it under your eyes and onto your lips as a light moisturizer. 

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