3 Flight Attendants Reveal the Products That Help Keep Their Skin Moisturized at 36,000 Feet

If you want advice on how to make the perfect roasted chicken, you turn to Ina Garten. If you want advice on how to keep dehydrated skin moisturized, you turn to a flight attendant, the unlikely expert when it comes to perpetually dehydrated skin. Why? They spend anywhere from 65 to 90 hours a month in one of the world’s driest environments: an airplane.

What makes the air in planes so dry, you may ask?

When you’re at an elevation of 36,000 feet, the increased ozone concentrations at this high altitude result in lower humidity levels (around 20 percent humidity versus the 40 to 70 percent that our skin is comfortable with), which makes the air quality significantly drier. These conditions can result in dull, itchy skin combined with an uneven complexion and overall tightness. And let’s be real: Nobody wants that.

Try as we may to combat this by drinking water and applying our favorite sheet mask no matter what our seatmates think, most of us still exit the plane looking like a shriveled up raisin. Yet flight attendants, somehow, always seem to look glowy at the end of each flight. What gives?

We spoke with three flight attendants and a dermatologist to get to the bottom of how to take care of dehydrated skin (which, BTW is different from dry skin—more on that below) for a plump, glowing complexion, no matter the environment. Fasten your seatbelts, we’re ready for take-off.

Dry vs. Dehydrated Skin

Before we dive into the best in-flight products, it’s important to understand the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. As Dr. Lian Mack explains, “dry skin is a skin type,” meaning that it’s something that can affect you no matter the environment. Those with dry skin lack naturally occurring oils or lipids in the skin, making them more prone to chronic dryness and flakiness. Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, is a temporary condition that anyone can experience. “Dehydrated skin usually means there is a lack of water in the very top layer of skin known as the stratum corneum,” adds Dr. Mack. “It’s important to know you don’t need to have dry skin to have dehydrated skin. Oily and combination skin types can be dehydrated as well.” So fear not, while you may experience dehydrated skin while traveling, it is often temporary and can be treated with a few simple steps.

How to Treat Dehydrated Skin

While low humidity and dry climates can do wonders for your hair (especially after a fresh blow out), Dr. Mack emphasizes that they can wreak havoc on your skin. She recommends looking at products with hyaluronic acid (which acts like a humectant and increases moisture), niacinamide (which enhances the skin’s natural moisture barrier), and glycerin (an effective moisturizer) to help counter the effects of severely dry climates.

For long-term moisturizing benefits, Dr. Mack also recommends adding a hydrating serum to your daily skin care regimen. “Its concentrated hydration benefits will instantly soothe dry skin while also offering a deep and long-lasting moisturizing experience,” she says.

To help keep your skin supple during long flights, Josie Vasquez, a flight attendant with United Airlines for more than ten years, swears by using a moisturizing face mask the night before take-off and after landing. She even travels with a mini humidifier that easily plugs into any USB port to keep her skin glowing. Vasquez also avoids salty foods and heavy meals before flights because the high altitude makes it harder for the body to digest, resulting in bloating and an overall dull complexion.

Now that we know why the air in planes is so problematic for our skin, keep scrolling to read how three flight attendants combat this and their favorite go-to products for keeping skin moisturized at 36,000 feet.

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