Airplane Acne Is a Real Thing You Need to Know About

Be afraid, frequent flyers. Be afraid.

During my first visit to Dr. Neal Schultz, an NYC dermatologist recommended by a fellow editor, he took one look at the flare-ups on my face and asked, "Have you been traveling lately?" It's like he knew I was fresh off a plane. I confessed how many frequent flier miles I'd racked up over the past few weeks and it was then that I learned the delightful term "airplane acne."

So here's the thing: Travel is inherently stressful to your skin because of all the dry air. If you have dry skin, it will make it even drier and oil can get trapped under your dehydrated skin cells. On the other end of the skin type spectrum, if you're prone to oilness, your skin will increase its oil production to protect itself from the low humidity. Either way, you're in for a breakout. 

To top it all off, things apparently get that much more complicated when you're traveling east-west—especially if you're a woman because why, god, why?

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"When you are flying east-west, you're crossing multiple time zones and that means at a certain point, your internal clock has to be reset," explains Dr. Schultz, who is also the creator of BeautyRX. "It's very stressful to your body, which deals with stress by secreting cortisone from you adrenal gland, but every time the adrenal gland makes some cortisone, it also leaks a little bit of male hormone, androgen, out at the same time. In men who have normally high levels of male hormone, that little bit of male hormone doesn't make any difference. But in women, who normally have low levels of male hormone, that extra little bit of male hormone makes a big difference." And that difference = (you guessed it) acne.

While there's no way to absolutely prevent breakouts, make sure you 1) properly cleanse and moisturize your skin before, during, and after a flight, and 2) have a spot treatment at. the. ready.

Hey, the more you know...

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Lauren Valenti
Beauty Editor

Lauren is the former beauty editor at Marie Claire. She love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. She firmly believes that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.