You’re about to take a scenic selfie and then you see it… an ugly pimple staring back at you. Zits are never well-timed, but they always tend to pop up when traveling. What gives? Turns out, travel-related breakouts are a relatively common occurrence for people of all skin types. Determined to curb that smattering of bumps before they even think about making an appearance while on vacation — be it après ski or jet skis — we did some research to pinpoint the primary triggers. Here, four reason you break out when you travel, plus what to do to prevent it from happening on your next trip.
An increase in stress hormones
Even though we’re supposed to feel relaxed on vacation, the process of getting there can throw some curveballs that send your stress hormones into overdrive. “There’s definitely an uptick in breakouts and other skin challenges when traveling because of stress levels,” says Angela Kim, an esthetician and founder of Savor Beauty. “Studies show that stress hormones can increase oil production, which may clog pores and lead to breakouts.
Another surprising symptom of stress is an increase in itching, Kim notes, and scratching your face with dirty fingers introduces dirt and bacteria onto the skin, which can exacerbate acne. She adds that on an emotional level, stress can lead people to have sleepless nights, eat unhealthy meals, unwind with alcohol, and exercise less — all of which have been shown to cause breakouts.
Though it can be hard to eliminate all stress while traveling, take moments to ground yourself via deep breaths, five-minute meditation sessions, or just friendly reminders that everything is going to be okay. After all, you’re going on vacation! Oh, and while you’re at it, work in some healthy meals around all that gelato and opt to take a long stroll instead of a taxi every once in a while.
Dry airplane air
It’s no secret that the air inside of an airplane takes a toll on your skin. The average humidity on an airplane drops to 20 percent of normal levels, causing it to suck moisture straight from your skin. It doesn’t matter if you were on an hour-long flight or a 13-hour journey above the clouds: The dry, constantly circulating air causes your skin to produce more oil in order to try and rehydrate itself.
“While on the plane, remember that your skin can get dehydrated, so take your travel-sized products on board with you and consider pampering with a face mask,” suggests Kim. “I never leave without my travel bag, which contains a cleanser, toning mist, serum, and cream so I can glow on the go.”
In addition to pampering your skin a bit on the plane ride with a travel-sized face mist or moisturizing cream, drink lots of water and avoid binging on booze. To avoid breaking out after travel, it’s also important to give your skin some extra TLC the night you arrive at your destination. Cleanse your face thoroughly to rid all those airborne toxins and don’t skimp on moisturizer, even if you feel oilier than normal. Kicking back with a hydrating sheet mask just before turning out the lights can help as well.
A shock-response to the new climate
Even if you aren’t going far, there’s a good chance you’re going to introduce your skin to a new climate when traveling. Kim says that the change in temperature, wind, humidity — even the water at your final destination — compromise the skin barrier and can increase your chances of breaking out when you travel.
It helps to shield your skin as best as you can from the elements. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and load up on antioxidants for fight off free radicals. You may want to consider applying a pollution-fighting product, too. Verso Anti-Pollution face mist ($50; dermstore.com) strengthens the skin natural defense against oxidative stress and can be spritzed throughout the day, without messing up your makeup.
Changes in your skin care routine
While packing your 12-step routine isn’t always an option, introducing an entirely new regimen based on the travel-sized options you could find or whatever is available in your hotel suite isn’t going to do your complexion any favors. Introducing something foreign can cause what they call adjustment blemishes or in some cases, you may have a negative reaction to certain ingredients in the new formula.
Try to stock up TSA-approved sizes of your favorite skin care products before you travel, or ask for samples when purchasing your usual products. Another good option is using travel-sized decanter bottles, Palette by Pak ($39; palettebypak.com); it holds five different products (at .17 ounces each) in flexible pots, and the bottoms of each can be pressed to help you get out every last drop.
If you find that you still tend to break out during travel, despite using the same stuff, consider exfoliating with alpha hydroxy acids to slough off dead skin cells and help to clear congestion in your pores. Try Dr. Dennis Gross Skin Care Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Mini ($17 for 5; sephora.com); the pre-soaked pads are easy to pack and contain a powerful combo of five acids so skin is instantly refreshed.
You might also like: How Worried Should You Be About Germs On A Plane?