Is your skin jet-lagged?

While jet-lag when travelling long-haul is renowned for making you tired and slightly disorientated, you may not have considered the effect it could have on your skin. We spoke to dermatologist Dr. Justine Hextall, a representative of The Harley Medical Group, to explain why you may suffer from skin complaints when flying and the tricks you need to overcome them.

How does your skin become ‘jet-lagged’?

Re-circulated air

“Flying is the perfect storm for causing skin problems”, says Dr. Justine. “We sit in cabins with high pressure re-circulated air that is very low in humidity, which causes skin dryness. The oxygen circulation to our skin is also reduced and levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, are high, which reduces the skin barrier function. This can result in skin inflammation, redness and breakouts. Not to mention, the UV exposure [through glass] to our skin increases significantly at 30,000 feet.”

Lack of sleep

“If you’re travelling to a different time-zone, chances are that you will miss out on some sleep when adjusting to the new time. As you sleep, your body’s cells regenerate, especially at skin level, so missing out on this quality rest can also affect the skin. Moisture levels can be decreased and pH levels may be lowered, which is why your skin looks less youthful and has less of a glow when sleep deprived.”

Lack of sleep

How to prevent it : before the flight


“Preparation is everything. Skin really suffers when it is dehydrated so pre-treat it with plenty of soothing moisturiser and make sure you are hydrated. If you normally use a skin lotion, maybe substitute a richer cream at night or an anti-oxidant serum such as Trilogy’s Rosehip Oil Antioxidant +, £31.50.”

Change your diet

“A few days before flying, increase your antioxidant fruit and vegetable intake and focus on hydration. Green tea is an excellent antioxidant, so substitute it in for your morning latte.”


“Gentle skin exfoliation, paired with regular moisturising, in the days leading to the flight will help to settle skin, increase hydration and optimise the skin barrier function- vital for reducing skin dryness and inflammation.” Try Institut Esthederm’s Osmoclean Gentle Deep Pore Cleanser, £26.50.

Book in for a facial

“If you have time, treat yourself to a facial before you go. The DermaQuest Rejuvenating Pumpkin Resurfacer, £99, available from The Harley Medical Group, contains 40% pumpkin pulp, which provides an intense level of exfoliation and resurfacing. It also helps protect the skin from UVA sun rays – perfect for when you’re going on holiday!”

How to prevent it : during the flight

Avoid alcohol

“On the flight, try to avoid the temptation of too many celebratory cocktails; stick to water and juice if you can.”

Embrace bare skin

“Try not to wear make-up and apply a hydrating serum for the duration of the flight instead. I love the DermaQuest B5 Hydrating Serum, £66, which is also suitable for sensitive skin.”

Boost moisture levels

“There’s not much that you can do about missing out on some sleep but, if you’re flying overnight, try and make yourself comfortable enough to fall asleep. Or, if you’re not too embarrassed, apply a hydrating face mask while in-flight. I like Skin Republic’s Hyaluronic Acid + Collagen Mask, £4.99.”