How Dry Is The Air On An Airplane? Skin Care Expert Renée Rouleau Investigates


Updated 12/7/14. You’ve always heard how drying an airplane can be to the skin, and you probably have felt it on your skin when flying, but how dry is it really? As someone who travels a lot for my growing skin care company, I decided to get to the bottom of it and do a test to really understand exactly how drying an airplane cabin truly is.

You first have to understand that whenever the air is dry and moisture is not present, through a process called osmosis, the air draws moisture from wherever it can—and that will mean from your skin. Dry skins will get drier, yet oily skins will actually get oilier. (This is due to increased oil production to compensate for the dehydration.)  Regardless of your skin type, it’s so important to protect your skin with a good sunscreen moisturizer (like Daily Protection SPF 30) and a few drops of a skin oil like Pro Remedy Oil on top to create a protective seal on the skin to help prevent moisture loss.

 Supplies used for the test:

 – A 100% cotton t-shirt.

– Water.

– A small cap from a travel bottle of mouthwash that I used as a measuring cup.

I did this test in two different environments: the first in my hotel room in Boston on a sunny 50 degree December day. The second test was performed at 32,000 feet in an airplane…

How I performed the test: I filled the small mouthwash cap half way with water and poured it onto the 100% cotton t-shirt and time stamped it with a sticky note. I watched and watched until the water spot had virtually disappeared and time stamped it again. I repeated the same exact steps up in the air at 32,000 feet.

Test results: The t-shirt took 1 hour and 27 minutes to dry whereas at 32,000 feet up in an airplane, it took only 24 minutes.

I was absolutely shocked. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew the water spot would surely dry faster, but a whole hour faster? Wow.

So my experiment really reinforces how it’s so important to pay special attention to your skin when you travel. Skin cells are like fish, they need water to live and without it, you are compromising not only the appearance of the skin (lines and wrinkles are more pronounced when moisture is lacking in the skin) but the overall health of it too.

P.S. Yes, the flight attendants asked me what the heck I was doing! All in the name of skin care…and to provide good skin care content for my loyal blog readers.

What can you do to prevent airplane dryness?

This experiment reinforces the importance of skin care when traveling to prevent dryness. When you travel by plane, pay special attention to your skin. Skin cells are like fish, they need water to live and without it, you are compromising not only the appearance of the skin (lines and wrinkles are more pronounced when moisture is lacking in the skin), but the overall health of it too.

Protect your skin with a good sunscreen moisturizer. Did you know that you’re closer to the sun so you’re getting more harmful UV rays? Apply a well-formulated sunscreen moisturizer and every two hours of daylight flying, dust on an SPF-infused powder like ColoreScience SPF 50 Powder.

Drink plenty of water. This will help keep your system hydrated so you feel your best at the end of the flight. While drinking water is not the most efficient way to hydrate the skin topically, it’s still important for the health of your cells.

Avoid misting your skin with a hydrating spray during flight. Why? Because since the air is so dry, it looks for water wherever it can get it and since water attracts water, when you spray the skin it takes the water from the layers in the skin and gets evaporated into the dry air. The result is even tighter, drier skin. If you want to treat your skin in-flight, it’s best to apply another layer of moisturizer or skin oil on to your face every hour of flight to help the skin retain its moisture.

Post-flight, use a mild facial scrub or light acid peel. I love using Triple Berry Smoothing Peel or Mint Buffing Beads to remove surface dry skin cells accumulated from flying. Once rinsed off, I apply a hyaluronic acid-based serum (like Skin Drink) followed by a good moisturizing mask (like Pure Radiance Mask or Bio Calm Repair Masque) to add back essential hydration. These ingredients will also help to brighten the skin from post-flight dullness.

Happy and safe travels!

Read: How To Prevent Your Products From Leaking On An Airplane
Read: What Skin Care Products Should I Take When I Travel?
Read: Can Airplane Travel Increase Breakouts?

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

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Content found on, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.