When you’re traveling, your skin-care routine may not exactly be at the top of your to-do list. But if you’ve spent all that time getting it down to a science, you don’t want a vacation to be the thing that knocks you off your game—or results in a breakout, sunburn, or flare-up.
That’s why it’s actually kind of important to find a way to keep your skin-care routine intact while traveling—and to keep your skin as healthy as possible overall while you’re in the air, on the road, or just spending a few nights away from home.
So, below, we asked dermatologists for their tips and tricks on maintaining their skin health and their skin-care routine while they’re traveling.
1. Keep things as similar to your usual routine as possible.
In general, trying to keep up as much of your skin-care routine as possible is ideal. If what you’re doing is working, why change if you don’t have to? And for those who are trying to manage skin conditions while traveling, keeping your routine consistent is especially key.
“A common complaint I hear from patients is having irritated skin, eczema, or acne breakouts after traveling,” Carol Cheng, M.D., health sciences assistant clinical professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the Acne Procedure Clinic at UCLA Medical Center, tells SELF. “There are a number of reasons for fluctuations in skin while traveling, but one of them may be deviating from normal skincare routine, therefore I like to try and minimize this factor by sticking to my home routine.”
Indeed, “it is important to keep on your regimen or else you can get breakouts,” Angela Lamb, M.D., director of Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice, tells SELF.
The easiest way to do that is by grabbing travel-sized versions of your favorite products. If those don’t exist, you can transfer some of the product into smaller containers to bring with you, Dr. Cheng says.
2. If you can only bring a few things, focus on the true essentials.
If you need or prefer to pack lighter, just stick with the essentials. “If [you’re] traveling somewhere which necessitates light packing, I consider the essentials to be: Sunscreen with at least SPF 30, makeup wipes, facial cleanser, and nighttime moisturizer,” Dr. Cheng says. You can skip out on your toners and serums for the time being if you need to.
That said, “if there are any medications that you regularly apply to your skin, make sure to pack them, so that you do not risk having a flare while you are traveling,” Shari Lipner, M.D., dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, tells SELF.
3. If your favorites don’t come in travel sizes, get creative.
There are a ton of excellent skin-care products that come in travel-friendly sizes these days. But if your go-tos aren’t available in minis, there are some other things you can do.
You can also “use contact lens cases for [products you need in] smaller quantities (such as eye creams) to maximize saving space,” Dr. Cheng says. She also cleverly pre-soaks cotton swabs in makeup remover and puts them in a plastic baggie for ultimate portability.
4. Don’t rely on hotel soaps.
A few of the experts we spoke to specifically mentioned to avoid using hotel soaps as cleansers. “Hotel products are generally not the highest quality and can be very drying,” Dr. Lamb says. And, Dr. Cheng notes, if you’re prone to sensitivities or allergic reactions, trying something new while you’re away from home isn’t the best idea.
5. Think ahead about the dry plane ride.
You might also find it helpful and refreshing to use hydrating sheet masks, under-eye masks, or facial mists while in flight.
And, of course, where you’re flying to matters as well. “There is no change to my routine while traveling, but sometimes I will increase or decrease the moisturizer depending on location of travel,” Olga Bunimovich, M.D., dermatologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells SELF. She might increase it for dry areas, she says, like if she’s going skiing.
6. Consider bringing a personal humidifier.
This is one tip Dr. Lamb swears by: “Portable bedside humidifiers are huge. They have saved my life,” she says. In particular, she likes the NovoLido Mini USB Humidifier, $20.
So, if you find that hotel rooms or the plane ride tends to dry you out, it may be worth bringing a small humidifier along with you. And there are some genuinely cute options out there! I personally keep this mini cactus one at my desk.
7. Pay special attention to your eyes and lips.
If you’re enduring a dry plane ride or a change in time zones, your eyes and lips may be the part of your face to feel most of the effects.
“The time change/jet lag can be the biggest downer for traveling,” Dr. Lamb says, which is why she turns to her favorite under-eye products while traveling, particularly PCA Skin Ideal Complex Revitalizing Eye Gel, $88.
“Don’t forget the lips!” Dr. Cheng says. “They can also become chapped and irritated while traveling.” Her go-to lip product is Aquaphor, which “can be used on the lips or anywhere else on the face and body (and is non-comedogenic).”
8. Remember your “emergency” products just in case.
Packing light—or, at least, within TSA regulations—is usually the goal. But if you can, our dermatologists recommend packing at least a few of those skin-care products you turn to for skin emergencies, like antibiotic ointments for minor cuts or scrapes, Dr. Lipner says.
That could also include acne-fighting products containing things like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, Dr. Cheng says, as well as topical steroid creams to manage bug bites or sunburns.
9. Don’t just think about skin-care products.
Sun safety is always essential for preventing both skin cancer and early signs of aging, but it’s also something way too many of us tend to slack off on. And we know that sunscreen alone isn’t enough to keep us as protected as possible.
So you may need to think out of the bottle when planning your trip. “Never skimp on sunscreen,” Dr. Lipner says, “and be sure to bring sunglasses, a broad brimmed hat, and sun protective clothing as well.”
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