8 Reasons Why Your Skin Breaks Out When You Travel (And How To Fix It)

By Simone Sydel··  9 min read
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8 Reasons Why Your Skin Breaks Out When You Travel (And How To Fix It) shutterstock

Zits are never well-timed, but they always tend to pop up when traveling. What gives?

It turns out, travel-related breakouts are a relatively common occurrence for people of all skin types.

However, the good thing is that knowing what triggers travel or plane-acne will also help you keep it under control and maintain healthy, beautiful skin for the many selfies you're going to take while on vacation.

1. Stress

So let's start by addressing the elephant in the room: the level of stress we're dealing with while in the process of getting to our vacay destination. We all know that an unbalanced level of stress hormones can increase oil production, which can clog your pores and lead to breakouts. But besides breakouts, stress can also worsen (or even be the sole cause of) other skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, and skin rashes.


It's completely unrealistic to think that you can avoid stress completely. We're all exposed to a stressful situation at some point in our lives, and sadly, we can't cut this off as we go about daily life. However, when you're feeling stressed and anxious, it's important to take a step back and breathe for a few seconds, as this will help give you some clarity on how to better deal with the situation in front of you.

Also, it's a good idea to make detailed travel lists of what you need to pay attention to before hitting the road, no matter how small and insignificant the tasks may seem at first. You probably know that it's the small things we don't pay attention to that end up causing the biggest problems later on.

Take 20 minutes of your day and commit yourself to taking care of your skin.

Lastly, don't let stress interfere with your skincare routine. Take 20 minutes of your day and commit yourself to taking care of your skin, no matter how stressed and tired you are. If your routine is too long then shorten it, but don't completely avoid it, as this is how you will maintain healthy and breakout-free skin while traveling.

2. Dry Air on Planes

We all know that the air inside an airplane takes a toll on our skin. This is because the average humidity on an airplane drops to less than 20%, causing it to suck the moisture straight out of your skin. (For context, the humidity in your home is usually at least above 30%.) This causes the pores to dilate and makes the skin look rough and dehydrated. Moreover, it also causes acne to get worse. When your skin is dry and dehydrated, your sebaceous glands will ramp up oil production to combat the dryness, which will end up clogging the pores and causing unwanted pimples on your journey.


The best solution to combat airplane dryness is to prepare your skin before entering the plane. A useful hack for doing this is to go to the airport bathroom and wash your face with your regular cleanser. Once you do that, allow your skin to dry naturally, but don't let it dry out fully.

Apply a hydrating serum on your damp skin and quickly follow it up with a thick, nourishing moisturizer. Your skin is now sufficiently hydrated, and all set for your journey.

What you don't want to do is spray a mist because you're not getting any benefits or hydration from it. The mists simply evaporate due to the dry air on the plane, and they can, in fact, make your skin even more dry and dehydrated when used on a plane.

3. Sudden Climate Changes

Even if you aren’t going far, there’s a good chance you will introduce your skin to a new climate at your destination. There's a possibility that the change in temperature, wind, humidity, even the water you shower and wash your face with can compromise your skin barrier and increase your chances of breaking out during travel.

Change of temperature can also affect other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis and cause them to flare up or just make the skin look rough and dry.

Even the water you shower with can compromise your skin barrier and increase your chances of breaking out.


It's always a good idea to be aware of the climate at the place you're traveling to. This is how you will be able to do further research and perhaps choose products that will help your skin deal with the sudden climate changes better. If the weather forecast is cold and windy, make sure you bring a good moisturizer, for example.

Additionally, if your skin is prone to eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea, but these conditions are currently dormant, it's always a good idea to bring the products or medication that helps keep them under control because you never know what may happen while you're in another place.

4. Change in Diet

It's also known that diet or some specific foods can definitely affect the severity of acne for some people. It doesn't help that most people splurge on treats when they travel, and this sharp increase in sugar and dairy can be somewhat bad for your skin, especially if you don't usually consume these foods in your regular diet.


The best solution to this issue is balance. You need to recognize your trigger foods and balance their intake if you can't completely avoid them while on vacation.

At the end of the day, you should enjoy your vacation and relax instead of thinking about what (not) to eat, but if some foods are causing you serious issues, it's best to avoid them as much as you can and make your health a top priority.

5. Changes in Your Skincare Routine

Our skincare routine typically changes when we're going on vacation, which can happen for several reasons.

Sometimes, the flight restrictions don't allow us to bring our full-sized products, while other times, we just want to chill out, relax, and not be bothered with doing an entire skincare routine twice a day. While this is understandable, a sudden change in your skincare routine might potentially cause some minor unbalance. This is why it's not completely out of the ordinary to come back home with a pimple or a few. 


The best solution to this issue is to simplify your routine and bring with you the essentials that are in charge of keeping your skin clear. Try to find travel size options, but if you can't, you can always pour a little bit of product into travel containers.

Simplify your routine and bring the essentials that are in charge of keeping your skin clear with you.

6. Wearing Makeup

Heavy makeup is another known acne trigger; however, this can get even worse when you're wearing makeup on a plane. A dry environment paired with occlusive makeup like a heavy foundation or a concealer can create the "perfect storm" for acne and breakouts.

Besides that, certain foundations and powders can dry out your skin even more, resulting in flaky, dull, and gray-colored skin.

Makeup also holds onto dirt, environmental pollutants, and bacteria, making it one of the worst things you can put on your face while traveling.


This might not be the best solution for everyone, but going on the plane with nothing but a good hydrating moisturizer on your face will be doing your skin a big favor.

Also, make sure to always remove your makeup before going to bed and to regularly clean your makeup brushes and tools like sponges, even while on vacation, especially if you're staying somewhere for longer than two weeks.

7. Wearing a Mask

Face masks are still required for everyone traveling on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation, according to the CDC, and sadly, it looks like it's going to be a while before this changes.

Face masks have also been the main cause of something that we know as acne mechanica, a condition that presents itself as angry and inflamed pustules and can appear regardless of pre-existing acne problems. It may even appear if you're among the small number of lucky individuals who have never dealt with acne breakouts in their lives.


The best way to deal with acne triggered by wearing a face mask is to bring several face masks and change them a few times during your travel. This is especially a good idea if you're traveling to a hot and humid place, as having a dry and clean mask on will help improve acne.

Another useful thing to do is to blot excess moisture away whenever you have the chance, as excess moisture inside your mask can exacerbate the issue.

8. Constantly Touching Your Face

It’s important to be aware of what comes into contact with your skin. You may catch yourself resting your head for a quick snooze while on a plane or public transportation, and those surfaces are filled with bacteria that can cause more breakouts.

Put a clean pillowcase over your favorite neck pillow to protect your skin from dirty surfaces.


Try not to touch your face!

This applies to all scenarios, but especially when traveling. Bacteria and dirt will make your skin break out even more severely, so avoid touching your face unless your hands are clean and when you need to wash your face.

Additionally, consider bringing a clean pillowcase and antibacterial wipes in your carry-on, as this is a great way to prep your nap station. Wipe down the surface whenever possible and put a clean pillowcase over your favorite neck pillow to protect your skin from dirty surfaces.

Also, avoid picking or squeezing any breakouts, especially during traveling. Instead, stick on a hydrocolloid acne healing patch whenever possible, like Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch, as this will not only help with unwanted pimples but will also hide the pimple and prevent you from seeing it and having the urge to squeeze it. Or try this guide to healing your pimples overnight.

Closing Thoughts

Unfortunately, unwanted zits will always be a part of our skin, especially when we expose ourselves to sudden changes such as traveling to different places. This means that our skin will likely need some time to get used to the change, but having a good routine, being aware of potential triggers, and keeping your face clean and hydrated will definitely help deal with these changes better.

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© 2022