By Dr. Doris Day
I’ve always loved to travel, and if you follow any of my posts, you’ll know I travel a lot for work to lecture and serve on advisory boards. As a little girl, my parents would pack up the three kids and take us away as often as my dad could manage around his busy doctor schedule. The airport was an exciting destination unto itself, and we dressed up for the trip as if we were going to a party. This was clearly before the days of strict airport security, where kids could sit in the cockpit before the flight and flight attendants gave us pins and playing cards. Some of the changes since those good old days have made travel more complicated, but some of the changes have been positive; smoking is no longer allowed in the airport or on the plane, and that’s a huge advance.
As I sit here now on a plane heading home from a dermatology meeting in Dubai, I still feel the excitement of going to the airport, the thrill of the aircraft making its way down the runway, the exhilaration of take-off. The one thing about travel that can be the most challenging, however, is dealing with the havoc it wreaks on the skin. Totally not acceptable. I know it’s more than skin deep and adjustments need to be made to stay healthy and to make the entire trip more productive and fun.
WATER IS A FRIEND
When you travel your whole routine is thrown off, sleep patterns are changed, you often don’t have access to the healthiest of food or to the skin care products and regimen you follow on a regular basis. With this in mind, you need to take special care to compensate to minimize the toll it takes on your skin and body. For starters, it’s important to stay hydrated. This means more water, less salt, and less alcohol. I said it was important; I didn’t say it was fun. I also said less, not none. The longer the trip, the more important this is. I’ve seen people whose feet and ankles swell to three or more times their size, and that can take days to resolve. Wearing support socks can help along with leg elevation when possible; walking during the flight, or stopping to walk if you’re in a car, and also doing flex and point foot exercise when sitting helps a lot too.
Preparing your skin for travel starts even before you leave the house. If you’re a last minute packer, I recommend making a skin travel kit that’s always ready to go. (I’ll let you know in a moment what to include.) Most of us notice our skin gets dry when we travel. If you’re prone to eczema or psoriasis, this can trigger a flare. It’s especially important to have a great moisturizer to keep your skin healthy and hydrated. Drinking water won’t make the outer layers less dry; you need to moisturize and hydrate the skin directly. If you have oily skin and break out, the stress of traveling can trigger a flare leaving you both oily and dehydrated at the same time. It’s not always easy to pack all your acne medications when you travel, but it is important to maintain your routine to minimize any breakouts when you least want one.
WHAT TO PACK
The one thing you need to coordinate and organize ahead of time is a travel skin-care kit so you can avoid any skin catastrophes that might ruin your trip. Here’s a list of travel must-haves:
Skin Survival Travel Kit
• Travel-size hand cream can be used on the body as needed as well.
• Pre-moistened cleansing cloths that are softer rather than abrasive on the skin.
• Travel-size tinted sunscreen can always double as a foundation for travel purposes.
• Hair tie/Scrunchy is perfect to keep your hair off your face on a long flight or car ride without pulling or stressing your hair.
• Airplane socks, available in most drug stores, are a luxurious way to enjoy soft, warm feet on the plane.
• Eye cover and ear plugs are a necessity. Nothing says beautiful skin better than a good nap or nights’ sleep. Noise canceling headphones are good but may not be as comfortable for sleeping.
• Lip balm, tissue, nail file and antiperspirant.
It’s very helpful to have an emergency kit. This should include:
• Cortisone cream which will save you in a pinch if you get a pimple, bug bites, or any irritation of the skin that leaves it red and itchy. When you travel you come into contact with so many different materials, your skin isn’t used to, and this can be an issue for those with sensitive skin.
• Zeasorb powder is ideal for shoes and the body for those who sweat when they travel. It is absorbent and will keep you dry and comfortable and will help prevent your feet and shoes from getting stinky.
• Benadryl is great if you need sleep and also good if you tend to have eczema or allergies that flare when you travel. Be careful not to take if you’re the driver.
• Ibuprofen/aspirin depending on what your stomach tolerates.
• Cleanser, moisturizer, serum, and prescriptions from your dermatologist: It’s important to maintain your routine as much as possible.
Never count on the hotel soap or moisturizer to keep your skin healthy. Depending on the length of your trip you can pack a separate set of products for your journey or use the travel size from your carry-on bag. I’m a master of packing, so I take a carry-on for almost every trip.
When I travel, I do my best to transition to the final destination time zone. During the flight, I nap and adjust the light to help me acclimate even before I arrive. I try to pick flights that optimize the process. It takes a little planning but makes all the difference in minimizing jet lag and getting the most out of the trip. This way I hit the ground running and can be the most productive when I work.
Almost time for landing and time to sign off. I had a great trip, so happy I planned ahead and made the most of the time. A little, simple planning made all the difference. I’m ready to get back to the office and seeing patients, which is my greatest joy and passion.
Dr. Day, a dermatologist, is affiliated with NYU Langone Hospital.