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The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Acne-Prone Skin

We all deserve a break from our daily work/life routine from time to time, but for those with acne-prone skin, our skin rarely allows us to take a day off. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan of action for maintaining good skin health, especially if you have upcoming travel plans. Part of that plan is understanding how acne forms — that way you can properly treat it.

The bottom line is that acne starts from within, but certain external factors can definitely contribute to (or reduce!) the formation of those painful pimples. These tips can help keep anyone — acne-prone or not — on top of their skincare game, no matter how far from home they may be.

So, without further ado, here are 12 easy-to-implement tips to make travel easier on your acne!

1. Keep it simple by sticking to your routine.

What’s the best way to keep your skin healthy when you’re at home? Stick to a skincare routine. So what’s the best way stay on top of your skin’s health on the road? Stick to your routine, and only pack the essentials. Now is not the time to experiment with that fancy exfoliating peel you just splurged. It may be tempting to bring everything in your bathroom just in case, but too many choices can become overwhelming, and who needs a heavier bag anyway? Your usual cleanser, treatment serum/gel, moisturizer, and sunscreen should be all you need to set yourself up for success on a short trip.

2. Come prepared.

On the other hand, you don’t want to be left reaching for the hotel soap or a face wash not designed to handle your skin’s concerns. Buying travel-friendly sizes of your favorite acne treatment products — or transferring a small amount of your favorite products to TSA-friendly travel-sized bottles — will make life easier on you and your skin. So pack what you know will work for you, and save the guessing game for that diner off the freeway.

3. But don’t forget to expect a change.

Different weather conditions can definitely have an effect on your complexion, so be prepared to see your skin react to the change in environment. Even unfamiliar water can take a toll on acne-prone skin, so a little foresight can go a long way. If you’re headed someplace cold and dry, pack a heavy-duty, oil-free moisturizer and a hydrating mask or spray. If you’re moving south toward the sun, don’t skimp on the SPF-infused moisturizer and a gentle but powerful cleanser — your skin will thank you!

4. Manage oily skin without over-drying.

If you’re headed to a dry climate — or just headed anywhere by plane or other form of transportation where you’re trapped in recycled air for an extended amount of time — your skin is guaranteed to dry up as you dehydrate and produce more oil in an attempt to make up for what’s been lost by the arid air temps and conditions. You might be tempted to scrub or wash all that oil away with an intense cleanser, but this can actually end up making oil production worse (ugh, we know).

Rather than overwashing, absorb excess oil with blotting sheets or skin cleansing wipes, just be sure to steer clear of alcohol-heavy varieties that’ll dry you out even more. We love micellar waters, which gently absorb dirt and gunk from your pores without stripping your skin of healthy oils.

5. Bring a travel size of your favorite mask.

When you need some extra help de-gunking your pores, a firming clay or charcoal mask may be exactly what your skin needs to draw out impurities without risking irritation. Hydrating sheet masks or leave-on formulas are ideal if you’re headed somewhere dry or cold.

6. Never forget a spot treatment.

New climate, new surroundings, new schedule, new food — sometimes despite our best efforts, a breakout is just bound to happen when you’re away from home, and that’s OK! Packing a spot treatment containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can work to zap zits while you sleep, and help you resist the urge to pick or pop, which can result in even more breakouts if bacteria spreads.

7. Slather on the sunscreen… even if it’s cold and grey out.

Wherever you’re headed, whatever the weather, making sunscreen a daily habit will go a long way in keeping any complexion healthy and safe. Not only can UV rays (which can totally creep through a car or airplane window, BTW) lead to fine lines, wrinkles, and in severe cases, skin cancer, they can also make dark spots worse and exacerbate enlarged pores. Cover up with an SPF of 15 or higher for the best results.

8. Don’t give bacteria a chance to transfer.

Whether you’re riding in the comfort of your own car or sharing an aisle on public transportation, it’s important to be aware of what comes in contact with your face. You may catch yourself resting your head to doze for a minute (or a hundred, do what you gotta do!). Windows, seat belt straps, and neck pillows can carry bacteria, as can our own hands and shared towels or linens. All of these can harbor dead skin cells and harmful bacteria — both of which are pimple-creating culprits. When possible, wipe down or wash any surfaces that may come into contact with your complexion, and keep those hands sanitized and off your face.

9. Use the least amount of makeup you can tolerate.

If a full-face of makeup if your thing then, by all means, pack away! It might be best, however, to use a lighter formula on the actual day of travel. Why you may ask? Because heavy makeup clogs your pores because it traps dead skin cells resting on the surface of your face. A BB Cream, CC cream, or tinted moisturizer should even out skin tones without resting too heavy, and steering clear of anything containing parabens and added fragrance will only help your case.

10. Catch those zzz’s.

Despite being away from home, do your best to get a good night’s sleep, or catch a nap when you can. Our bodies need this nightly reprieve to rest and restore, and that goes for its biggest organ as well – the skin. Everyone requires a different amount, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends adults ages 18+ should aim to achieve between 7-9 hours a night. Overnight is also when your skin heals and regenerates itself — so make sure you’re sticking to your nightly routine!

11. Stay hydrated.

Excess oil is usually blamed for breakouts, but did you know that overly dry skin might be why your body is producing so much oil? If you’re spending time above 30,000 feet, this can ring especially true — the recycled air around you can be considerably arid and seriously lacking in humidity. A hydrating mist can keep the surface of the skin plump and protected from outside aggressors, but the best way to ensure healthy skin is with a good old fashioned glass of water. If frequent bathroom trips aren’t in the cards for you, try munching on grapes, apples, or even dehydrated fruits such as dried apricots.

12. Take a deep breath.

Can we meditate our acne away? Not quite, but taking a minute to slow down might help. Acne is the result of a hormonal imbalance, which triggers the sebaceous glands to produce more oil than is necessary. Testosterone has been known to trigger such a response, and the stress hormone cortisol, which runs along the testosterone pathway, is often seen in tandem with breakouts, according to a Huffington Post report.

In other words, keeping stress triggers low can’t hurt, which of course is easier said than done while traveling (especially with family!). But if you feel like you need a blissed-out retreat to unwind and de-stress, worry not! Even taking two minutes for some deep inhales and exhales can go a long way in keeping cortisol levels down, so just do your best and take a few nice big belly breaths whenever and wherever you can.

Travel safe & have fun!

After all is said and done, the most important thing to keep in mind is why you’re on the road in the first place — to unwind, relax, and reunite with your family and loved ones! It might be easier said than done, but when it comes to maintaining acne-prone skin, our best shot at creating healthy habits is to stick to our regimens, stay positive, and take care of our bodies by sleeping and staying hydrated.

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