Traveling with Acne

That acne sucks is a universally known fact. While already dishearteningly difficult to deal with in everyday life, the stresses and unpredictability associated with traveling can unfortunately exacerbate it. Up until quite recently, I struggled with moderately bad acne and tried everything short of Accutane: Proactiv, drugstore cleansers, organic/natural cleansers, expensive cleansers, antibiotics, the Clarisonic brush, birth control pills, eating healthier, and so on. I noticed that my skin would always get worse whenever I traveled, which could put a serious damper on my trip and make me feel a lot less confident both in pictures and in real life. Though there unfortunately is no scientific cure for acne, I am going to share with you what has helped me when I am traveling- and in my everyday life.

Also, please remember that having acne does not mean that you are a disgusting or bad person or that something is “wrong” with you. Please remember that you are beautiful, focus on the features that you do like about yourself, and realize that you probably notice and care about your acne way more than the people around you. 

Anyhow, to provide some embarrassing evidence of my previous acne, I am going to post one of few photos I willingly participated in makeup-free when I went to India in 2011; this was the worst my acne has ever been, and the photo doesn’t even do it justice:


Nowadays, my skin is not 100% clear- but it has significantly improved. I still get some acne on my chin and have a little discoloration from past acne (how annoying! It’s like a friendly little reminder that you once had acne in that spot), but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

Here is a recent photo in which I went to the beach makeup-free:


Now, without further ado, let’s begin the tips for how I deal with acne when traveling (and not traveling!):

1. I do not wash my face everyday.

Yes, you read that right. I know it’s been drilled in your head to wash your face not just once but twice per day, and that oil is the skin’s enemy. You may be thinking to yourself, my skin is so oily that if I don’t wash it everyday, I will turn into Greaseballs McGee. My skin is oily, too, but less so now that I don’t wash it everyday. You see, when you dry out your skin by washing it, your skin actually produces more oil in order to compensate. That’s why you are always told to go in with toners, moisturizers, and a host of other products after using your cleanser. Instead of doing all that, I let my skin naturally balance itself out by not washing it.

I only wash my face when I wear makeup- which, when I am not traveling, is usually a few times per week. If I go a whole week without wearing makeup, I will then wash my face and sometimes use a face mask (followed by a toner and moisturizer) just because I am feeling a bit icky.

2. Skincare starts on the airplane.

First of all, do not wear makeup on the plane. I know you might feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, but it is really not worth it and will interfere with the steps that I am going to outline below.

Anyhow, I always seemed to notice that my skin would look particularly horrible after getting off the plane; my skin would be even oiler than usual, and I even would get new pimples. This would, of course, be an awful way to begin a trip, as I’d be spending the next days piling on makeup, trying to treat my new acne, and worsening my skin in the process.

I learned recently that the reason my skin looks so bad after a plane trip is because the air inside the plane is extremely dry. According to, the humidity inside airplanes is even lower than that of the Sahara Desert! As I mentioned above, when skin is dried out, its response is to create excess oil in compensation. All of this excess oil leads to greasy skin and new breakouts.

To combat this, it is imperative to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize on a plane. One of the most effective ways to do this is by using a very hydrating sheet mask. In addition to making you look like a serial killer and a weirdo, they have the added benefit of being convenient to carry on the plane- as they do not come in a cream/liquid form like other masks.

I recently used a cucumber one and a coconut oil one on my last flight from Los Angeles to Zurich to Barcelona by the brand The Crème Shop. They were inexpensive, effective, and felt nice on my skin:


To avoid stares or awkward conversations, I tried to put on my mask when the cabin was darkened for people to go to sleep– or to simply pretend I was asleep when the flight attendants walked by! Although you may look and feel like a freak for wearing it, just think of how much nicer your skin is going to look once you disembark.

When you are not wearing the sheet mask- especially if you are on a long-haul flight- you can apply a moisturizer and/or spritz your face with a moisturizing spray throughout the flight in order to prevent further dryness.

3. Thoroughly take off your makeup.

I know that you are going to want to wear makeup during your trip (and if not, more power to you!). While I don’t wear makeup everyday in my normal life, I do like to wear makeup whilst traveling– particularly because I know I will be taking photos. I try to wash my makeup brushes before leaving, because I know I will be too lazy to do it whilst away (and to do that, I simply use a mixture of dish soap and olive oil). Then, when I’m wearing makeup during my trip, I first take it off with a makeup remover wipe before washing my face with a cleanser (and following it up with a toner and moisturizer). I used to think the makeup wipe step was unnecessary and even a too-intense cleansing of the skin; however, my skin has significantly improved since I started adding this step. I believe it’s because regular cleansing alone does not remove all your makeup, and thus the makeup that is not removed ends up clogging your pores.

I like to use these makeup removing wipes from Sephora. They are double-sided, with an exfoliating side to be used on the face and a gentler side to be used on the eyes.


4. When you do wash your face, use gentle cleansers.

That means no Neutrogena/Proactiv/whatever crap you find in the drugstore or even that your dermatologist recommends. I really like the Angels on Bare Skin one from Lush, which is extremely natural and smells amazing.

It is also important to follow the cleansing with a toner and moisturizer, as cleansing your face will leave it dryer than normal which, as we now know, can lead to an overproduction of oil. I like the brand Le Mieux for these, which happened to be recommended to me by my sister-in-law who is an esthetician.



5. Try to eat healthy/drink water and not too much alcohol/exercise/get enough sleep…

…without compromising too much the fun of your trip!

How do you deal with skincare whilst traveling? Do you have any tips to share with our readers? Leave a comment below!





One comment

  1. J | Beauty's Expert Amateur · · Reply

    You’re spot on with these – will definitely be trying some of your tips! Great work x


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