Ask A Doctor: Why Do I Break Out After Travelling?

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You’ve just had the most restful and fulfilling vacation ever. No work, no stress, good food—life was almost perfect for those few days. And then you come back to Singapore and lo and behold, a few pimples start popping up.

How many of you can relate to that? Breaking out after you come back from overseas is not uncommon, and according to Dr Lam Bee Lan, founder and director of Ageless Medical, there are a few reasons for that.

Cabin dryness

There’s a reason why we ask you to pack a mask in your hand-carry when you travel: your skin needs the moisture on the plane. “When travelling, the low humidity of the airplanes can dehydrate the deeper layers of the skin and exacerbate sebum production. This may result in skin dryness and itchiness, and eventually leads to dreaded breakouts during and after our holiday trip,” Dr Lam explains. If you don’t want to bring along a sheet mask, apply a sleeping mask instead of your usual moisturiser.

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Weather change

Think your skin should get better in cold, dry weather because it’ll produce less oil and hence, less prone to breakouts? In a way, you’re right, but the reason you’re breaking out might not be just because you’re returning to Singapore’s hot weather—it’s the combination of weathers. “The sudden change in temperature as we travel from hot Singapore to an extreme cold or hot weather country will inevitably cause stress and irritation to the skin. Over a period of time, the skin barrier becomes compromised and more prone to breakouts.”

Gastrointestinal overload

You know all those good foods you’re indulging in when you’re overseas? That could be the source of your breakout. Dr Lam says, “Often these foods are processed and refined and contain high level of sugar; it causes a surge in insulin and revs up the sebaceous activity, producing excess sebum and eventually skin clog.”

Is there anything you can do to prevent it?

In the same way you prepare your to-do list when you get there or to-pack list before you start packing, you should also prepare a how-to-care list for your skin for your vacay. Dr Lam says, “Besides the itinerary, you should also plan early on how you may take care of our skin during travel.” Here are her tips.

Travel bare-faced

It’s best to go make-up free on the day you’re travelling. As the humidity inside the airplane is very low, your skin will attempt to attach to water molecules from your makeup, which does not moisturise the skin but may unknowingly further exacerbate dryness due to the specific ingredients it contains.

Instead, bring a hydrating sheet mask along and apply light cream moisturiser to provide the extra boost of moisture to your skin. Facial spray facial mist also helps to quench your skin’s thirst for water during your long-haul flights or road trips.

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Decide on the products you will bring along according to your destination

Consider your destination and decide on type of products that are best suited there, and start using them along with your regular routine at least a week prior.

For example, if you are travelling to a country during winter, you might need to bring moisturiser that contain skin-plumping hyaluronic acid to prevent skin from drying out and to maintain healthy skin barrier.

When travelling to hot and sunny destinations, you might want to bring along a lightweight moisturiser and high SPF sunscreen to avoid clogging pores in humid weather.

Keep your diet in check

You might want to go bar-hopping and indulge in good food, but you also need to take a little care of your gut because so much of our skin’s health depends on the balance of our digestive system. Cut back on alcohols and oily food and make sure you consume enough leafy greens and fruits.

While travelling, some choose to reduce water consumption as they are always on-the-go. However, it is essential to drink enough water because a properly hydrated body can help skin to flush out toxins produced by body due to environmental and dietary stressors. Drink a minimum of two litres of water a day in the period leading up to your holiday, and continue on into your trip.

How do I treat the breakouts?

Use products with appropriate skin-soothing and spot-busting ingredients

If you have acne-prone skin and are already seeing a doctor for your skin condition, bring along your prescribed antibiotics for your trip. Antibiotics such as clindamycin and erythromycin work by clearing the skin of acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation.

Apart from that, apply topical application products that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, glycolic acid and lactic acid. These are available over-the-counter, and help stop breakouts, reduce pimples and inflammation and restore your skin barrier functions.

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Use a gentle, foaming face wash and lightweight moisturiser

Ensure you gently wash the affected areas once or twice a day with mild, foaming face wash. Avoid vigorous washing and scrubbing because it can irritate your skin. Apply only light textured (lotions, light cream, serum and gel), water-based and oil-free products at least until the breakout clears.

Go for medi-facials or seek further professional help

Look for skin-clarifying facial therapy that contains skin purifying and soothing ingredients to help clogged skin and inflammation such as the Ageless Medi-Aesthetic’s Clarity Revival Medi-Facial, which uses actives from marine algae and diatomaceous earth to purge sebum and impurities, as well as radio frequency energy to revive your skin barrier. For more chronic skin irritations and outbreaks, get checked by your doctor to treat the problem areas effectively.

Ageless Medical is at 501 Orchard Rd, #04-10 Wheelock Place.

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