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The Impact of Air Travel on Your Locks and How to Keep it Under Control

The Impact of Air Travel on Your Locks and How to Keep it Under Control

It’s officially holiday season, and over 40 million Brits are expected to travel abroad for a summer getaway. 

Flying is one of the most popular methods of travel to reach your holiday destination, but it can be physically taxing on your hair.

So, how does flying really affect our hair, and what can you do to protect it from damage pre- and post-flight? Alice Dawkins, hair expert at Milk + Blush, shares how flying can affect your hair and scalp and what you can do to protect it from damage pre and post-flight.

How can flying affect your mane?

Most of us are familiar with aeroplane skin – the dryness, flaking, and itchiness that can occur during a flight. Well, your scalp is no different.

The recycled air in a plane cabin has a lower humidity than regular air, meaning there is less moisture, resulting in trans-epidermal water loss and causing the skin to feel tight, dry, and irritated. 

Significant changes in the atmosphere like this can affect the molecular structure of your hair strands, changing the texture and leaving it feeling brittle and lifeless.

A dry environment may also cause your scalp to increase oil secretion to recoup lost moisture making your hair greasy much faster. This can be exacerbated by wearing headphones or sleeping against the headrest during the flight.

Stress and anxiety can also trigger more intensive oil production, as it causes our bodies to release the stress hormone cortisol, which will boost it, and travelling can be stressful.

Pre-flight preparation

The best way to prep your hair for a flight is to infuse your locks with as much hydration and moisture as possible to protect it whilst travelling.

Water makes up around 25 percent of the weight of a hair strand, but this can change depending on shifts in temperature and humidity. 

A decrease in either can make hair feel brittle, frizzy and vulnerable to breakage.

To avoid this, wash your hair the day before your flight and use a shampoo and conditioner that contains moisturising and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and oils such as argan, coconut, jojoba, and castor. 

Additionally, apply a hair mask from the mid-lengths to the ends and leave it in for as long as possible to give it enough time to penetrate your strands, avoiding your scalp as this will make it greasy quickly. 

Follow up with a lightweight serum, oil, or leave-in treatment that can boost moisture without weighing your hair down and making it appear flat.

When styling your hair for your flight, tight hairstyles are a no-no. Your hair will be most vulnerable on the flight, and excessive friction could cause breakage and hair loss.

Avoid high and tight ponytails and buns. Instead, opt for a loose braid or low ponytail that’s more delicate on the hair and use fabric scrunchies to minimise damage.

Keep your stress levels as low as possible to prevent excessive oil production by scheduling plenty of time at the airport to check in, pass through security, and reach your gate at a relaxing pace.

And take a pack of wipes with you to give your headphones and seat a final clean before they come into contact with your hair.

For those wearing hair extensions, we’d recommend against wearing them to travel as clips can often set off metal detectors. During the flight, keep them stored in a cool, dry, breathable bag and ensure they are completely dry when you put them away to prevent any nasty mould or bacteria from growing. 

And for flyers with textured hair, wearing a silk or satin bonnet can protect your locks from friction against the seat headrest, which can cause split ends and frizziness.

Post-flight actions 

Once you vacate the plane, your priority should be to wash your hands or, at the very least, apply hand sanitiser.

Planes and airports are germ and bacteria havens (airport screen kiosks have up to 700 times more germs than your kitchen counter), and you don’t want to transfer any of this onto your hair with dirty hands.

If your hair needs a quick boost of volume and texture or looks greasy, apply dry shampoo at the roots of your hair and work it through your hair with your fingers before brushing.

To restore moisture to your locks and reduce any frizz or static, grab a travel-sized oil or serum and apply it to the ends of your hair.

Ideally, wait at least one day after your flight before hair washing, as excessive washing can strip the natural oils and dry your locks out, leaving it prone to breakage and thinning, dulling the natural shine.

When you wash it, use a hair mask or pre-wash treatment beforehand to give your scalp and mane some TLC and follow up with moisturising and hydrating hair products.

Images: Unsplash