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In any normal year, between November and April, you can find me traveling the country (and also parts of Canada) searching for fresh powder, early morning untouched corduroy, and the best taco spots a ski town has to offer.
While all of this is fun, the impacts of high altitude are no joke, especially when it comes to your skin. Pair that with a lack of packing space after getting my gear together. Multiple snowboards, boots, pants, jacket, gloves, hats, you name it, whatever I am bringing for the après side of my day has to be packable and travel size.
After years of travel, chapped lips, ski goggle tans, and skin so dry I may as well be the mother of dragons, my skincare routine has evolved to counteract and stop all those ailments. So learn from me.
Here are my top 5 best skincare products for high altitude travel.
- Nature Sustained Body Wash
- Portable Humidifier
- Athia Sunscreen
- Athia Coconut Lip Mask
- Peter Thomas Roth Rose Repair Moisturizing Cream
The secret to combatting dry skin in high altitude is making sure you don’t have dry skin at sea level either. A big lesson I have learned here is that it’s all about the pH of your products. I know, you weren’t anticipating a science lesson, but hear me out. Typically your skin is between 5.4-5.9 on the 1-14 pH scale. Keeping that in balance is key to making sure your skin is healthy (and not dry).
A lot of products have a pH level as high as 10, and at an altitude which already dries out your skin, you are setting yourself up for dry, cracking, itchy skin. It’s not a good look, and no amount of lotion is going to help in the long run. That’s why I love Nature Sustained’s pH balanced products (especially the body wash).
Bonus: This product is very concentrated, so a little goes a long way, meaning less is more, and by that I mean you get more washes for that tiny little space you have allocated for your beauty products. It’s a win-win.
2. Portable Humidifier
Lower humidity at altitude = dry skin. While not technically a beauty product, a humidifier is a game changer for your skin and your beauty rest. Plus, it has saved me from some serious altitude migraines. A humidifier is only something I learned about when a condo I stayed at had a humidifier in the closet. After that, I was hooked. I have two, and I use either of them, depending on how much space I have:
- Fancii Cool Mist (They have a travel case too)
- MOVTIP 50ml Humidifier (USB)
A humidifier is not an earth-shattering revelation, but it will counteract the dryness that helps moisture evaporate from your skin, and it may be hands down the best change I made to my high altitude travel routine. Plus, when you’re at altitude, low oxygen levels and low humidity can often lead to nasal problems (like bloody noses, etc.). Increasing the moisture in the air has proven to help nasal problems and other altitude-related issues, so it’s a portable powerhouse when it comes to more than just your dry skin.
3. Athia Daily Defense Matte Moisturizer Sunscreen
At 10k feet or higher, the sun is hot, as in 35 degrees and sunny actually feels toasty. Increased elevation levels increase UV exposure. It’s estimated that UV levels increase 10 to 12% for every 1k meters (3,280.84 ft) you climb, so sunscreen is a must. If you are anything like me and spend most of your day on the hill, don’t forget about the reflective power of the snow.
Consider the altitude of just some of the places I typically go:
- Peak 8 at Breckenridge, CO: 12,840 ft (Imperial Express Superchair)
- Chair 9 at Loveland, CO: 12,700 ft (trails top at 13,010 feet).
- Heavenly Mountain Top Elevation, Tahoe, CA: 10,067 ft (base 6,255 ft)
- Whistler, BC: 7,160 feet
Needless to say, the sun is no joke when you do the math. The ski goggle tan is also no joke, sadly. I use Dr. Jart+ BB Cream that has SPF 20+, and then I top it with Athia Daily Defense Matte Moisturizer (SPF 25). This sunscreen is mineral-based, so it sits on top of your skin and is super gentle on sensitive skin. The sheer, non-greasy formula (greasy sunscreen is a big fat no in my book) blends in and feels great. Plus, you can never get enough moisturizer at high altitude. Trust me.
4. Athia Coconut Lip Mask
Chapped lips are basically a right of passage when you’re traveling at high altitude. Part of it is the never-ending battle with staying hydrated. Trust me, drink your fluids. You will be happy you did. The combination of low humidity, wind exposure, and higher UV levels is the perfect equation to zap moisture from your skin and leave you with cracked lips. I have tried just about everything from sunscreen lip balms to lip scrubs, and while a lot of things together worked, I still hate the feeling of chapped lips.
Recently, I started using Athia’s Coconut Lip Mask, and it’s super small and easy to pack. Plus, it cures chapped lips and skin overnight. Every ski bum and high altitude traveller needs it ASAP. The ingredients are amazing, and it smells so good you might be tempted to eat it.
5. Peter Thomas Roth Rose Repair Moisturizing Cream
Before I continue my love letter to moisturizer, you will after your high altitude travel, I promise, I want to make a quick mention about washing your face. Soap and foam cleansers can be drying, so using an oil cleanser will help hydrate your skin. Nature Sustained has a line of great skincare products for your face, and their organic botanical oil cleanser tops the list when it comes to face cleansers. It’s always good to consider each step of your process when it comes to dry skin in altitude.
Ok, onto another moisturizer that I use whether I am in high altitude or at sea level: Peter Thomas Roth Rose Repair Moisturizing Cream. I also love their Mega-Rich Body Lotion and carry a travel size with me on all my trips. Similar to what I said about the body wash above, a little goes a long way with this moisturizer, so no need to pack a whole tub. (Tip: For under $10, you can purchase cosmetic jars, which I prefer than using empty lotion tubes or anything with a squeeze top). It glides on and absorbs perfectly into the skin. No matter what brand you go with, a moisturizer is an absolute must, as is lotion.
When you are at altitude, having dewy hydrated skin isn’t a beach side beauty trend, it’s essential for comfort. As you drive higher and your ears begin to pop, your skincare routine will also be challenged and tested by everything that comes along with those beautiful mountain towns: low humidity, low temperatures, and low oxygen levels.
Bringing these top skincare products for high altitude travel is a sure-fire way to make sure you’re comfortable, spending more time skiing and less time worrying about chapped lips, intense sunburn, or dry, itchy skin. And really, the #1 tip is to stay hydrated. I always bring a water bottle with me through the airport, in my backpack on the hill, and through the house or walking around town drinking loads and loads of water while I search for the best après happy hour and tacos. See you on the hill.
Article Written By Gabrielle Nickas