For over 15 years, commercial airline pilot Joi Schweitzer has been fulfilling her childhood dream of flying the skies. Schweitzer, who first worked as a flight attendant before earning her pilot’s license, sees herself as a role model for young black women who hold that same dream for themselves.
“I had never really seen anyone who looked like me in this industry, and I knew becoming a pilot was going to be a trailblazing step,” says Schweitzer, who currently flies for American Airlines (and who you may recognize from the reality TV competition The Mole). “Representation matters, and it’s important for little girls of color to see someone like me in an elite, male-dominated field. If I can do it, so can they.”
Since launching her career, Schweitzer has experienced the many–and at times, literal–ups and downs of pilot life. Amidst long layovers, surprise delays, and unpredictable weather changes, Schweitzer has learned how to hack her health habits to circumvent the exhausting lifestyle that comes with the job.
One of those hacks? Layering up with plenty of SPF before boarding.
Here’s why you should wear sunscreen on a plane
The higher the altitude, the closer our proximity to the sun. When you’re on an airplane, your exposure to the sun’s harmful rays increases, opening up your skin to potential UV damage.
For flight crew members, this repeated exposure to sunlight makes them twice as likely to develop melanoma than the rest of the population. One shocking study found that pilots flying for 56.6 minutes at peak altitude are exposed to the same amount of UV-A carcinogenic radiation exposure as a 20-minute tanning bed session (yeesh!).
“Pilots are always exposed to the sun’s harmful rays,” says Schweitzer. “We have pretty big windows in our flight deck, and it makes our skin more susceptible to skin cancer. I like to carry sun shields with me, I’ll wear efficient sunglasses, and of course, my skin-care routine is major.”
To combat harmful sun exposure and keep her skin hydrated, Schweitzer stacks her daily routine with plenty of SPF. And with travel season officially upon us, we all could stand to learn a few skin-care tips from someone who flies almost daily.
SPF favorites a pilot uses before every flight
Ahead of takeoff, Schweitzer makes sure to apply face sunscreen with at least SPF 30, which is the bare minimum dermatologists recommend for daily use.
“I love Neutrogena SPF 45, and I wear it daily,” she says. “It feels rich, and it goes on evenly without leaving a film.”
On the rare days her skin needs a little extra love, Schweitzer says she’ll use either Exuviance’s Age Reverse Day Repair SPF 30 ($82) or Shiseido’s SPF 42 Sunscreen ($38). The Exuviance sunscreen is loaded with anti-aging ingredients, like retinol and neoglucosamine, while Shiseido brightens skin with an added dose of Vitamin C.
“Both of those products go on flawlessly and smoothly, and they look great under my makeup.”
For even more skin protection, Schweitzer says she’ll top her makeup look with an SPF-infused setting powder like the bareMinerals SPF 25 Mineral Veil Setting Powder ($33). This loose powder applies clear and adds an extra layer of UV protection for daytime flights.
Because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, Schweitzer makes sure to re-up with a product that won’t mess up her makeup look.
“For long flights, I’ll use an SPF 50, and every few hours, I’ll use Supergoop’s setting mist,” she says. This ultrafine setting spray packs the UV protection of SPF 40 into every spritz.
How a pilot cares for her skin after flying
Frequent flyers know how taxing and dehydrating long flights can be. After washing her face at the end of the day, Schweitzer likes to use a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum, specifically StriVectin’s Advanced Acid Serum ($79). This glowy serum plumps and hydrates tired skin, all while smoothing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Finally, Schweitzer treats her skin to a restorative night cream. Right now, she’s loving Neutrogena’s Bright Boost Overnight Recovery Gel Cream ($22), an energizing formula packed with retinol, Vitamin C, and neoglucosamine.
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