We are off to the UK on Saturday and I am oh-so-excited! I can’t wait to spend my days curled up in front of the roaring fire, eating my weight in mince pies and taking occasional breaks for forays into London – always sparkling and gorgeous around the holidays. Really, England is my perfect Christmas wonderland. Of course, before we actually get there, there is the flight. With each passing year, air travel becomes more and more of a soul-sucking nightmare. What’s worse, even if you’re fortunate enough to only fly first class, it’s still a nightmare for the skin. In fact, between the dry, stale, recirculated air, the increased radiation, the dehydration (how many of us drink enough water on the plane; to say nothing of the drying effects of alcohol) and the jet lag, flying is one of the worst thing you can do to your skin. There isn’t much to be done about the general awfulness of air travel, but thankfully, your skin doesn’t have to suffer. All it takes is a little planning, some clever skincare and this Guide.
Now, first things first: this guide is, primarily, for long haul flights (i.e. over 4 hours). Anything shorter isn’t really long enough to warrant carrying on a bunch of products – unless your are me, of course – and isn’t so long as to cause any real damage. The exception is if you are getting off the plane and immediately heading somewhere that requires you to look presentable and fresh: a job interview, a date (this isn’t totally insane – the Englishman’s and my first date was in London and he saw me for the first time getting off a plane) or an evening at the San Francisco opera with Richard Gere (but then you’re probably flying private anyway). In this case, you can simply follow the guide and modify the suggestions based on the size of your carry-on and your commitment to looking impeccable upon disembarkation.
I should also note that once you get off the flying sardine can, things don’t necessarily get much better. Hotel shampoos typically suck (especially if you are used to “clean” haircare) and until recently, continuing your regular beauty routine meant bringing cosmetic bags, filled to bursting with your regular skincare and decanting cleansers into those annoying plastic bottles from the pharmacy. Thankfully, some of my favorite brands have been releasing products in travel sizes, meaning that take care of your skin and hair with just the contents of your carry-on.
The most important thing you can bring on a flight aside from your ID/passport and boarding pass is a facial mist. I simply cannot stress this enough. Do this regardless of the length of your flight/your budget/your skin condition. Bone-dry airplane air doesn’t just suck moisture out of your skin; it dries out your nasal passages, throat and eyes, making you both miserable and more susceptible to infection. I use a mist constantly during a flight (including short ones) and when I spray it, I make sure to inhale deeply. That way, I can moisturize and revitalize the outside and the inside of my face. A mist is also fabulous to wake you up and refresh you after fitful airplane sleep.
The kind of mist you bring on a flight matters. This isn’t the time for pretty floral hydrosols: you need serious hydration. Look for ingredients like glycerin, oils (not essential ones), hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, etc. Some of my favorite sprays containing those ingredients are Yuli’s Metamorphic and Cocoon Elixirs, Josh Rosebrook’s Hydrating Accelerator, La Bella Figura’s Jardin de Fleurs, True Botanicals Nutrient Mist and May Lindstrom’s Jasmine Garden. Of course, you probably don’t want to lug a heavy, glass bottle onto the plane. Don’t worry though: you won’t have to decant or go without. Yuli sells their sprays in 50ml bottles and the generous travel size of the Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator comes in a plastic bottle, which means it weighs almost nothing. The latter is the Englishman’s travel staple and has gotten him through hundreds of hours of flights.
Of course the other alternative is to get a trial/travel set of your favorite skincare – that way your entire routine can fit in your handbag. My current favorite is the fabulous True Botanicals Essential Trial Kit (Renew). It contains four of TB’s core and most, well, essential products: the genius cleanser, the aforementioned Mist and the anti-aging superstar duo of the the Pure Radiance Oil and the Cellular Repair serum. The kit will last you for about two weeks, so not only will it keep your skin protected and nourished on the plane, it should also last you through your vacation. It’s worth noting that the Trial Kit also comes in TB’s two other formulas: Calm (for sensitive/irritated skin) and Clear (for acne-prone skin), though I would suggest that for flying, you may want to stick with Calm or Renew even if your skin is on the oilier side.
I should also mention that May Lindstrom will soon be releasing her utterly exquisite and gorgeous Wanderlust Collection and I have been incredibly privileged to get the first glimpse at it in all its glory. A stunning, vegan leather clutch (which I am seriously considering re-purposing as an actual purse – no shame) contains generous travel sizes of May’s entire collection, including the not-yet-released Pendulum Potion cleansing oil, plus a raw silk pouch (I suspect May might be expecting us to use the clutch for purposes other than toting cosmetics) and a mask mixing brush. It’s a lush, indulgent dream, but, sadly, it will probably not be released until January, so there is no link. I will update once there is a firmer release date.
If the above two options are outside of your budget, Follain sells an adorable S.W. Basics Mini Kit, containing the brand’s most popular products (cleanser, toner, cream and makeup remover) in a TSA-friendly clear pouch. I should note that it was a visit to Follain in Soho that inspired this post. They have curated one of the best selections of travel products I’ve seen (and this includes conventional retailers), including a number of other fabulous travel kits from brands like Tammy Fender, Ursa Major, and even Erbaviva for when you’re traveling with baby, as well as travel sizes for dozens of individual products.
But I digress. While a good mist is essential, it’s not enough – certainly not for longer flights. In the interest of keeping this (slightly) shorter, I will give a numbered list, with reasons for why each of the products is necessary. Please note that I am not mentioning such items as toothpaste/toothbrush, etc. I am here to help your skin – when it comes to personal hygiene, to each their own.
- Quality face wipes. Typically, I am firmly opposed to using face wipes to cleanse one’s face. However, unless you are flying Etihad First Class, I think it highly unlikely that you will be using a traditional cleanser (even if one does come in your fabulous travel kit). Wipes are a quick and easy way to remove any makeup, get rid of flight grime and refresh. I am partial to these ones from Ursa Major.
- A moisturizer. This can be an oil, a cream or both. Obviously, you are set if in possession of a travel kit, but if not, simply bring your favorite oil. If you tend to switch between several, this is the time to use the heavy stuff: rich, thick and uber-nourishing.
- SPF. Solar radiation is much worse at 30,000 feet. Your skin will be blasted by UV rays if you have a window seat, but you wont fare much better in the central row. Either wear your SPF onto the plane or apply it once you have finished your routine (cleanser, mist, hydrate) after take-off. The only exception is obviously red eye flights, both because, well, there is no sun and because it’s best not to sleep in SPF. Flying is uncomfortable enough, so this isn’t the time for thick, gloopy sunscreens that leave you looking like a ghost (you don’t wan to scare the TSA agents). Instead, try a light daily SPF, which, if tinted, can double as light makeup. Check out this roundup of my favorites.
- Face Balm. Dry cabin air is no match for a quality balm. It will both nourish your skin and act as a protective barrier against the dry air. Balms also tend to smell lovely and the smell sticks around, which can act as an antidote to the often-stinky airplane air. In fact, a balm like the Blue Cocoon can double as a Xanax replacement, thanks to it transporting and utterly calming scent. Frankly, if in possession of a great balm, it can replace item 2 above and is easier to transport (solid vs. liquid), so feel free to use your favorite balm as the moisturizer and skip the oil. Aside from the Blue Cocoon, some of my favorite, aromatic in flight balms are In Fiore’s Fleur Vibrante (which is available in a concentrated version in a sleek, carry-on friendly compact and smells like heaven), Lina Hanson’s yummily chocolatey Global Treasures balm and Leahlani’s pretty, pink Bless Balm.
- Sheet Mask. Long haul flights seem like the perfect time for masking: you are sitting in one spot for hours, doing absolutely bugger-all – why not use that time to pamper your skin? The obvious answer, of course, is that it’s utterly impractical. Masks tend to be messy and even ones that aren’t, need to be rinsed off. Imagine for a second having to wait in line for that tiny bathroom with a mask on your face and then attempting to rinse it off, while having to push down on those hideously annoying plane faucets every 10 seconds. Nightmare! One exception? A sheet mask. In fact, a sheet mask is one of my absolute favorite products to use on the plane. They take up almost no room and cause no quarrel with TSA, they are typically focused on hydration – something your skin desperately needs in-flight – and they don’t require prep or rinsing off. An extra bonus? If you are a slightly deranged jerk like me, you will enjoy horrifying your neighbors with that trademark serial killer look that most sheet masks give. I will be flying with my beloved 5yina Divine Biocellulose Mask, that’s as gorgeous as its packaging and leaves my skin hydrated and brightened.
Really Great to Have.
- Salt Hair Spray. Dry shampoo tends to be touted as a hair cure-all to help extend the life of your blowout and make your hair look great without much effort, but I don’t think it’s the best bet for plane travel. You likely won’t be in flight long enough for your hair to get oily. What does tend to happen is that seat backs, headphones, eye masks and crummy plane pillows work together to turn your hair into a misshapen mess. A salt spray will help dampen your hair so that you can restyle it and will give it texture and vitality. My favorite is the Captain Blankenship Golden Waves Salt Spray, which not only works fabulously well (even on my super-short hair), but also gives tresses a pretty golden shimmer (it also comes in a shimmer-free version). Another texture-giving favorite is Josh Rosebrook’s Lift, which comes in a travel size, although it won’t really wet your hair and is better for giving long hair bounce.
- Essential Oils. Essential oil mixes are not strictly something you need for your skin, but they help make the flight experience exponentially more enjoyable and less stressful. If you spend your flight comfortable and relaxed, it will help not only your mental state, but your skin as well. The Englishman has already written at length about his travel favorites, most of which happen to be essential oil mixes. Aside from the products he mentions (especially the utterly divine and magical de Mamiel Altitude Oil), I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favorites. The new release from the lovely, New England brand Farmaesthetics combines four of their EO blends, each of them perfect for flying. Dreaming Oil will help you relax and sleep on a red eye flight, Adrenal Support is great to help support you through the stress of travel, Warming Oil will comfort you during those ridiculously cold flights we all experience once in a while and Pick-me-up will help get you going once you arrive to your destination. The set hasn’t yet been released (though you can buy the individual blends), but will soon be available at Follain. My other favorite is the La Bella Figura Travel Therapy Mood Booster, whose name is so accurate that I will not get on a plane without it.
And there you have it. If you follow the steps above, you will emerge from your flight exuding Hollywood A-lister glow. Throw in a travel size bottle of your favorite shampoo and conditioner and you wont need to be held hostage by the poor product selection at your hotel or your parents’ house. Happy travels, darling!
Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with my friends at Follain and most of the products were provided by Follain (they are all my favorites and were chosen by me). This is not a sponsored post and there are no affiliate links. I did purchase some of the products mentioned and a few were provided by the brands.