In-Flight Essentials

It’s officially summer (aka holiday season!), and if your bags aren’t already packed, chances are you’re planning what will be in them once the time comes. 

Luggage packing aside, the very act of flying depletes moisture from your skin. The inhospitable environment of an airplane cabin – recycled air and germy surfaces – mean that steps must be taken to ensure you don’t arrive at your destination with dry skin, cracked lips, and an impending breakout. 

Our tried-and-tested step-by-step routines (we’ve thoughtfully compiled separate ones for long- and short-haul flights) and product recommendations will ensure you remain fresh-faced from one time zone to the next.

Long Haul

Long-haul flights are notorious for causing even the most long-wearing makeup to deteriorate – dry skin turns dryer and flakes, while oily skin makes up for a lack of moisture by overproducing oil. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of opportunity for desired grooming practices. In-flight grooming is about getting in and out of the plane bathroom, or better still, utilising things you can do in your seat with minimal annoyance/amusement to your fellow passengers. This is where your travel-sized beauty products come in handy.

Before Take-Off

Remove all of your makeup as soon as you sit down, even if you don’t wear much; it might seem like a faff at the time, but your face will thank you later. Flights and festivals are the only appropriate occasions for face wipes – both demand a fast fix approach to makeup removal (because no one wants to spend more time in airplane bathrooms than necessary), but it’s important to opt for wipes that don’t compromise upon efficacy. 

yesto grapefruit facial wipes

Yes To Grapefruit Facial Wipes are rich in Vitamin C, offer instant refreshment, brighten the skin (always a bonus in-flight, for recycled plane air renders skin dull), and gently but efficiently remove makeup and that thin layer of grime that travelling nearly always seems to accumulate.

1 Hour After Take-Off

Now that you’ve stowed your luggage, settled into your seat, and chosen your onboard entertainment, it’s time to get serious with your skincare. Take advantage of the long flight time to cleanse and treat skin thoroughly with a face mask. Fortunately, masks these days come in so many forms, shapes, and sizes that finding a flight-appropriate one is easier than you’d think. 

With no need to decant or rebottle product, Nugg’s single-use Deep Cleansing Mask eradicates all trace of dirt, grime, makeup, and excess oils. What’s more, it does so without drying out your skin – making it a true in-flight essential, suitable for all skintypes. You’ll need to make a quick trip to the bathroom for removal, but once you’ve done so, give your face a generous spritz with This Works In Transit Spray to add an extra layer of hydration and create a barrier between your face and recycled air. Specially designed for use when travelling, the formula is rich in reparative plant oils which help to restore and calm skin. Plus, it gives good glow.

Halfway Through Flight

It’s in everyone’s best interest to sleep through long flights, but for maximum efficiency make the most of the downtime to supercharge your skin whilst you sleep. Translucent in colour and specially formulated to provide intense hydration for hours, sleeping masks are the perfect antidote to the consequences of being enclosed in an encapsulated environment for over six hours – immediate dehydration, increased sensitivity, and dull skin. Peter Thomas Roth’s Camu Camu Sleeping Mask is wonderfully hydrating, rich in vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, and has a light gel texture that melts into skin – plus, it’s completely invisible (should you not feel like slathering your face in green goo at 30,000 feet).

Because you need to go a little heavier than usual to counter the overly-drying effects of plane air, massage on some face oil beforehand, or mix a little in with the mask to tailor the intensity of hydration to suit your requirements. Packed with antioxidants and nutrients, to condition and rejuvenate skin, Antipodes’ Divine Face Oil is ideal for an extra boost. By the end of the flight, both will be totally absorbed.

Getting some beauty sleep will not only leave you feeling more alert and less zombie-like upon arrival, but you’ll also look better. We recommend investing in a scented eye mask to ensure that you get some quality shut-eye – the soothing lavender aroma of the Holistic Silk Eye Masks will help you to drift into a deep slumber (plus, they’re specially designed to prevent product transfer in order to retain hydration to the skin). We also recommend applying This Works’ Stress Less for some acute aromatherapy; a rollerball applicator delivers the soothing natural remedy to pulse points to reduce tension and promote sleep.

1 Hour Before Landing

Upon waking, give your face a quick wipe with a Yes To Grapefruit Face Wipe and spritz on a little more In Transit Spray for a wake-up refreshment. Then follow up your intensive dose of hydration with a targeted treatment to the eye area (one of the first to really show signs of dehydration). 

nugg cleansing mask

Peter Thomas Roth’s genius Depuffing Eye Cubes will soothe and refresh tired and puffy eyes, mimicking the merits of resting frozen cucumber on your lids. Like a litre bottle of SmartWater for your eyes, you’ll leave the plane looking like you’ve spent a week in a spa, as opposed to the middle aisle of a Boeing 737.

10 Minutes Before Landing

The logistics of applying a full face of makeup from a tiny plane seat or bathroom are far from practical; for that reason, it’s best to stick to what’s necessary when it comes to reapplying your makeup. A sheer, hydrating base like Supergoop’s Daily Correct CC Cream will help to smooth, brighten, and even skin without clogging your pores or feeling too heavy, and it has an SPF of 35 (especially desirable if you’re flying somewhere hot). Enhance your natural lip colour with a touch of tinted balm – PIXI’s Shea Butter Lip Balm in the shade Sweet Peach adds a subtle hint of colour and helps to condition dry, chapped lips – preventing that post-flight chapping.

supergoop cc cream
pixi shea butter lip balm

Short Haul

Chances are if you’re on a short-haul flight, you haven’t checked in any baggage. In which case, space (and border control) demand a strictly edited approach to your beauty essentials – which is where the hard decisions come in. Yes, air travel can be particularly tough on your skin, but choosing which lotions and potions to pack in your 20 x 20 Ziploc can be equally as challenging.

Before Take-Off

When you’re travelling (and only then) face wipes are great for many reasons; today’s formulas are strong enough to efficiently remove makeup when without the luxury of a basin and washcloth, and also act as an instant refresh for a sluggish complexion. What’s more, Yes To Cucumbers Facial Towelettes come in a travel-sized pack that can live outside your Ziploc (more room for everything else)! Before taking off, remove your makeup to keep your pores clear in-flight and prime your skin for a hydration hit. Spritzing a face mist before applying moisturiser is key to proper hydration  – vital when cabin air is practically sucking the moisture out of your skin. While heavy creams can build up and cause breakouts, face sprays are sheer and light, so can be applied as often as you want. Look for vitamin-rich formulas like First Aid Beauty’s Vitamin Hydrating Mist, which helps to hydrate and replenish the skin whilst reviving the senses. Lock in the hydration with a sheet mask – perhaps not the most discreet option, but by far the most convenient and efficient way to rehydrate skin whilst on the go. Stash Missha’s Hyaluronic Acid Mask in your carry-on for an instant (and powerful) hydration hit. Packed with hyaluronic acid, the mask drenches the skin to the deepest layer.

yesto hypoallergenic facial wipes
first aid beauty vitamin hydrating mist
missha hyaluronic acid mask

30 Minutes Before Landing

Lock in all the benefits of your mask by patting on a gentle cream like Alpha-H Daily Moisturiser SPF50 to seal in total hydration. This option is a favourite for its light texture and deeply nourishing formula, and the SPF inclusion is always a bonus, especially if you’re jetting somewhere sunny. The skin around the eyes is the only area of the face that doesn’t create its own moisture, so it can get very dry on a flight. A nice cooling pen treatment like Talika’s Eye Detox Contour Gel – which goes on and doesn’t budge – hydrates and protects delicate skin from harsh AC, and is especially useful when you need to look bright-eyed and awake after several hours of pressured travel.

alphah plus hand cream spf50
talika eye detox contour gel

10 Minutes Before Landing

Crammed into a tiny plane seat during descent, it’s best to avoid a full face of makeup and stick to what’s necessary to keep you looking fresh. Create a clean, even base with Alpha-H Multi Perfecting Skin Tint (which has a handy compact mirror hidden in the lid). Use clean fingers to blend on the tinted moisturiser, then dab the concealer on areas where you need more coverage – around the nose and under the eyes.

A matching lip and cheek colour will give skin a light flush of colour and brighten the face – opt for a solid balm texture like Stila’s Convertible Colours, which blend on effortlessly, leaving a dewy glow in its wake. A groomed brow suits a minimal makeup look – comb brows up and out with Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Tinted Brow Gel which defines brows, leaving them instantly fuller and perfectly shaped.

alphah multi perfecting skin tint
stila convertible colour
anastasia beverly hills brow gel