In-Flight Skin Care


Long story short—let’s just say I am a very good friend, and I had some air miles burning a hole in my pocket—I found myself headed straight across this great nation on Friday night for a 36-hour stay in Los Angeles. So, approx. six hours each way. And nothing, and I mean nothing, sucks the dewy goodness out of your skin like air travel. So, as a newly appointed beauty editor who’s spent a good amount of time in planes over the years, I packed as many unguents and creams and sprays as would fit in my TSA-approved Ziploc, so that when I hit peak boredom, around hour four, I could methodically moisturize and at least know I was fighting the good fightraging against the machine, if you will.

A good facial cleansing is important for skin health, but have you been in a plane bathroom lately? That lighting? Those dour little metal compartments that were formerly used as ashtrays? It’s like a David Lynch film set. Not an environment that encourages leisurely preening or splashing around. In-flight grooming is about getting in and out of there, or things you can do in your seat with minimal annoyance to your fellow passengers. L’Oréal Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Wet Cleansing Towelettes are rich in vitamin C, come in a foil pack that can live outside your Ziploc (more room for everything else, whee!) and gently remove makeup and that thin layer of “traveling” that always seems to accumulate. They’re easy, are found in most drugstores for $6.99, and more importantly, they make me feel clean...-er. (Airplanes are pretty disgusting.) I usually bring Avène Eau Thermale as a backup. Who doesn't want a light mist from time to time? If anyone complains about being hit with ricocheting mist, tell them to direct their complaints here.

As for moisturizing, I popped one of the Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules: the fast absorption was keyas opposed to looking slickly drenched in a thin oil, or like you're sweating profusely (never a good idea on airplanes). The 10 to 15 minutes afterwards, when I let my Clarins Beauty Flash Balm sink in, were among the best of the entire flight. The balm feels hydrating and somehow both soothing and stimulatingas if you’re dipping your face into a very delicious, sparkling pool. “Bright” is a pretty tall order, post-travel, but I felt surprisingly glowy, all things considered. Moving on, I spread some Jurlique Calendula Creamsoothing, non-greasy and rich in both calendula and witch hazelon my limbs.  I kept my mitts happy in Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Intensive Moisturizing Hand Treatment, which I am so in love with, I would marry it (if it asked). In a perfect world, wherein I am completely unaffected by the opinions of others, I would have slapped a SK-II Facial Treatment Mask on before we took off, and wandered the aisles of the 747, doing ballet-themed stretches (à la Mary Helen Bowers), a sort of beauty-addled Freddy Krueger. Alas, the world is not perfect, I am not that brave; I kept these aside for after touch-down, after I unpacked and could let my skin soak it up. If these masks were a person, they’d be someone that I am wild about but never get to see as much as I’d like, because they live in London or something. They feel miraculous, especially after all the harshness of travel—the literal and figurative ‘ups and downs’—there’s something to be said for kicking back with one of these puppies on. You will scare any and all onlookers, though. I promise you that.

And for the orally focused: Aesop Tuberose Lip Heal is a bit heavy on the oil, which would bother me in the day-to-day, but is perfect for a flight. The combination of tuberose, violet leaf, and jasmine right under your nose knocks out the cabin's stale-air-mixed-with-humanity odor, and it will keep you smooth and refreshingly un-chapped for at least six hours. I only reapplied once. I also thankfully had the Earth Tu Face Skin Stick, which operates like a push-pop, smells like heaven, tastes clean on the mouth and is soothing but not too shiny. You can use it all over your body (it's formulated with geranium and vetiver, but I carry it around in my bag as my everyday lip balm. Also, it’s entirely edible, if you’re into that). Regardless, it was a comfort 'on the go.' And let me tell you, 'on the go' is exactly when you need comfort the most.

—Alessandra Codinha

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Fairytalesandcoffee

    Nothing like seeing the stash a beauty-aholic/expert has. Makes me feel ok about the fact I have a tendency to bring about a dozen or so travel sized skincare products where ever I go.

    • SF City Editor

      Everyone laughs at me, I bring along a ziploc bag for skincare, haircare and odds and ends....but my skin looks great! For glowing try skin illuminating moisturizers, get a lash perm before hand and apply tinted lipbalm, you will look pretty after a long flight.

  • Christina

    My eyes take the worst beating when I fly. They look like little dried prunes but then I discovered a miracle that a friend who only uses organic cosmetics swore by an eye serum. Not a cream, but a serum. It costs an arm and a leg, but damn it's worth every penny! Saves me from looking old and tired even if I look crazy rolling this on mid flight.

  • jaded

    Yessss! That is the best hand cream ever. I've lost track of the number of repurchases I've made to date.

  • Veronica

    Those SK-II masks are amazing! Honestly, I typically go for the acne obliteration masks, but this one is like a skin savior. You are quite right, though, about looking completely scary whilst wearing it.

  • Procrastinator

    On a recent flight to Europe, I put on one of these Asian sheet masks, only to have an older man go, "I think you're a little early for Halloween, sweetheart." I resisted the urge to snark back, "Yeah, but at least when we both get off this plane, people won't be shrieking at the sight of my plump, glowing skin. Your dry, saggy, mature skin on the other hand..."
    Ordinary people just can't understand us beauty fiends.

    • beeswaxnoneofyour

      Should have said, 'talk to the chainsaw, the well-hydrated face ain't listening'....(well, if he's going down the Halloween route..)

  • Jennifer Monforton

    What a great assortment of nourishing goodies! I love the idea of using a sheet mask during a flight (would be so moisturizing and soothing!) but, like you, I would be too concerned about scaring my fellow passengers :)


  • Krista

    I absolutely love Aesop's Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant serum when I'm flying long-haul (mix it with a bit of Aesop's Fabulous Face Oil). My skin stays hydrated and glowing... also drink lots of water for your body to stay hydrated.

  • Joanne Yun

    Just did the SK-II mask thing during a Cathay Pacific flight yesterday coming from Auckland to New York. I feel like the embarrassment is somewhat mitigated when you fly on an Asian airline - people get it!

    Unsurprisingly, the plane air dries them out super quickly, vs. in real life where I generally feel they stay liquidy enough to stash back into the pouch for another go

  • Alice
    I love reading a good step by step of someone's routine! This is one I compiled for a friend recently for in-flight skin care

  • CFH

    HOW did you resist linking back to Nick's epic airplane story at the beginning of paragraph 3??

    • ITGAlessandra

      I have NO IDEA, but trust: I thought very fondly of him staring into that dingy little airplane mirror, helplessly forlorn and contemplating the next seven hours with strangers accusing him of B.O. Never gets old.

  • Maria

    I can always tell when it's Alessandra that writes something. She's funny, and seems like a good time to hangout with!

  • VotreAmie

    I dig it! I am all about fighting the good fight mid air!

  • Guest

    I love 'plane products', like Lisa Eldrige's video and this was amazing too. I think everyone needs to relax a bit about planes though, air travel is the most incredible thing and really is an utter luxury.

  • Erin

    I love this! For a while I was doing long-haul flights every few months and so I started to keep track of what I used and what I thought I needed. This is what I came up with since my skin is pretty spot-prone:

  • freudianslippers

    Ohhh I am taking a six-hour flight to Iceland this coming weekend and I am very nervous about what the flight is going to do to my skin. I am super-duper acne prone though, so I am not sure all these moisturizing thingies will help. If anyone has any tips for keeping pimples at bay in-flight, I'm all ears!

    • Veronica

      I am also very acne prone. When I travel (often, as I am in a band) no matter what the travel mode I use the following: Mild cleansing wipes (like Bioderma Crealine in wipe form), a good purifying toner (Chanel - the green one), Aesop Fabulous Face Oil, and whatever moisturizing eye cream I have in rotation (I've yet to find the perfect one). This seems to be my magic combination. I would recommend using a slightly more moisture enhancing version of your normal routine, as often change can aggravate acne - at least in my own personal experience.

    • Lilalo

      I can completely relate to what happens to you. I tend to fly multiple times a year and have sensitive skin which incidentally is extremely acne prone (talk about bitchin' bad!) and the weather in India doesn't help my case.
      What you do in-flight is as important as what you do before you get on the plane. This is my 'the night before' routine which I swear by:
      1)Exfoliate your skin with your favorite scrub and make sure it is moderately grainy to ensure all the gunk on your day is scrubbed away (Love The Body Shop's Vitamin C Microdermabrasion Scrub). Steam your face, scrub and massage for about 5 minutes and then using a washcloth and warm water get all of it off your face.
      2)Wash with a mild face wash to soothe your skin (I use Kama Ayruveda's Sanobar Cleanser, which is easily available in India and I think quite a few other coutries), pat dry and put ona serum that will soothe and clarify your skin (I use Kiehl's Midnight Concentrate blended with a small scoop of chilled Aloe Vera gel).
      As you sleep, your clean skin gets to breathe, the serum nourishes and the aloe gel calms and hydrates the skin. The next day use a mild cleanser, moisturiser, sunscreen and lip balm and some mascara (if you just can't completely not have any make-up on). Be sure to remove all these products with moisturising wipes and then follow you in-flight routine. To keep acne at bay buy some Neem (Indian Lilac) Oil and add a few drops to aloe vera gel and apply that as a mask on you face every hour. Neem has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties and used extensively in Ayurveda. Also, aloe-vera is soothing and hydrating due to its high water content. As this mask is gel-like, you won't encounter quizzical glances. Be sure to remove all the layers of dried aloe gel from your face with a moisturising wipe and before you get off the plane, apply your moisturiser, sunscreen and lip balm. Avoid make up as it takes time for skin to adjust to sudden changes in humidity and temperature that occur when you get off the plane and the last thing it needs to makeup slapped on. Use some mascara and a tinted lip-balm if absolutely necessary.. Hope this helps! :)

  • Lourdes

    This all seems so luxurious, but sadly it wouldn't work for me. My skin becomes an oily mess on airplanes. I don't even bother wearing makeup on the flight because I spend the whole flight wanting to wash my face! LOL Makeup wipes are our best friends.

  • An

    Getting gross: we mustn't forget the insides of our nasal passages. My pharmacist makes a shea butter-and something else compound in a little tiny tube that I can take with me to keep my nose from getting that painfully dry feeling. You can use over the counter Secaris as an alternative. The pharmacist says it is supposed to help your body keep nasty recycled air germs from getting inside you. My mom swears by it and truly, I've never seen her come down with a headcold post-flight.

    • therealblonde

      I use Neosporin on and inside my nostrils... (a top from Rachel Zoe!)

  • Bells

    where can i buy the Goe oil in Germany?

  • Kasia Lichota

    Im flying for work on Wednesday 24th just for an hour (Berlin - Copenhagen) and wondering what to take. I will go on board without make up but I will take some to my handbag. I'm flying back the same day (!) so I'm taking: Yes To Cucumbers facial towlettes, Bioderma crealine (in a 50 ml bottle), La Roche Posay Hydraphase Legre creme in 5 ml sample sizes, thermal water (Uriage), Nuxe reve de miel lipbalm and for make up: Estee Lauder double wear light in 1.0, Clinique instant lift for brows, NYX stick blush in pink poppy, Revlon kissable balm stain in Honey Dulce, Estee lauder pop color gloss in 09 rock candy, Max factor clump defy mascara and Ben Nye pretty pink powder stuck in a 2 ml jar :-) I think that's all and it should work for me, at least I hope so! Maybe I'll add some face primer to a small 2 ml jar if I still have place in my clear plastic bag :)

  • Marie

    Oh gosh, just slap on some sorbeline and be done with it. Women sooooo overwork things! Does everything have to be a beauty promo?

  • Janet Lee

    Either take a tube of or scoop some Cetaphil moisturising cream into a small travelling pot to apply on your hands and wherever your skin is exposed. Forget about makeup, you don't need it, neither does your skin. Just cleanse and moisturise before getting on the plane, and apply Cetaphil cream whenever you need it. No need to feel 'exposed' or self conscious about not wearing makeup. I have acne everywhere, so it's not like I have nice skin and telling people to not feel self conscious about not wearing makeup!