The very first time I went on a long flight was a visceral experience I'll never forget: the thump and grind upon landing, the butt numbness, how, no matter how big or small you are, the seats always seem to fit exactly your size with no room to move, and most unforgettable - what my face felt like. You probably know it, and the best way I've come up to describe this feeling is the sound of nails on a chalkboard - but on your skin. Yuck, right?
Apparently, the human body is used to a humidity level of around 40-70%, whereas most airplane cabins have a humidity level averaging 20%. Do the math.
That said, there's no reason you have to get off the plane looking or feeling like a dried up prune. After all, with so many other things that could go wrong while travelling, bad skin is completely preventable. Here are our jet-setting secrets to great skin.
1. Take the aisle seat.
We all hate having to nudge the person sitting in the aisle seat, while they're sleeping, no less, just so we can get up to pee, but it's necessary and they'd do it too.
So for the sake of hydration, especially if you're on a long flight, go for the aisle seat. And keep on drinking (water mostly).
Also, another plus: being further away from the window also helps with sun protection. You'll likely have the window screen shut on an extra-long flight, most of the time, but when you do have it open, being that close to the sun isn't really a great thing for your skin. We recommend sunscreen anyway, but unless you want to keep reapplying sunscreen throughout the flight anytime someone wants the window open, grab a seat away from the window to avoid a direct hit of sun on your face. It's probably worse than a sunscreen-less beach day. In fact, pilots and frequent flyers are at higher risk for skin cancer. SPF it up anyway, but take the aisle seat to avoid a direct hit.
2. Oil, oil, oil.
While you do want to keep your insides well hydrated, there's a lot of stuff going on at the surface that no amount of water can help. A face oil/serum is a must to keep your skin hydrated from the outside in.
Bet you also didn't know that the extreme dry-ness that your skin goes through can actually cause pimples. So oil up at least once (twice on a long-haul).
3. Take a sheet mask time-out.
Yep, it's pretty awkward to be sitting so close to a stranger with any kind of mask on, when it's not October 31. But you'll never have such a long stretch of time to do nothing than on a long haul flight. So, you might as well. The best time to do this on a 12+ hour flight is after your second meal, assuming you get three.
Just don't go for the panda (you'll give your flightmate a bit of a fright looking more like the undead than what you really are: a high-maintenance cutie).
5. Rethink your makeup strategy.
It's not completely necessary to go 100% bare, but here's the routine we go with: face oil, sunscreen (you're getting close to the sun, Icarus) and concealer if you feel you need it (or an all-in-one CC cream), eyebrows and lip balm. We tend to skip mascara and lashes because it always sucks to be sleeping in that gunk.
But honestly, if you're feeling brave, go bare and wipe it all off with a cleansing wipe as soon as you get settled in. You know it, we know it: the best thing for your skin is nothing but skincare, especially in mile high air.
6. Say no to alcohol-based mists or sprays.
Even though hydrating sprays may work great on the ground, they tend to not do so great job on your skin in the air, especially when they contain alcohol. We tend to stay from all alcohol-based skincare but feel it necessary to make a PSA about this, seeing as how it's become common practice for nearly everyone to bring their "hydrating" sprays on board, when said hydrating sprays are actually designed to make you keep spraying and spraying.
Your skin is actually going to be left feeling even more parched. If you're addicted to that feeling, go for a rosewater spray.
We know, we know. How could something that feels so right be so wrong? Ah well, blame it on the alcohol.
Photo credit: Apollonia van Ravenstein in Vogue, 1973.