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The One Beauty Appointment You Should Make Before Your Next Flight (And 5 Tips for Protecting Your Skin While Flying)

Plus the best products for combatting damaging cabin air.

I’m a planner in every way, and I take planning for travel very (maybe too?) seriously. My pre-travel routine includes planning each outfit down to the accessories and packing my suitcase (with the help of Leslie’s tips), assembling the perfect carry-on in advance (Katie’s specialty), paring down my already-simple makeup routine to just the essentials (via Jess’ guide), and even getting a vacation-ready mani pedi (or doing my own at home using Emily’s tutorial). 

Before a recent trip to Spain this summer, I realized an integral component was missing from my routine: skincare prep. In an attempt to address this, mere hours before my 7 hour flight from JFK, I visited Naturopathica's day spa in Chelsea, Manhattan and spoke to their founder, Barbara Close, about why a pre-flight facial is the best thing you can do to to combat cabin air. 

Airplanes are just about the worst environments for skin (read: dry, stale, recirculating cabin air), and whether you’re taking a two-hour flight or twelve, the damaging effects can be long-lasting. To say that an airplane is as dry as a desert is not an exaggeration: humidity on an airplane is about 20%, less than the 25% humidity of the Sahara desert. Even once you're off the plane, Barbara explained to me, “travel means different types of water on the skin with various pH levels as well as changing humidity levels." One of the most effective ways to protect your skin from these environmental inconsistencies is with a facial (here's where to find the best one in your city!), or the at-home equivalent with a deep cleansing followed by nourishing oils and balms to seal in moisture. 

The moisturizing benefits of a facial are just the beginning. Facials stimulate cell turnover, which can lead to sun sensitivity, so the the ideal time to schedule an appointment is when you know you will be out of the sun for the next day or so (read: in the airport and on your flight). Additionally, applying makeup to a freshly cleansed, post-facial face can clog pores, so use your travel time as an opportunity to let your skin breathe (and flaunt your beautiful, glowing skin!). Whether you're arriving at the runway fresh from the esthetician's or planning on pampering your skin mid-flight, here's every skincare product you need next time you're cruising at 35,000 ft...

Post-facial, pre-flight

Post-facial, pre-flight


First and foremost, you want to ensure you're flying with minimal residue from makeup and other products you may have applied earlier in the day or the night before. I'm partial to a cleansing wipe, either Ursa Major's Face Cleansing Wipes or First Aid Beauty Radiance Pads, which are both ideal for travel (and automatically comply with TSA regulations). If you'd rather apply toner to a cotton pad (Emily swears by these) and control exactly how much product you use, I would recommend Bioderma Sensibio H2O, a French Girl cult favorite, or The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. The key with cleansing and makeup removal while traveling is to look for products which purify and hydrate simultaneously (look for products which contain hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and extracts like cucumber or rose).


After cleansing, try a toner with a humectant like honey or glycerine, which pull moisture in from the air to hydrate the skin. Naturopathica's Lavender Honey Balancing Mist is a gentle choice ideal for most skin types. If your skin looks tired, reach for either Elizabeth Arden's Miracle Hydrating Mist, which contains coffee seed extract, or Dr. Dennis Gross' Collagen Mist, or Caudalie's Beauty Elixir, both of which contain citrus extracts to wake up and refresh the skin. 


Creams and face oils are indispensable while traveling. Look for something with an occlusive barrier to hold moisture in. Caudalíe's Vinosource SOS Cream (Emily's current favorite) and Naturopathica's Gotu Kola Repair Balm (perfect for sensitive skin) are fortified with soothing botanicals to hydrate parched skin. More cost-effective options are Neutrogena's Hydro-Boost Gel Cream (one of Katie's drugstore picks) or La Roche-Posay Toleriane Protective Cream. In terms of face oils, I love to mix one or two drops of Naturopathica's Carrot Seed Facial Oil in with my face cream. It's #1 in my beauty cabinet right now as it's incredibly soothing, and the only thing that has helped even my skin tone and calm my mild rosacea. Caudalie's Detox Oil, comprised of a mix of essential oils including neroli, lavender, carrot, and white sandalwood, is a great option if you're traveling to a city—the essential oils help draw toxins from the skin and provide protection from harmful UV rays and pollution. Finally, Farmacy's Honey Grail Oil with antibacterial manuka honey is ideal for traveling in germ-filled airports and airplanes.


After cleansing, toning, and hydrating, a few final touches to the perfect in-flight beauty routine are: eye cream, lip balm, and if necessary, spot-treatment. For the light traveller, First Aid Beauty's Triple Remedy Eye Cream does it all: active botanicals nourish the delicate under-eye area while the product's slight tint disguises dark circles. If you're looking to hydrate Chrissy Teigen-style, try Tarte's Pack Your Bags Undereye Patches with algae and marine flower extract. A multitasking lip balm is equally essential. My favorite heavy duty one is by Laneige, and the best simple ones that aren't fancy but just work are Carmex and Blistex. Lastly, for spot treatments, try an oil like Osmia Blemish Oil or Eve Lom Dynaspot. If you're looking for a patch to prevent unnecessarily touching it, CosRx Pimple Patch.


While your skin is protected from the elements during your flight, as soon as you exit the doors, you're at risk of sun exposure on your freshly exfoliated face. Our team favorite in the office is Supergoop's Glow Stick, which is perfect for everyday, and if you're looking for something a little stronger for a beach vacation, try Katie's favorite, La Roche-Posy Anthelios 60

P.S. Sometimes I like to take vacation as an opportunity to try new products (since your skin is always just a little bit better after a few days out of the office) so a few sets to consider are: Goop Discovery Set for radiant skin, Clean Skin and Hair Set for a little bit of everything, or Supergoop 'The Glow Pros' for beach vacations. 

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