Pack a Skincare Routine for Your Long-Haul Flight That Won’t Cramp Your Carry-On

I travel abroad at least once a year, and one of the biggest hassles I face is packing my skincare routine. But even worse than packing my routine for my destination is packing my routine for the plane ride.

If there’s one thing I can’t handle it’s when my skin feels dry and tight. I have tends-toward-oily skin and I live in Texas: my face glistens and glows. All the time. So when it doesn’t, I know something is wrong.

And the plane? That fucking plane ride will destroy your skin with its recycled, dry-ass air that leaves you parched and feeling like your skin has turned into the Mojave desert. I remember one time flying home from England and being so thirsty I could barely even ask for water.

I’m telling you. The airline industry is trying to kill you. Or at least trying to make you ugly.

So I rely on skincare during any flight over about 6 hours, because I am not trying to land at the airport, run to the bathroom to pee, and then be forced to look at my uglass reflection in the bathroom mirror. No sir. Not today.

A good long-haul skincare routine is compact, low on liquids, fragrance-free, can be used at your seat, doesn’t bother your neighbors, and is heavy on hydration.

To Makeup Or Not to Makeup: For Me, There Is No Question

I don’t wear makeup when I travel. I don’t want:

  • To wake up early enough to put my face on
  • To sleep in makeup
  • To deal with taking off my makeup before I can fall asleep

However, I respect that some folks much prefer to wear makeup, and for those folks I say wear as little as you feel comfortable with, choose hydrating products over powders, and choose stuff you can easily remove with makeup wipes. I highly recommend Glossier’s Stretch Concealer and their Cloud Paint cheek stain as they are cream based, easy to remove, and feel comfortable even when my skin is dry. If you really need a foundation, consider a tinted moisturizer instead.

If You Do Wear Makeup, Take It Off As Soon As You Can

That way, when you’re ready to fall asleep, you can comfortably.

  • Bring hand sanitizer. Airplanes are nasty and if you’re going to touch your face, sanitize your hands first and then wipe your sanitizer off with makeup wipes. Which leads me to…
  • Bring makeup wipes. But I find makeup wipes rarely have enough product on them. So before my trip, I empty them from their container into a Ziploc bag and then I squirt micellar water into the baggie and let the makeup wipes soak.  You can pack the baggie and you’re golden.

I don’t have sheet masks on hand that I actually recommend for travel (of course.) These literally even say on the package “Clear fit sheet” which I don’t like on planes because I don’t like dealing with extra garbage.

Hydrate. For the Love of God, Hydrate

Bring a water bottle. Try to keep it full. When the flight attendants bring around water, drink it. Other than that:

  • Face mist. But ONLY if you are not sitting crammed up next to someone. You do NOT want to accidentally mist the person next to you. That would be incredibly rude.
  • Use sheet masks. Sheet masks are great because they don’t count as a liquid and you can hydrate well with them. Choose masks that 1) don’t have paper backing, 2) aren’t too juicy, 3) don’t have a strong fragrance. I LOVE these sheet masks from Benton and these from Klairs. They check all the right boxes for sheet masking on a plane.
  • Bring lip balm and apply it liberally and often.

Sleeping Masks/Oils/Occlusives Are Fine IF You Hydrate First

The entire point of an occlusive is that it traps water in your skin. But by the same token, it doesn’t let water into your skin. So if your skin is dehydrated already and then you put occlusives like oils, silicones, or petrolatum on top, you have no chance of hydrating your skin, and this could make your skin look and feel even worse.

  • After your mist and/or sheet mask, seal in the moisture with your favorite occlusive like a sleeping mask, Vaseline, or balm
  • When and if your skin starts to feel dry later, use a makeup wipe to remove your occlusive and then reapply hydration and THEN reapply your occlusive. Simply reapplying your occlusive won’t be much of a help and may actually make you feel worse.

Skip the Sunscreen

Most people leave their window shades drawn on long flights so your UV exposure is minimal, and so many sunscreens can be drying. I skip it altogether.

That’s about it! Kick back with 8 million of your favorite movies, try to get some sleep, and enjoy your travels!

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