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How to Achieve Moisturized, Glowing Skin on a Plane Ride

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I love traveling… except the traveling part. Brash, touchy TSA officers and lost bags aside, it’s really the long to-and-from airport commutes, the plane ride itself and all the waiting takes a toll on me. And what part of me takes the brunt of the damage? My skin.

I typically emerge from the plane appearing like a worn-down school teacher who’s sent one too many belligerent students to detention. My bun barely hangs by a thread, the dark circles around my eyes are more pronounced than Saturn’s rings, and my overall complexion appears as though I’ve survived on a diet of potato chips. (Admittedly, I’ve subsisted on Southwest’s free Nabisco snacks and peanuts more times than I care to admit.)

During my most recent trip to Honolulu, I decided I need to change things once and for all. Especially because it was a five-hour flight to LA, a two-hour layover, and another five hours to Honolulu. I equipped myself with the products and preparation that I needed to end my on-air trip on a pleasant note… and arrive at my destination looking dewy and ready for a swim!

Here’s what I did to prepare myself. I’ll first discuss what you need to do before you board and what you should take with you on the plane. You definitely don’t need to do all of these, just whatever works for you. Bon Voyage!


Declutter and moisturize your skin the night before (gently but sufficiently).
Wash your face with a deep cleanser, exfoliate, put on a soothing face mask and moisturize. This is one of the very few times each year when I put on heavier, thicker and richer face cream all over – including my T-zone – because I know my skin will be exposed to extremely dry conditions the following day. If you’re super oily, you can still do this with a gel-cream, like Garnier’s Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream.

When it comes to exfoliation, choose between a chemical exfoliator with AHAs or BHAs or a grainy scrub. I like the latter because my face responds to it well, but it may be too harsh for some people with sensitive skin.

The morning of the trip, moisturize well and put on sunscreen. If you want to put makeup on, I recommend a tinted moisturizer.

Don’t forget about your body.
Use a sugar scrub the night before, like Fresh Brown Sugar Body Polish. Not only does it thoroughly slough away dead skin cells but the oil blends leave your skin exceptionally hydrated without any gross residue. The next morning, apply your regular body lotion. Double duty = double protection!

And pamper your feet (which we all know look the grossest when they’re not taken care of!)
I file my heels in the shower and apply lotion as I would any other day. But right before I sleep, I slather an extra dose of Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream on my heels and the top of my toes and put on a pair of socks. The next day and through the week, my heels look like that of a baby’s.

Don’t eat crap.
Fill up on fruits, vegetables, nuts and seafood and take Omega 3 supplements. I’ve weaned myself off from the ever-tempting pre-board tradition of eating the sausage biscuit sandwich from McD’s because I invariably feel like @$$ afterwards. Don’t do it!


A miracle hand cream
Now that you’ve detoxed and armed your skin with enough moisture to last a few hours, you can prepare yourself for the plane ride itself. Take a travel-size hand cream that keeps your hands silky and soft. With all the water imbibing you’re going to indulge in and all the germy folks near you, you’re going to be washing your hands a lot. Plane soap is especially drying, so your hands will need additional nourishment. I recommend Bliss High Intensity Hand Cream with macadamia oil and grapeseed extract if you want one that’s fast absorbing. It’s SO awesome. I also love taking a jar of Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Crème because it smells great and makes me feel better about being crammed in a coach seat.

An empty water bottle with a wide spout or twist-off lid
Yes, the airplane usually provides free water, but rather than chugging each cup within two minutes of receiving it, I prefer the slow and steady approach. This is hard to do when I have a cup sitting precariously on my tray for hours, so I prefer pouring it into my own water bottle and feeling the security of a closed top. Or I’ll ask the flight attendant to fill my bottle up – water is a basic human need and nobody has every denied my request.

Something soothing for your nose
The recirculating air will make you feel like you’re breathing in sand. Inhaling Vicks VapoInhaler with menthol once or twice helped me remove the physical pain from the extreme dryness. You can also search for mint balms on Etsy if you prefer the homemade, natural route.

A trusty “everything balm”
This includes cult classic Rosebud Salve, Vaseline or Aquaphor. Anything you can put on your face, hands, elbows and your lips. Chances are, your lips will be the driest out of anything on your face so you’ve already thought of taking lip balm, but your knuckles and other splotchy dry areas might need it too. You can dab it lightly around your nostrils as well, to help you breathe. And don’t forget they make an excellent highlighter for your eyelids and cheek bones if you unexpectedly need to look hot for… errr, the pilot?

A travel-size spray bottle with your own misty creation
This is something I do even when I’m not on a Saharan plane ride. I fill up a bottle or atomizer with water and a few drops of argan or sweet almond oil and mist it on my face when I feel dry (or when it’s a sweltering 95 degrees outside). Spray sparingly so you glow, not look sweaty and drenched. This was my saving grace during the aforementioned ten-hour plane ride from hell (to paradise).

Cleansing wipes and a moisture mask pill
Some of you may think this is one step overboard, but for an especially lengthy transcontinental plane ride, I like to put on this lotion mask midway through. I hate it when my face starts to feel dry and greasy at the same time, and I can’t help but think that debris and germs are accumulating on my face. I take some cleansing wipes to clean off the top layer of makeup and moisturizer, then place this moisturize mask on my face for several minutes. It takes next to nothing in space since it comes in pill form. Just pour water over it and watch it expand. Your neighbors might look at you weird but who cares?! You can go to almost any Asian novelty or grocery store to get this, or you can get it online.

So there you have it! After implementing all of these steps, I was exhausted upon landing but I sure didn’t look like it. What precautions and steps do you take to ensure you have a skin-friendly flight? Let me know in the comments!


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