Flight Attendants Share Their Travel Beauty Secrets

Photo: Courtesy of Emirates.
There are typically three types of people who fly: the "I-have-an-interview-when-I-land," the "I-could-literally-not-care-less," and the "I'm Kim Kardashian." And then there are the flight attendants looking every bit as polished and coiffed from the time you board to when they turn on the final seatbelt sign. Even on overnight flights, they manage to stay pristine as you awake bleary-eyed, and in desperate need of a toothbrush. Excuse me, but how exactly do they do this? Is there a full-service salon back with the warm nuts?

Sadly, there is not (or I'd be back there getting a body scrub mid-flight). Turns out, their techniques are a combination of set standards by the airlines, and tried-and-true practices from years of experience. We tapped pros from three of the biggies — British Airways, Virgin America, and Emirates — to fill us in on the nitty gritty of looking good when you're cruising at 3,000 feet.

There Are Rules
The flight attendants we interviewed all have to stick to a set of guidelines for their appearance. Some, like Virgin America's, are pretty loose. "The concept for Virgin America — from uniform to hair and makeup — is effortless travel chic,'" says Elaine Tannous, Virgin America's uniforms and promotions supervisor. "Our goal is to highlight the teammates' natural features in a stylish and modern way that exudes professionalism, with a hint of fun." This translates into a few different styles for their in-flight team. One attendant, named Brooke, usually goes for a topknot. "It's quick and easy, but still polished," she says. "Then when I land, I can take it down, and there's a nice little wave to it."
Photo: Courtesy of Emirates.
But, an airline like Emirates has a pretty strict code for how their attendants can, and should, wear their hair and makeup. The hair is styled in a "low bun using a bun donut, [or a] low ponytail to allow for the red hat with a silk scarf ," reads the airline's manual. "Cabin crew use makeup that is natural-based with plant extracts to protect the skin. " (Surprisingly specific, no?) "And red lipstick is a signature of the airline."

Skin Care is #1
If you typically whip out a mask or heavy moisturizer for a direct flight, you're not alone. "My beauty must-have is really a hydrating moisturizer, like Rodial Dragon's Blood Hyaluronic Moisturizer SPF 15, as the time in the air can make my skin feel dry and look dull," says Gilly, a senior cabin crew member for British Airways. "Then, I generously apply a nourishing lip balm while I do the rest of my makeup and hair." Emirates also suggests that their crew members carry moisturizer to keep their hands from looking chapped and dry.

They Hydrate — A Ton
This comes as no surprise — every one of the airline representatives stressed the importance of water, and lots of it. "It's an old cliché, but drinking lots of water keeps the skin looking hydrated and fends off dullness," Gilly says. Aside from water, she chugs green tea to quench her thirst and keep her alert. Plenty of the Virgin America teammates agreed. "Hydration, hydration, hydration!" says teammate Kayla.
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They Set With A Spritz
Rather than applying and reapplying powder — which can be drying and eventually look cakey — all the flight attendants we spoke to used setting sprays to keep their makeup fresh. If you can, keep it cold — or in their case, near the ginger ale — to soothe and depuff skin. We like to use Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water as a setting spray for an extra kick of moisture in-flight.

The Routine Continues After Landing
Their in-flight routine doesn't end once they step off the plane. For some, like Kayla from Virgin America, it's as simple as spritzing some dry shampoo into her strands to revitalize her mane. But, Gilly has a pretty intense routine she goes through after she disembarks. "After I take my makeup off with Soap and Glory 3-in-1 Facial Wash, I jump in the bath with some bath oil, and then apply a night cream which helps me get ready for a long (and hopefully) deep sleep," she says. Sounds as close to a vacation as we could hope for.


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