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I don't consider myself an overpacker by any means, but when it comes to my airplane travel skincare, I am someone that will stuff my quart-sized toiletry bag to the very brim. I have family living on the other side of the world and often jump on long flights for work, so I've come to realize the importance of taking good care of my skin while it's dealing with high altitudes and dry cabin air. Whenever I have been too lazy to make an effort, I always end up paying the price — in the form of stubborn breakouts and flaky, dry skin in the days after my flight.
With much trial-and-error over the years, I now have my in-flight beauty routine down to a T. I'd like to think that it's pretty low-maintenance. Most of them are on the affordable end of the scale, too. Ahead, I've shared the 12 mini products that always make it into my travel bag. Thank me on your next vacation when you acquire supple skin and a natural glow before you even disembark the aircraft.
My Essential Skincare For Long-Haul Travel
I save my most hardcore skincare for long-haul flights when I have to travel for 12 hours or more. They are definitely the priciest items in this list, but trust me: the immediate effects they deliver are worth every single penny. If I am on a red-eye, I apply a generous coat of Aesop's Sublime Replenishing Night Masque before I fall asleep. It's packed with Vitamins B, C, E, and F but feels like a lightweight night cream. The formula is nourishing without feeling greasy, and it has a great calming effect on my skin, which gets dry and itchy on a long plane journey. I also like that I don't have to wash it off when I wake up. I also like to bring the Lucent Facial Concentrate along if I have space in my toiletry bag. It's a herbaceous Vitamin C serum that can be used as a moisturizer if you're traveling to a hotter climate, or layered under other skin care if you need an extra hydration boost.
I sometimes look puffy when I don't get enough rest, so if I'm having trouble falling asleep on the plane, I kill time by doing a little bit of gua sha — it helps with depuffing and alleviating headaches and muscle tension. Adding a face oil is essential to avoid stretching your skin during gua sha, and my go-to is Charlotte Tilbury's Collagen Superfusion Face Oil. The blend of avocado, rapeseed, and primrose oils is rich in antioxidants and doesn't get absorbed into the skin immediately (which buys you more time to complete all your gua sha movements). The collagen also does a great job of boosting my skin's moisture barrier.
What I Pack To Feel Fresh On The Plane
Even though I love applying plenty of products while traveling, you will never find me doing my beauty routine in the airplane bathroom. First of all, the idea of tending to my skin inside what is basically a mid-air port-a-potty is gross to me. I also like to be considerate of my fellow travelers and not hog the toilet if I can help it.
My brilliant solution? I stay firmly in my seat, and before and after my skincare, I wipe down my fingers with Curad's Alcohol Disinfectant Prep Pads ($3.98). Cleaning my hands with isopropyl alcohol was a habit I picked up during the pandemic, and I like the certainty of killing all the germs before I touch my face. I also use Marimer's Nasal Spray ($6.99) to regularly flush out any dirt or germs I might have inhaled using saline solution. Call me a germophobe, but I never caught COVID a second time ever since I started practicing this habit.
Traveling can mean long hours without showering, so I use the Stall Mates Fresh Wipes ($12.99) on my armpits and sensitive areas feel more refreshed. They are unscented and flushable and come individually packaged, making them a no-brainer for travel.
Affordable Beauty Heros
My beauty faves for shorter flights are a lot more budget-friendly. As I've mentioned, I don't like the idea of spending time in a plane bathroom unless I absolutely need to, so I wipe down my face with Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water instead of using a cleanser. It's a very gentle makeup remover and cleanser, and it's useful for taking off any sunscreen residue before I board a plane. Tower 28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray is the toner love for quick spritzes of moisture on the go. It contains hypochlorous acid, which helps reduce redness and protects your skin barrier from bacteria. I buy refills all the time due to how much I use it.
For chapped lips, the lip balm I return to time and time again is Dr. Hauschka's Lip Care Stick ($15). I've been using it for 10 years and there is simply no better alternative: it seals over any cracks on my lips and leaves a silky sheen that stays on for hours on end.
Body Care Saviors
For the rest of my body, I like to keep it practical and multi-functional: I like lathering Caudalie's Hand & Nail Cream since it works on both the hands and nails and absorbs really quickly. As for my hair, K18 Molecular Repair Hair Oil pretty much occupies a permanent spot in my toiletry bag. The small bottle is perfect for travel, and it's not greasy while doing an incredible job of reducing my frizzy hair and split ends.
There is also one thing I always do before landing if I have plans to see people right away: I make a beeline to the bathroom to apply Malin + Goetz's Eucalyptus Deodorant. It never leaves any residue and comes in a very pleasing natural scent that helps me feel more aware and ready to take on the world.