I’m a Travel Writer and This Is My Beauty Routine for a Long-Haul Flight

From maximizing hydration to taking care of your skin, here's everything you need to know.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

As a travel writer, I’ve traversed the world dozens of times, visiting far-flung destinations from Morocco to the Maldives. While Emerson may have believed that it's not the destination, but the journey that matters … he never flew on an airplane. From dry cabin air to decreased blood flow, the elements of flying leave most passengers with “Flight Face” — dehydrated and puffy.

On a recent 30-hour journey to Kenya from San Diego, I was dreading the back-to-back red-eye flights and long layover. Then, determined to make the best of it, I decided to use the long-haul flight as an opportunity for some overdue self-care. I gathered up some of the best beauty and wellness treatments in an effort to see which ones could counter the toll that airplanes take, hoping to step off the final flight looking and feeling refreshed. Here’s exactly what I did.

Meet Our Expert

  • Azadeh Shirazi, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in La Jolla, California.

  • Michele Green, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City.

  • Chloë Ward is a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner and certified integrative nutrition health coach in Santa Barbara, California.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Our skin feels most comfortable in 40 to 70 percent humidity, yet during a flight, cabin humidity is typically 10 to 20 percent. This creates transepidermal water loss, which the skin may try to compensate for by retaining water. Combined with a lymphatic system that isn’t working at its peak because we’re largely sedentary, blood flow and circulation slows, leading to puffiness, while decreased moisture creates dehydrated skin.

To ensure you’re getting enough hydration for your journey, fill your water bottle post-security and drink up before you get on a flight where beverage service — and bathroom access — is more limited. “The best defense is a good offense,” says board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD. “Considering the low humidity of airplane cabins, it’s best to load up on skin hydration before your flight.” That means imbibing extra fluids and applying moisturizing skin products to boost hydration, so you’re covering your bases inside and out. “Skin flooding is a technique inspired by K-beauty where, after cleansing, you apply a hydrating toner or spray, followed by a water-based serum, and finish off by applying a moisturizer with sunscreen to seal in the hydration,” adds Dr. Shirazi.

While I love the intensely hydrating aspect of sheet masks, wearing one in public takes a certain shamelessness. So, while I sported one on the airplane, if you’d prefer to save the horror movie vibes of a full sheet mask for a pre-flight ritual, apply one either at home before your trip or at a discreet airport lounge before boarding. The Vitabrid C12 Dual Mask is my go-to; it contains hyaluronic acid and works in 10 to 20 minutes to plump the skin with moisture. It comes completely saturated with serum, so applying it over a sink can help cut down on the mess.

Board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD, also recommends adding sunscreen to your in-flight skin-care routine. “The sun’s UV rays can be even more powerful when flying as you are closer to the ozone layer. Thus, sunscreen is vital to protecting your skin from harmful UV radiation that can increase your risk of developing skin cancer or premature aging signs,” says Dr. Green.

Ease (or Prevent) Bloating

The changes in cabin pressure — along with salty in-flight snacks and prolonged sitting — can cause bloating and puffiness. Keep your lymphatic system moving by getting up and stretching every hour. This may be a daunting prospect on a red-eye flight, but if you can maintain it for the hours you are awake, you can still prioritize sleep while maintaining circulation. While you’re up, take the opportunity to drink a bottle of water and reapply moisturizer.

Bloating from water retention can be combated by hydrating with vitamin-rich snacks, like fruits and vegetables, and magnesium-filled almonds. Where possible, try to avoid salty foods, alcohol, and caffeine, which can further dehydrate you.

Chloë Ward, a functional diagnostic nutrition practitioner and certified integrative nutrition health coach, advises consuming protein-rich snacks to stabilize blood sugar levels. She also suggests “incorporating anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric and ginger to reduce post-flight bloating and discomfort.”

Wearing compression socks can also minimize swelling. While they may not be as appealing as your favorite fuzzy slippers, they’ll prevent swollen ankles and increase circulation.

Maximize Layovers

Use a layover to reap the benefits of body movement. Even if it’s just a fast-paced walk around the terminal, mobilizing your body will help decrease fluid retention. If you have a longer layover, research a more immersive activity source in the area. During my seven-and-a-half-hour layover at JFK airport in NYC, I went to the on-site TWA hotel for a long swim in the heated rooftop pool. Swimming is ideal for stretching the entire body, as is yoga (which can be done in any quiet corner of the airport).

Take Care of Hair

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Just as the low humidity on the airplane is dehydrating for your skin, it can also dry out your hair. If possible, use a deep conditioner before your trip. I love the Michael Christopher Calm Down Treatment for my dry hair so it's soft and hydrated prior to flying.

My naturally wavy hair typically becomes a mess during a long flight, so I tried the viral TikTok sock curls method to style my hair on the airplane. I love anything lazy girl beauty, so I was stoked to have these curls work well during my second red-eye flight. I chose to place the wraps on the side of my head, rather than the top and back, which meant less volume but more waves. It was my first time trying the trend and I accidentally rolled one side much looser than the other; lesson learned — rework the sock curls until they are even before going to sleep.

Prioritize Sleep

It isn’t always easy to sleep on flights, but coming prepared can help you nod off, giving your body time to repair itself. A silk eye mask to block out the light is gentle on the skin, and a neck pillow can help maintain your alignment and minimize tension. Personally, I avoid sleeping pills (which can be dehydrating, among other side effects) while flying and use CBD instead. The laws around CBD are constantly changing (the TSA allows for CBD with less than .3% THC, but when flying internationally, the guidelines are less clear), so I opt for a blend with zero THC like Joy Organics Tranquil Mint Tincture.

On my long-haul flight, I slathered on the BluZen Wellness vanilla shea butter lip mask before I went to sleep, and applied Luzern Force de Vie Creme Lux to my face. When I woke up, I was pleasantly surprised at how soft my skin felt. Still, next time I fly, I’m planning to opt for the Creme Intensive formula for a richer formulation.

Refresh and Arrive in Style

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

After waking, keep eye wipes, like the Biotrue Micellar Eyelid Cleansing Wipes, handy. They're easy to grab and will gently and thoroughly clean your eye area. I also tried a new-to-me eye drop, the LUMIFY Redness Reliever, which made my always-dry eyes feel more comfortable and removed the redness. To combat dark circles, I rolled on the Back to Earth Skin Glow Eye Cream with coffee extract (caffeine can help decrease redness and puffiness).

At the end of the flight, brush your teeth, apply deodorant, and change into fresh clothes. It will help you reset, feel less groggy, and be ready to take on the next stage of your journey. Dust on some dry shampoo to soak up oil and pump up your volume (I like a non-aerosol powder like Billie Floof for travel). Sometimes, I apply makeup before landing as well, but after 30 hours of pamper time/plane time — I didn't feel like I needed it!

For more InStyle news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on InStyle.