Skin & Nails

5 Ways I Keep My Skin Looking Fresh & Glowing On Long Flights

I live in Asia, which means whenever I want to go back to the US to visit, I have to spend ridiculously long amounts of time on an airplane. If you’ve ever taken a long flight across the ocean, then you might be all too familiar with what I call “airplane skin.” You know, dry, itchy, wrinkly, mixed with chapped lips and bloodshot eyes. If you have oily skin, you may get off the plane with your face even more oily than usual. Since becoming a hardcore skincare junkie, I’ve realized the importance of not only having a night and daytime routine, but also a long haul in-flight skincare routine.


Why is a skincare routine on a long flight important? It all comes down to the humidity in the airplane cabin. A good humidity level indoors during the winter is anywhere between 30% to 40%. During the summer, anything below 50% is good. The humidity levels in airplane cabins? It can be anywhere from 15% to a pretty much non-existent 3%. So basically, airplane cabins have no humidity, which is awful for our skin, our eyes, throats, and our sinuses. Whenever people complain of having awful skin after a flight, it’s not only the air being re-circulated over and over again, it’s the low humidity levels that just suck every single drop of moisture from your skin, leaving it dry, red, scaly, itchy, and wrinkly. Gross.

So I combat airplane skin by layering on as much moisture as I possibly can, then adding more moisture every couple of hours. When I travel to the U.S., my flights are 20+ hours long, so hydration is key.

Here are my steps for stepping off the plane looking and feeling fabulous:

1. Keep It Clean

Missha First Treatment Essence

Cleanse skin using a micellar water like Bioderma or cleansing wipes. I’m anti-cleansing wipes, but the only time I’ll use them is on a plane. I don’t wear makeup when I fly, so I use the wipes to remove surface dirt and to prep my skin for the rest of my routine. If you do wear makeup, make sure that your skin is absolutely clean before moving on to the next steps.

2. Stay Hydrated

Apply a hydrating toner. In Korean skincare, toners are used for hydration, not for cleansing like Western toners. I use the Missha First Treatment Essence. Apply in your palms, and gently press into your skin.

3. Add Moisture

Missha Super Aqua Hydrating Emulsion

I then apply a lightweight moisturizer. I usually use something like the Missha Super Aqua Hydrating Emulsion. Again, apply in your palms and gently press into your skin.

4. Dab On Oil

Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask

Next, I like to mix a bit of oil with a sleeping mask. Using both together ensures that your skin is super hydrated and stays that way. I love argan oil mixed with my holy grail Korean beauty product, the Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask. It’s a thick cream that sinks into your skin like magic, and when you wake up, it looks like you’ve had a facial. It’s magic in a tube, and one of my flight essentials. If I’m feeling super dehydrated, I’ll use a sheet mask.

5. Re-apply and Repeat

As a final step, I apply an eye cream and use a hand cream to moisturize my hands and feet. I also apply a hydrating lip balm. Every couple of hours during the flight, I add a little more oil and moisturizer to my skin and reapply lip balm. When the plane is almost ready to land, I cleanse my skin again using a facial wipe, and apply the lightweight moisturizer, and proceed to put on makeup.

I know you’ve read all this and you’re like, “but how do I get all of these products in my small clear bag?” My secret weapon is samples. I have a stack of samples that I keep and use for flights only. You can order samples of your favorite products from eBay, or if you’re near a Sephora or department store you can ask a salesperson for samples. Also, water is essential. I bring a big empty bottle through security, and fill it up once I get into the terminal. I stay away from alcohol and caffeine during flights, as both dehydrate you.

I use this routine on any flight that is three hours or longer. Having an in-flight skincare routine not only ensures that my skin looks fabulous when I land, but that I don’t have to deal with any residual breakouts during my vacation. You gotta look good in that Travel Noire Instagram photo!

As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor or a medical professional. I’m just a woman who loves skincare, and wants to share my tips and tricks on what has worked for me personally. Please see your physician or dermatologist before beginning any new skincare regimen.    

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