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Do You Need An In-Flight Skincare Routine?

Do You Really Need An In-Flight Skincare Routine?

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Commercial aircraft taking off in the sunset.

Shortly after booking my flight to New York, the seven-hour flight-time dawned on me and I wanted to make sure I had my onboard necessities sorted. My initial thought was compression socks, since my GP recommended them, so that was a no brainer. And then, oddly enough, skincare popped into my mind. I'm usually a simple flyer, and don't worry too much about how I look or my skin, but my friend, who recently became a flight attendant, warned me of just how dry her skin became when spending more time in the skies.

Then of course, there's the likes of Maya Jama and Naomi Campbell, who have repeatedly shown their in-flight skincare routines and rituals, consisting of eye masks and hydrating mists. There's been an increased real trend for celebrities and influencers alike to share their in-flight routines, propping up their phones on their meal table (usually first class of course) and going about routines that could span hours.

I had no doubt I wanted to try it out and see if an in-flight skincare routine could benefit me and have my skin glowing as I landed in my holiday location. But is it all really necessary? Well, according to the experts it is. And after doing my skincare for the flight to New York but skipping it for the flight back, I can tell you from experience — it absolutely is.

My In-Flight Skincare Routine Experiment

I decided to try one leg with a full-on in-flight beauty routine, and the other with hardly any, to see if I could tell the difference.

During my seven-hour flight to the States, I packed a handful of skincare travel minis to lather onto my face. I had an early morning flight and was due to land at around 3pm EST. I started by cleansing my face using the Then I Met You Living Sea Cleansing Tonic (£15), before applying a Garnier Anti-Fatigue Hyaluronic Acid and Icy Cucumber Cryo Jelly Face Mask (£3, originally £4) and keeping that on for around 15 minutes. For five of those minutes, I used one of the adorably miniature lip sleeping masks from Laneige's Dreamy Lip Kit (£18).

This was followed by The Glowcery Shop's Clean Green's Serum (£24), which I must add was super hydrating and nourishing, so any dryness I was experiencing was eliminated. Q+A's Caffeine Eye Serum (£6, originally £7) (and its handy applicator) was useful here in giving my eyes some TLC after the early start to the day. I finished up with the Kora Organics Turmeric Glow Moisturiser (£20) and Naked Sunday's SPF 50 Hydrating Glow Mist (£18), a product I'm sure you already know the importance of using, especially when literally flying closer to the sun. For added glam in my economy cabin, I completed my skincare routine with By Terry Baume De Rose Crystalline (£35). Yes, this all fit into my 20 x 20 clear bag and every product was 100ml or under, so I had no qualms at security.


Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography/Lauren Gordon

My flight back from New York was a red eye, so I boarded at 9pm EST and landed back in the UK at 7am (it was as tough as it sounds). This time, I limited myself to my SPF mist, mainly for the sunrise and landing and the Topicals Lip Salve, which I bought during my travels. I found that my face felt tight the entire trip, which led to discomfort especially around my eyes and my forehead. For the sake of this experiment, I pushed myself to about three hours into the flight, before begging my friend to use her hydrating facial mist to relieve the tightness in my face. Before landing, everything felt miles better after spritzing the SPF mist. It's safe to say I'd never go without an in-flight skincare routine for a long-haul flight again.

Why Do We Experience Skin Dryness During Flights?

So what's all this dryness about? According to Dr Selena Langdon, aesthetic doctor and co-founder of Berkshire Aesthetics, dry skin is caused by a number of factors onboard. "Dry skin onboard is caused by the reduction of oxygen, very low humidity and increase in UV exposure on the aircraft. The cabin's recycled and repeatedly filtered air removes the moisture out of your skin, resulting in dullness, dehydration, and increasing the risk of imbalanced skin," she tells us.

What Products Should You Use in an In-Flight Skincare Routine?

Combatting dry air onboard is the main priority for an in-flight skincare routine. Dr Langdon tells PS UK: "Hydration is then key. A good quality hydrating sheet mask or spray might help, alongside serums and moisturisers that contain humectants (for example hyaluronic acid) and emollients (such as squalane). It is also important to use a moisturiser that is non-comedogenic if you are predisposed to breakouts. Humectants draw water from the air, sealing it into the skin, reducing trans-epidermal water loss. Layering on products (little and often) with these ingredients will help to ensure your skin maintains hydration throughout the flight. It is advisable to avoid heavy and rich creams in this scenario."

Dr Langdon also strongly recommends an SPF that suits your skin time and with a minimum factor of 50, especially if you're sitting in a window seat. "Please do not forget to wear SPF when onboard. You are closer to the ozone layer mid-flight, where the UV rays can be quite potent.

"It is also important that you can get up occasionally and move around, or wear compression socks, which help to promote blood circulation and reduce puffiness. It is also advisable to avoid consuming alcohol, tea and coffee while in-flight, as they can cause dehydration. Preferably aim to drink as much water as you can," she adds.

Should Certain Skin Types Prioritise an In-Flight Skincare Routine More Than Others?

Evolution Aesthetics Clinic's dermatologist, Dr Yulia Krasnaya, tells us that certain skin types may benefit more from an in-flight skincare routine than others. She says: "Those with dry or dehydrated skin are likely to experience more pronounced effects of the dry cabin air and may benefit from more frequent application of moisturising products. However, all skin types can benefit from some level of in-flight skincare to help maintain skin health and comfort during long journeys."

Is An In-Flight Skincare Routine For Long-Haul Flights Necessary?

Ultimately, both Dr Langdon and Krasnaya agree that an in-flight skincare routine can be beneficial and necessary for longer flights. Krasayna says: "Maintaining a skincare routine during long-haul flights can be beneficial, as the air in the cabin is typically dry, which can lead to skin dehydration. While it's not absolutely necessary, especially for short flights, a skincare routine can help counteract the effects of prolonged exposure to dry air, helping to keep your skin hydrated and refreshed upon arrival."

Similarly, Dr Langdon adds: "An in-flight skincare routine is very important as flying can cause havoc with your complexion, resulting in the skin becoming dry and lacklustre. Throughout the flight we become more and more dehydrated, and for some, flying in itself can be a stressful experience, manifesting in breakouts and flare ups of underlying skin conditions."

So if you have a flight booked, have your travel minis at the ready and plan your cabin pamper session, which will help kill time and keep your complexion glowy and healthy in the skies.


Lauren Gordon is the editorial coordinator at PS UK, where she creates lifestyle and identity content. Lauren has a degree in journalism from University of the Arts London and previously worked as a showbiz and TV reporter at The Mirror US. Lauren specialises in pop culture, hair and beauty, focusing on trends, sharing in-depth tutorials, and highlighting hidden gems in the beauty industry.

Image Source: Getty / Greg Bajor
Then I Met You Living Sea Cleansing Tonic
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