If you've ever walked off a long-haul flight feeling like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, you know how dehydrating airplanes can be. Even with a simple moisturizer-and–lip balm combo (and plenty of water), nothing ever seems to be enough to keep your skin's hydration levels up while traveling—and this usually extends to the rest of your vacation: Spending time in hotels with dehydrating A/C doesn't help your jet-lagged skin either.
If your skin tends to feel puffy, irritated, and parched after a long flight, you may need a new in-flight skincare routine. To enlighten us on the best products to use mid-air, we asked Byrdie's editorial director, Faith Xue, who is an expert in all things skincare and flies from NYC to L.A. constantly to spend time with her bicoastal team. If anyone could come up with the ideal travel beauty routine, it was her.
She didn't disappoint. Her 10-step in-flight skincare routine is extensive but has all the right tools and ingredients to keep your skin hydrated, plump, and brightened. Ready to feel your best next time you get off a plane? Follow this beauty editor's 10-step in-flight skincare routine.
Step 1: Hand Sanitizer
Staying germ-free on a flight to avoid getting sick is high on anyone's list, which is why Xue always starts her flight with hand sanitizer: "This Jao hand sanitizer is packed with chamomile extract and a bunch of essential oils, so my hands don't feel dry after using it," she says.
Step 2: Makeup Wipes
Xue never flies with foundation on—so the second step in her in-flight skincare routine is making sure that all her makeup is removed: "I like to start with a super-clean slate before I begin my in-flight skincare regimen, so I rely on these gentle makeup wipes from Bliss to remove any leftover makeup or debris," she explains. "They're made with all of the good stuff—like chamomile, marshmallow extract, and aloe to soothe—and none of the bad stuff (e.g., alcohols or drying sulfates), so my skin feels soft and clean after a few swipes."
Step 3: Sheet Mask
After her hands are sanitized and her face is wiped clean, Xue moves forward with step three: a sheet mask. "I brought this watermelon-scented mask with me on a recent trip to Paris and could not believe how good my skin looked after landing," she says. "I loved how pleasantly cooling and refreshing it felt immediately upon using. Ingredient-wise, it's made with soothing watermelon extract, hydrating amino acids, hyaluronic acid, brightening licorice root extract, and more to help your skin stay hydrated in the stuffy airplane air."
Step 4: Serum
After a soothing sheet mask, this beauty editor moves on to a serum to brighten the skin. "The vitamin C in this OleHenriksen serum brightens, but I also love that the formula sinks in instantly and doesn't pill up when you layer a moisturizer over it."
Step 5: Hydrating Mask
Though this express flower gel is technically a mask, Xue likes to apply it on top of her serum in lieu of moisturizer, for ultimate hydration. "This mask is specifically designed to give major hydration to dull, dry skin, which makes it perfect to use during long-haul flights," she explains. "You're supposed to apply a thick layer to your skin, then tissue any excess off after a few minutes, but I like to apply and then let it sink in completely without removing it at all. It's made with a bunch of soothing botanical ingredients like white lily, rose, and iris, and the gel-like texture feels like a tall glass of water for your skin without being sticky at all."
Step 6: Face Mist
Whamisa is one of Xue's favorite Korean cult beauty brands, and she always brings along this face mist to refresh her skin throughout a flight. "This face mist is my go-to as an in-flight pick-me-up," she says. "It's free of fragrances, but the olive, green tea, and aloe extracts in the formula have a subtle scent."
Step 7: Eye Mask
Because beauty sleep is one of the most surefire ways to look refreshed at the end of a long flight, this beauty editor always packs an eye mask for optimal shut-eye after her in-flight skincare routine. "The silky fabric feels like little clouds over my eyes, and I swear it helps with puffiness, too," she says."
Step 8: Bronzing Primer
After a restorative sleep, it's time for a quick refresh before landing, and Xue always starts with this bronzing primer from Aussie brand Luma. "Not only is it made with natural ingredients, but it also gives me a perfectly sun-kissed look that makes it seem like I've just gotten back from a beach day," she explains. Plus, unlike a lot of other primers, it doesn't leave me looking greasy by midday."
Step 9: Tinted-Moisturizer
To follow up the bronzing primer, the beauty editor applies a soft blur foundation to give her skin a flawless look. "I'm currently into Benefit's new foundation, which blurs out my pores and hides my blackheads when I apply a light layer in my T-zone area," she says.
Step 10: Lip Balm
Lastly, to give parched lips a boost, Xue finishes up with hydrating lip balm before deplaning. "My lips tend to look colorless when they're dry, which is why I'm never without my trusty Dior Lip Glow in general, but especially when I'm traveling," she says. "My go-to shade is coral, which gives a peachy-pink tint to my lips while also hydrating them."
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