Your skin, hair, and breath will thank you. (As will your seat companion.)
One of the most stressful things about holiday travel is the getting there. A cramped plane is not the most comfortable environment, as the cabin often feels like it's been sucked dry of moisture, leaving you with dragon breath, parched skin, and lackluster hair upon landing. Oof.
“Travel, especially flying on planes, draws a lot of moisture out of skin because of the lower-than-ideal humidity levels, [which are] often as low as 20%,” says New York-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. While there's certainly no avoiding these conditions when you're on a plane, there are a few methods (and lifesaving products) you can employ to get you through your flight.
To prepare for air travel, Dr. Nazarian recommends hydrating skin from the inside (drink plenty of water) and outside by washing with a very mild cleanser the week before flying. She also suggests avoiding exfoliating brushes or harsh treatments like chemical peels that may weaken the skin barrier. On the day of your flight, be sure to apply sunscreen, since ultraviolet rays are much more intense at high altitudes, she says. Products that contain hyaluronic acid draw in moisture and are most effective within the first few hours of usage, she adds that you should lather creams and masks on after boarding your flight.
Not only is altitude rough on skin, but it can also cause bad breath. At 30,000 feet, the air is very cold and can’t hold much moisture, which is not ideal for the oral cavity. "Since dry mouth is a major cause of bad breath, a low-humidity cabin can contribute to dehydration and therefore cause halitosis,” says Gigi Meinecke, DMD, a Maryland-based dentist with the Academy of General Dentistry. She suggests skipping caffeinated beverages, since caffeine worsens dehydration. (Yes, that means passing on the coffee and tea, since they also enable stinky breath.) “I stick with plain water, which cleans the tongue—a major source of volatile sulfur compounds, a known cause of bad breath—and keeps you hydrated and producing enough saliva,” adds Dr. Meinecke.
Because flying can take a serious (and unwelcome) toll on your skin, hair, and body, we’ve created a sanity-saving kit that you can use to squeeze in some much needed self-care while traveling. Bonus: all products are carry-on friendly.
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Debra Jaliman, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules ($16; amazon.com), loves this moisturizer. It's formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which help hydrate and lock in moisture and also protect the barrier of the skin. The cream is also fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic (it won't clog pores), and non-irritating, making it safe for sensitive skin, too.
Biossance Squalane + Micronutrient Fine Mist
Many other mists tend to leave your face dripping wet, but this super-fine spray feels cool and refreshing with just the right amount of moisture. With a multi-mineral complex, squalane, algae, and hyaluronic acid, it's mega-hydrating, plumps skin, and replenishes minerals lost due to pollution and stress.
Just shake, close your eyes, hold six to 12 inches from your face, and press down. Use it in flight or once landing to revive dry, jet lagged skin.
Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar Soap 2.6 Oz Travel Size
A little bar soap can go a long way. "This cleanser washes skin without stripping the natural hydrating oil barrier, and is unlikely to irritate because it’s free from perfumes—unlike typical hotel soaps, which tend to dry and irritate," explains Dr. Nazarian. Bonus: It comes in a pack of three bars, so you'll always have one on hand for last-minute trips.
Supergoop! Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist
Jetsetting to a beach holiday or hiking trip? Dr. Jaliman's swears by this travel-sized sunscreen. Boasting SPF 50 and antioxidant-rich vitamin C, the water-resistant formula protects and prevents free radical damage to your skin. Also good: the non-aerosal cannister allows for 35% less alcohol (so it's less drying on skin) and doesn't coat your skin and environment with harmful chemicals. Double win.
Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment Skin Protectant To Go Pack
Dr. Nazarian recommends applying this pocket-size skin hero directly before boarding your flight. Constant travel, especially during the holidays and winter (hello, ski trips), can cause chapped lips, dry cuticles, and an overall loss of skin brightness. Yuck! But this healing ointment traps moisture and prevents loss of moisture into the environment, Dr. Nazarian says. "I find Aquaphor to be a wonderful multi-tasking product to use on lips, nails, and even cheekbones as a natural highlighter," she raves.
Free People 1809 Collection Zen Fragrance
Free People's 100% all-natural fragrance line consists of three spritzes with no artificial notes or chemically altered ingredients. It's lighter than perfume or cologne, so there's no need to worry about stinking up the whole cabin. We're loving Zen, a soothing blend of Australian eucalyptus, sandalwood, and earthy patchouli that's meant to inspire meditation and bring you a little peace during stressful travel. Spray it on your wrists and clothes after a long-haul flight to refresh your senses.
Colgate Max Fresh Wisp Disposable Mini Toothbrush
Fight bad breath discreetly with Colgate Wisps—a small, disposable toothbrush on one end and a toothpick on the other. Genius, right? "The brush comes pre-loaded with a small bit of toothpaste that doesn’t require water or rinsing," says Dr. Meinecke. After using, discard. Not only is it convenient for road trips and flights (and your morning commute), but your carry-on will also get lighter as you use and toss them.
Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk
Celeb-loved French brand Klorane has a dry shampoo that should definitely be on your packing list. It quickly revives strands and adds volume with its gentle oat milk formula (perfect for sensitive scalps). Also great? It has a natural beige tint that easily blends, making it an amazing option for blondes and brunettes. Spritz and massage into roots during your layover.
Uxcell 100% Pure Mulberry Charmeuse Silk Travel Pillowcase
This 100% silk pillowcase benefits both your skin and hair. Because silk never absorbs facial moisture, your skin won't dry out, and it keeps hair from becoming knotted and matted on a domestic or international flight. The result? Frizz-free, shiny hair and healthy skin upon taxing to the gate. All you need is a pillow insert and you're ready to jet.