I always chalked up feeling crappy before, during, and after a flight as just a piece of the whole humiliating, shoe-removing, tin-can anchovy-ish experience that is traveling. But as I started taking meticulous care of my skin IRL, not unlike a supermodel, keeping track of what’s hot in technique meant reading more tips from people who have to care for their skin as part of their jobs. In this particular case, I decided to steal Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s technique that she recently outlined in a column for Violet Grey: Top Flight.
According to VG, Rosie travels with two suitcases and a change of comfy clothes. She also generously applies moisturizing products and chugs aqua like there is no tomorrow. Paparazzi usually catch her leaving travel hubs, and she’s always on point. No residual neck pillow, dark circles, frizzy hair floofs, or sweatpants in sight!
Though I don’t have the big supermodel bucks, I've learned how to be a high maintenance traveller with just a few accessories, and a huge carry-on beauty bag, inspired by this column. A pillow, blanket, headphones, and water bottle are all essentials for my coach-bound comfort. But the beauty bag full of tiny treasures is where it’s at. Although it doesn't come with a first class ticket, my beauty survival kit is not unlike RHW’s.
I tried out her tips, mixing in some of my own impressive beauty stash’s more-than-acceptable substitutions, both cheap and fancy. (Note: In the text below, products both RHW and I used are marked with a * — otherwise, it was a sub.) It felt really baller to know that despite not having a crisp white pantsuit to put on before hopping in one of Milan’s classy white BMW taxis or Montego Bay’s decked out Toyotas, I was going to have great skin on all the legs my trip, and after.
Flight 1: New York To Milan, 8.5 Hours
Water Consumed: 3.5L
Number Of Products Used: Nine. Avalon Organics Brilliant Balance Purifying Towelettes, 7 Roses Rosewater Mist, Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum, Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream, Renee Rouleau Pro Remedy Oil, DHC Beauty Lift Eye Care Essence Roll On, ByTerry Baume De Rose* , Tatcha Indigo Hand Treatment*, CND Solar Oil
What I Learned: Takeoff Tips
You know that feeling when your aisle mate stole your window seat, but you’ve already anxiety-chugged 1L of water and take a daily diuretic, so you decide to keep the easy bathroom access? That's how this flight started. After wiping down my area with alcohol pads, I got to the beauty portion of my trip.
People rubbernecked while I ran through Huntington-Whiteley’s routine to prepare my visage for passage. First, RHW's face gets wiped, which is pretty much in line with every other beauty guide for traveling. Instead of her Koh Gen Do wipes I use affordable and fantastic Avalon Organics Brilliant Balance Purifying Towelettes ($4.99). They don’t irritate my eyes and took off most of the light makeup I wore through check in. After the initial wipe-off comes the plethora of products, just like any normal routine before bed. In the first 10 minutes after boarding, I layered on mist, water serum, oil serum, and moisturizer, followed by eye cream, cuticle oil, ByTerry Baume de Rose ($60) as lip balm and Tatcha Indigo Hand Cream ($38) that Huntington-Whiteley swears by.
While it may seem like a lot, your skin is going to show all the wear and tear after a flight this long, no matter how much you manage to nap. By taking the extra step to really just treat my skin like I do at home, I didn’t have the sallow, dry, sad skin I normally have after even a short flight.
Flight 2: Milan to New York, 9 Hours
Water Consumed: 2L
Lessons Learned: Mid-Flight Madness
I don’t much enjoy flying. Toss in flying after a long night at work in a foreign country, a mandatory afterparty appearance, and a severe shortage of l’herba, and you’ve got one girl just ready to take her tourist cheese and go home. The flight gods really know how to help sometimes, and I ended up with a whole row to play with products and put my tired feet up. I figured this second experience was probably a bit more like how Rosie flies: Unfettered bathroom access, room to actually sleep, and fewer peering eyeballs.
The takeoff routine is so crucial, but when you wake up suddenly halfway through and feel it starting to dry down, especially if your face is smooshed into your handbag, it’s time to reapply your products to keep that mug in it to win it. If you’ve prepared earlier, you don’t need to go as hard in the paint, but to really get a head start on jet lag face, using a gel-based mask like Renee Rouleau Bio Calm Repair ($51.50) or a sheet mask can up your game.
I skipped the sheet mask on my outbound flight and holy crap what a difference in my skin when I used one on the way back. Oozoo Face Injection ($7.99) mask is so ridiculously kitschy and borderline alarming that I’m really happy I didn’t have a row full of confused passengers to watch me "inject" not one, but two ampoules of serum into the waiting mask. You can purchase this baby at Sokoglam if you want to scare children and have perfect skin, like every Disney villain ever. Toss this over DHC Rich Eye Care Zone ($17.50), you’re essentially a skin superhero, on the outside and all in that dermis.
I also kept out my SK-II Mid-Day Essence ($80) and gave myself a spritz whenever I remembered to, since there was no one around to judge me. That yeasty stuff is the milk of the gods to skin, and I’m happy to report it performs in the sky too. I added cuticle oil to my nails or balm to my lips whenever needed too, and they never got all crusty. After my return sleep cocoon, I arose fresh and soft, not unlike what a supermodel must feel like.
Flight 3: New York To Montego Bay, 3.5 Hours
Water Consumed: 2L
Lessons Learned: In-Flight Bronzing
Unlike touching down in a fashion city like Cannes as our dear Rosie Huntington-Whiteley might, I vacation in the more local-to-New-York (and more interesting to me) Negril, Jamaica. I catch my fix of equatorial sun, 808s, and piña coladas in an express fashion. The travel time isn’t so long that it cuts into your relaxation. Throwing on strategic balm at the end of a long journey can do wonders for your look. Un-chap those lips, wake up the brows, and dab some Make Marine Salve on cheekbones and under eyes for a little wakeup.
With nothing but white sand at White Sands Beach Bar, massages at the Rockhouse Spa, or killer local fare at Pushcart Restaurant, the only beauty stuff on my mind was looking like I have eyebrows even while swimming and getting an even tan, starting on the plane. Rosie and I both value using the flight time in a smart way by popping on a tan mask and extra body lotion to prepare for tropical climes. The night before my flight, I used James Read Sleep Tan Mask just as RHW recommended. Then, a few minutes before landing, I slapped on my Is Clinical lotion to get all the dry and under-circulated limbs of my body fully rehydrated.
Flight 4: Montego Bay to New York, 4 Hours
Water Consumed: 1L
Lessons Learned: Looking put together gets you through customs faster.
Huntington-Whiteley may pack deuce Tumi suitcases, but I like to limit my packing to carry-on only for any trip that'll last less than five days. There’s no way I’m going to let a longer customs line, longer taxi line, and rabid battle royale at a baggage carousel cut into any trip not lasting at least a full week. Having all my worldly possessions laboriously folded and tetris’ed in what fits onto my shoulder means being one of the first people up to the re-entry point.
While still in my seat I dab a tiny smear of Tom Ford Bronzing Gel under cheekbones and pat it in to chisel out some definition from my slight dehydration (I was too sleepy to hit the water as often as I should have). Moisturizing lips, grooming brows, and curling lashes was all I needed to look like I'd taken a short Uber ride from my couch instead of a four hour plane trip. I bet Rosie does the same after two trips in one month. I also like to hit my hair with an anti-frizz sheet, since it tames my curls without adding more product, which you really don't need after travelling.
Before you get worried about being able to afford a routine like a model’s, know that most of these items were trial samples, and that with a few savvy trips to your favorite beauty stores, you can fit everything you need to be glamorous while on the road into a clear zip up bag. Whether you’re headed to Tulum or Toledo, you don’t have to accept sullen skin as a fact of flying. Have a little faith and a little rosewater mist!
Photos: Danielle Guercio