How to

Stay Fresh on a Long Haul Flight

Next week, I’ll be boarding a twelve hour flight from Los Angeles to London for a short visit to my beloved home city. Although I’m fidgety with excitement about seeing my family and friends, the thought of the journey itself is already making me feel, well, gross. Because long haul travel might land us in some pretty glamorous destinations, but long haul flights are generally a one-way ticket to dull skin, ‘jet bloat’, and a mouth that feels like something died inside it. If you, too, are tackling a long distance journey anytime in the near future, here are a few ways to stay fresh en route.


Not smart as in ‘office attire’, but smart as in ’a manner befitting a person of reasonable intelligence’. In a moment of complete stupidity - or perhaps vanity - a few years back, I boarded a nine hour flight to Miami in a pair of knee-high, leather boots complete with a four inch heel, and hated my life the entire way. In retrospect, it was certainly an efficient lesson learnt the hard way: when it comes to air travel, I’ve prioritised comfort over style ever since.

Having said that, it’s best to avoid the lure of a full grey marl tracksuit, as much as you might love them (and I really do love them). Yes, you’ll look all cute and cosy when you board, but you’ll be feeling sloppy and dishevelled by the time you land - especially if you’re travelling to a hot country. Leggings + a soft jersey top + flats + a good jacket – all pimped out with a nice handbag and sunglasses, of course - is generally a safe but streamlined way to go.


Cabin air is drier than the Sahara, which can mean scary things for your skin. Apparently you’re supposed to drink an additional half litre of water for every hour you’re in the air, but that sounds like a whole lot of annoying bathroom trips to me. I usually try to glug as much water and herbal tea as I can before the flight, sip at least two litres throughout, and go easy on the free bar. At least in theory - I usually succumb to a glass (or two) of red wine, which must be the best sleeping aid known to man. On which note…


Sleeping well on a plane is almost impossible, but even an hour or two will help you feel and look better once you land. Travel well-equipped with a neck pillow, eye mask and ear plugs, plus your own blanket - those red, scratchy ones are really not the business. To save space in my hand luggage, I usually I wear an American Apparel Circle Scarf on my way to the airport, and then unravel it to create a cosy headscarf/blanket once in my seat. Yay for multifunctional accessories.


Yes, it’s cringeful to be that smug girl who turns down the tray of bangers and mash in favour of her own supply of raw almonds, but you’ll be glad you did when you’re trying to stuff your swollen feet back into your shoes at the end of the flight. Studies show that your sense of taste is diminished by the white noise of the airplane (not quite sure how that one works), so airlines pack their food with extra salt and sugar to compensate. The result for you? A puffy face and fat ankles upon arrival. Hot!


The first thing I do once the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign goes off is to pull out my toiletries bag and get busy with the face wipes. After that, I slather on as much serum, moisturizer and eye cream as my face can handle – in the sandpaper-dry cabin, even my sheeny combination skin drinks it all up. It can be embarrassing to conduct a mini spa ritual from the confines of an Economy class seat, but cleaning your face is possibly the best thing you can do for your post-flight skin. After all, sleeping in your make-up is one thing, but sleeping in your make-up on a plane is quite another.


Hair is bound to get flat/greasy/totally disastrous over the course of a long day of travel, so it’s best to at least try to start out on a good note. Fly with super-clean hair – worn down for comfortable sleeping - then tie it up into a messy topknot when you land. I usually stash a small bottle of dry shampoo and/or hairspray in with my brush, just in case things get really ugly. A bit of gentle backcombing at the crown never goes amiss, either.


I find that I feel infinitely better if I change at least a couple of items of my clothing when I embark and disembark a long haul flight. I’ll often swap a pair of stretch jeans for leggings when I board, as well as keeping for a spare t-shirt, underwear, and socks in my bag for a quick freshen up in the bathroom just before landing. This also an opportune moment to brush your teeth. For the love of God, brush your teeth!


Around an hour before the flight is due to land, I’ll pull out that toiletries bag again to do a quick face clean and apply a light layer of make-up. Heavy foundation on tired skin is always a bad look, so tinted moisturiser, mascara, bronzer, blusher and lip balm will suffice. If in doubt, add very large sunglasses.


All of the above is basically null and void if you can afford to fly business class - or higher! On the rare occasions that I’ve received an upgrade because of work or just plain luck, I’ve been exposed to a travel experience that is completely alien to my usual cattle class transit (being able to lie down fully is a complete gamechanger, for a start). One day I aim to always turn left when entering a plane, but until then I’ll be sticking to the routine above. It has served me well so far.

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