Is there a way to avoid feeling and looking strung out after a long haul flight? I’ve had my fair share of long trips, so when this question was posed to me, I thought back on how I felt after staggering out of an 8-hour-plus flight. Happy and grateful to get off—yes. Looking my best—not likely.

After a few moments of reminiscing, I came to the conclusion that if anyone exaggerates claims that if you do such-and-such you’ll look your best after 8 hours on a plane, they deserve some serious side-eye and your skepticism.

You—sitting in a pretzel shape for 8 hours, combating dry air and your need for water vs. your desire to steer clear of the frightening toilet—that you will not look as good as the you who gets 8 hours of refreshing beauty sleep on silk sheets, with a humidifier humming softly in the background.

But! On to the good news: There are ways to manage the fallout of being on a long-haul flight and sharing air with 300+ passengers. Here is what to do both before you board and while you’re up in the air that will help to keep the fallout in check.

Before your flight

Skip the makeup. You’ll get out the door faster and you’ll have extra time to chill at the airport. Getting to the airport in good time will help to minimize stress (a common cause of acne while traveling!). And going sans makeup means that you can go straight into your cleansing + hydrating skincare routine once you are on board.

Once at the airport, use those minutes prior to boarding to wash your face with a chemical exfoliating wash. You won’t have access to a spacious sink room for a while, so grab this chance to splash about and give your face a deep cleanse. Doing this will minimize the likelihood of excess oil combining with flakey dead skin and resulting in acne breakouts once you land.

In the hours leading up to your flight, be brave and avoid the coffee. Getting shut-eye on the plane plays a HUGE role in how haggard your skin looks when you land. Your skin needs sleep to work on cell rejuvenation and repair. So to ensure you’re able to sleep on the plane, skip anything with caffeine content.

Bonus for skipping on the joe: You’ll be much more Zen about waiting in lines if you don’t have that double espresso shot zinging through your body.

During your flight

The skin responds to airplane dryness by overproducing oil. Unfortunately, excess oil production provides the perfect breeding ground for acne bacteria. Have a plan in place for responding to your skin’s need for moisture in flight. You can do this one of two ways (ideally, both ways).

  1. Drink liquids. Your hydration levels play a part in your skin’s dryness and on how you look when you get off the plane. I hate toilets in airplanes. But I consider them a necessary evil if I want to look less Walking Dead-ish when I disembark.
  2. Bring a super hydrating gel mask (in a travel size—of course) that provides all-night hydration. Many skincare brands have excellent gel packs. Laneige's bestselling Water Sleeping Mask that provides hints of lavender is a perfect example. The lavender in this mask helps reduce anxiety while also working through the night to rehydrate dry or dull skin.

I choose gel masks over sheet masks in flight because they provide hydration that continues for longer stretches than a sheet mask does. But right before landing, I might do a sheet mask that contains niacinamide to brighten my skin and help me look less like I spent the night as a human pretzel.  

—Eun-Ha Park

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