So, what are the options? If you believe some bloggers and beauty editors, the list of products you require goes on and on and you basically require a little wheelie carry-on just to keep your skin in tip-top shape on air. As a frequent traveler I refuse to believe this is anywhere near the truth, especially because that would require you living in an alternate planet where security liquid restrictions don't exist (or where you have enough money to buy the products at duty free before every single flight...)
Instead, I have curated a very small but super effective list of must-haves over the years, and with my recent focus on well-being impinging on my beauty routine, I've tweaked it to include mostly all natural products.
Starting from the beginning... I believe that the main reason why we look so bad stepping out of that airplane is a combination of sitting still for hours on end, eating not so healthy food, and breathing in a unique mix of everyone's germs (you're lucky if it's only germs, I say) in the cabin's incredibly dry air. And you know what? The air isn't any less dry or toxic as you move up the front of the cabin...
1. Altitude Oil by De Mamiel: This is the absolute must-have anti anxiety and anti germs magic potion that we all need in our little plastic ziplock. Its blend of herbs smells incredibly healthy and for some reason it makes me feel calmer from the moment I dab it on my wrists and the tag of my cashmere shawl. I also whip it out the moment that slightly drunk passenger a couple of rows back starts talking a bit too loudly about his amazing trip to Rio and how he bagged so many Brazilian models (hashtag nobody cares and nobody believes you!).
2. Sugar Nourishing Lip Balm by Fresh: Do you know what gets the driest in a flight, besides your eyes (any good eye drops from the terminal pharmacy will deal with that, so add those to the list)? Your lips. It's a sign of dehydration of course, so drink loads, but one way to keep the chaffed look at bay is to keep dabbing some of this amazing balm. It has mango butter so is hyper hydrating. And guess what? Harrods now stocks Fresh on this side of the pond, so you can buy it before that flight to JFK.
3. Beauty Elixir, by Caudalie: I know it will sound counter-intuitive, but unless your skin is naturally super dry, I don't recommend slathering an uber heavy moisturizer in the air. Instead, keep that in your hold luggage and use it a an overnight mask when you arrive. If you want to keep your skin dewy but not greasy, I say upgrade from your mineral water spray and order this gorgeous product. I've used it for more than 15 years and still haven't found a mist that leaves my skin feeling so refreshed and plump. Spray it every hour or so.
4. Illuminating Moisturizer, Tata Harper: My routine when I sit on the plane is usually to take off all the make-up I'm wearing (I love wipes for that) if any, before spraying the elixir then moisturizing very lightly. You don't want to look like a beacon as you stroll up to the galley, just in case Harvey Specter's real life doppelganger is hanging out there sipping a drink... and you've entered a parallel universe where you are single and unattached (you never know!) This moisturizer is light and acts a bit like a BB cream, leaving the skin feeling and looking fresh and healthy.
5. Touch au Ginseng Foundation, Erborian: I don't recommend wearing make-up in the air, because we all know what happens when we get clogged pores, but at landing, all bets are off and everyone needs all the help they can get. This creamy powder foundation, which you apply with a cushion, is enhanced with ginseng which tightens said pores, smooths the fine lines and overall magics your complexion into looking 17 again... or close enough.
That's it. My list of 5 absolute must-haves. Of course you need to top it up with some good facial wipes (Neal'sYard Remedies does some organic ones...), the eye drops that will keep your peepers fresh and sparkly, not red and sickly, a mini toothbrush and paste set, and maybe little roll-on of your favourite fragrance... everything should fit nicely in a little ziplock so 1) you don't get in trouble at security and 2) you can store it all easily in the pocket of your seat. Add an eye mask, and some very good quality ear plugs, and who knows, even in 34B you might get some sleep... (you might miss Harvey though).
PS: Of course, if you do happen to travel by private jet and / or with your own private hair and beauty crew, by all means go all out...