I’m a Beauty Writer and a Frequent Flyer: This Is My No-Fail Skincare Routine While Traveling

written by LAUREN HARANO

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travel skincare tips"
travel skincare tips
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

As both a beauty and travel editor, my days revolve around skincare and vacations—which, if you ask me, just might be two of the best things in life. Along with my extensive skincare collection comes an equally extensive travel calendar that’s filled with flights across the globe. Since jet-setting has become part of my weekly routine (I often take two or more flights a week), I’ve made it my mission to learn how to maintain healthy, hydrated skin amid constant changes in climate and altitude. Though it hasn’t been an easy journey (read: breakouts, irritation, and dry, dull complexions are some of my most common travel companions), each trip I’ve gone on has taught me about which beauty products and routines are fit for a frequent flier.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your skincare routine or you, too, are constantly on the go, I’ve made a playbook of the best beauty hacks and strategies that combat the toll that two or more flights a week can take on the skin. From in-flight rituals to the items that I take on every vacation, these are the best beauty tips and tricks you can take with you, no matter where your travels might lead.

Tip 1: Skin Prep Starts Before the Flight

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from traveling is that skin prep starts before I even step foot in an airport. Prior to any flight I have, I do my full skincare routine, paying special attention to incorporating hydrating products. (Because planes create low-humidity environments, it’s important to sufficiently nourish the skin before so it can cling on to as much moisture as possible.)

Let me break it down for you: After I double-cleanse my face and, while my skin is still damp, I apply a hydrating toner. The key here is to look for toners that include hyaluronic acid, which strengthens the skin barrier and maintains long-lasting skin hydration. Then, I go in with a nourishing serum—one that also has hyaluronic acid—to give my skin an added flood of moisture. Then, I lock it all in with a rich, non-comedogenic moisturizer that I can reapply if needed. Ensuring that skin is well taken care of before the flight means that it has a better chance of not drying out during the flight.

Pro tip: Do NOT wear makeup on a flight, especially if you might reapply moisturizer or sunscreen. This will only clog pores and lead to potential outbreaks. Trust me, being fresh-faced on a flight pays off.


Haruharu Wonder
Black Rice Hyaluronic Toner

This affordable Korean toner is one of the best on the market when it comes to keeping skin hydrated for hours on end. Infused with fermented black rice extract and hyaluronic acid, it adds a powerful boost of moisture to the skin, leaving it plump, supple, and noticeably hydrated. The toner’s lightweight and fast-absorbing formula makes it an ideal choice for all skin types, while its antioxidant-rich composition helps in combating environmental stressors.

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The Base Face Milk

ILIA’s new face milk is the answer to your dry skin woes. Made with squalene and hyaluronic acid, this product deeply hydrates the skin, promoting a supple and dewy complexion. The inclusion of lactic acid creates a subtle brightening effect while also helping to minimize pores and create a velvety finish. Rich in antioxidants, the formula protects the skin from drying out, even on long-haul flights.

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For that added oomph of moisture (that I know you’ll need), be sure to add a hydrating serum to your pre-flight routine.

The Ordinary
Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum

This affordable serum is a skincare staple, thanks to its simple yet effective formula. The hyaluronic acid acts as a powerful humectant that attracts and retains water, plumping the skin and minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Plus, the addition of vitamin B5 (or panthenol) enhances the serum’s hydrating properties and supports skin elasticity. Just a few drops of this will go a long way.

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S.O.S Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum

It has the words ‘S.O.S. Hydrating’ in the name, which means you know it’s good. This oil-free, non-comedogenic, lightweight, water-based face serum is made with hyaluronic acid (meaning it works to hydrate dry skin) as well as prebiotic grape water (which nourishes the moisture barrier to replenish skin’s microbiome), which means skin will feel nourished, plump, and supple for hours.

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And last but certainly not least, having a good moisturizer is a non-negotiable. Be sure to lather your face and neck in it to ensure your skin stays hydrated all flight. For best results, bring a travel-size jar in your carry-on while you travel so you can reapply as needed.

Clearstem Skincare
HYDRAGLOW™ Stem Cell Moisturizer

If you’re looking for a moisturizer that’ll deeply hydrate skin, we’ve got just the thing. This Clearstem moisturizer is infused with stem cells and features potent hydrating agents that ensure deep and long-lasting moisture. Plus, it’s lightweight, non-comedogenic, and safe for sensitive skin. Feel free to reapply as often as you might need to.

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Paula’s Choice
Barrier Repair Advanced Moisturizer

Formulated with a rich blend of antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and hydrating agents, this cream provides intense nourishment and moisture. It works to prevent water loss from the skin and delivers long-lasting moisture. Plus, it has palmitoyl tripeptide-5, which helps support firmness and elasticity, as well as watermelon seed oil, which helps maintain hydration and soothes skin.

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Tip 2: Hydrate Heavily

No matter where I’m going, what time my flight is, or how long my flight is, I always make sure to adequately hydrate before. As I mentioned, because cabin environments in airplanes tend to have low humidity levels, this can lead to dehydration since the body loses moisture more rapidly. To avoid feeling thirsty, sleepy, and sluggish, I drink a liter (or two!) of water before every flight. If I’m taking a long flight, I’ll add a hydration multiplier to my drink so I can load up on electrolytes. Plus, staying hydrated not only keeps skin from drying out but also helps combat jet lag. A win-win!

Insulated Tumbler with Handle

My favorite water bottle to travel with is this Corkcicle 30-ounce cup. It keeps my drinks cold, it’s more lightweight than other tumblers, and it has a thin handle that makes it easy to carry. Plus, it comes in a ton of cute hues. Need I say more?

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Hydration + Weekend Recovery

To stay amply hydrated before, during, and after a flight, be sure to add some electrolytes to your water. These WaterBoy sticks are made with a handful of great ingredients including L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea to calm nerves, ginger extract to aid with digestion, and essential vitamins to strengthen immunity and kick fatigue.

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Tip 3: In-Flight Skincare Is a Game-Changer

Before you feel awkward putting on a sheet mask or reapplying moisturizer on a flight, just remember that your skin will seriously thank you. I used to be hesitant about wearing a sheet mask during a flight, but after dealing with dry, flaky skin post-flight, my thoughts quickly changed. Now, I either bring a hydrating sheet mask or reapply moisturizer during the flight if my skin needs a quick pick-me-up. If I want an added boost of moisture without going over the top, I spritz a hydrating spray on my face to keep dryness at bay.

IMAGE Skincare
I MASK Hydrating Sheet Mask

For flights that are over two hours, it’s essential to keep skin as hydrated as possible. To do so, I suggest bringing a sheet mask that you can pop on during the flight. This mask from Image Skincare is one of my faves since it’s cooling, soothing, and instantly refreshes thirsty skin. It’s infused with mineral-rich water, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and a blend of amino acids, leaving skin dewy and glowing. The best part? You only need to leave it on for 10 minutes.

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Rose Pore-Minimizing Hydration Mist

Give your skin a flood of hydration with this Fresh spray. Made with damask rose extract and rosewater, this face mist renews and replenishes skin in no time. What’s more, it smells amazing!

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Tip 4: Wear Sunscreen

ICYMI, being high in the sky means being closer to the sun, which also means coming in contact with more exposure to radiation and the sun’s harmful rays. My point? Wearing sunscreen on flights is crucial for protecting the skin. While I’m a big fan of keeping the window shade down for UV ray purposes, it’s important to wear sunscreen no matter what.

Daily UV Defense Sunscreen

My go-to for an everyday sunscreen is none other than this Innisfree bestseller. This lightweight, daily Broad Spectrum SPF 36 sunscreen hydrates skin thanks to the inclusion of green tea, cica, and sunflower seed oil. Plus, it doesn’t leave behind a white cast!

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Urban Environment Oil-Free Sunscreen SPF 42

If you’re looking for a sunscreen that does it all, look no further than this Shiseido favorite. Lightweight and oil-free, this sunscreen protects the skin against harmful UV rays while also hydrating skin and doubling as a face primer. It’s made with a star ingredient, hyaluronic acid, as well as spirulina energy essence and glycerin. Oh, and did I mention it controls oil and mattifies skin? Yes, that, too.

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Tip 5: Adjust Your Skincare Routine to Your Destination

Hear me out: I have a pretty regimented skincare routine that I hate to stray away from, especially when I travel. However, I’ve learned that altering my skincare routine to my destination has been a saving grace when it comes to keeping my skin healthy and happy. Different climates, altitudes, and environmental conditions can have varying effects on the skin, making it so, so essential to tailor your skincare regimen accordingly. For example, in places with humidity, it’s best to bring lightweight and non-comedogenic products, which can help prevent excess oil production and breakouts. On the flip side, when going to dry or cold climates, it’s smart to incorporate richer moisturizers and hydrating serums to combat dryness and protect the skin’s barrier. And, as always, be sure to bring your SPF no matter where you might go.