How to Fix (and Prevent) the Most Common Travel Beauty Problems — From Sunburn to Dry Skin
Puffy, tired-looking eyes after a long flight. The bug bites that will never, ever stop itching. Frizzy, lifeless hair from the local water. A zit that emerges just in time for a special trip. We’ve all been there.
And while we can’t necessarily wave a magic wand to make all of these issues disappear entirely, we can lend you some solid advice for how to avoid and address the beauty problems that arise during your travels.
Once you know what you’re up against, it becomes a whole lot easier to steer clear of snags and focus on getting from point A to point B feeling flawless and fantastic. Here are the products we recommend stocking up on (and so many of them are on sale right now) for each possible skin or hair scenario.
My skin always gets super dry when I travel.
To put it plainly: airplane cabin air is not very nice to our skin. Most travelers experience a bit of post-flight dryness, but those of us who are already prone to dry skin can really struggle with keeping skin clear and hydrated away from home.
The Solution: Serums, serums, serums. The nice thing about an oil-based serum is the punch that it packs. You barely need any in order to see results. And they often work their magic overnight, or while you’re asleep, so if you’re stepping on a plane and know you’ll be there for the next six to 10 hours, slipping a serum into your carry-on bag might be a real skin-saver. Here are a bunch of our favorites, but some standouts include Sunday Riley Juno Essential Face Oil (dermstore.com, $45), Kahina Giving Beauty Argan Oil (dermstore.com, $36), and Bio-oil (dermstore.com, $12). If you prefer a cream moisturizer, try S.W. Basics, which is simple, all-natural, and very fast-acting (dermstore.com, $12)
Also, never underestimate the power of a good hydrating sheet mask (they’re easy to apply and dispose of during a flight), like the Dr. Jart Dermask Water Jet vital hydra solution (sephora.com, $6), the Patchology FlashMasque (dermstore.com, $30 for a set of four), or J.Lo’s favorite, the SK-II facial treatment mask (dermstore.com, $17).
Flying makes me break out, especially when I'm traveling for an important event.
We could spend days, weeks, years — eons, even — going into all the different kinds of travel-induced acne that can cause a complication mid-trip, but we’ll try and keep it brief. Whether you have oily, dry, or combination skin, there is typically a way to combat breakouts even when you’re en route.
The Solution: Many of our editors swear by serums, especially this iS Clinical Active Serum (dermstore.com, $135) which multi-tasks its way through a plane ride, smoothing, brightening and fighting off acne before it even appears. Another great option is to keep a zit-zapping roll-on in your bag, like this Better Skin Zit No More roller stick (dermstore.com, $18) that uses a combination of tea tree oil and salicylic acid to diminish the appearance of blemishes.
There has been a big market for cleansing water in the past couple years, too. Opt for something like this travel-sized micellar cleansing water from Yon-Ka (dermstore.com, $24) which can be applied gently to the face using a soft washcloth, and doesn’t need to be rinsed off, so it’s ideal for when you’re racing from gate to gate, road-tripping, or stuck on a plane overnight.
And, remember, when it comes to drinking and snacking on a plane, opt for lots and lots of water, or hot water with lemon. Try to keep snacks to whole, healthy, gut-friendly foods that won’t cause flare-ups. What you put in your body will almost always impact your skin.
My face is always pillow-creased after sleeping on a plane.
You’ve got to love stepping off an overnight flight, walking into the airport bathroom, and realizing that you’ve got trench-like lines all over your face from your in-flight snooze. While this isn’t particularly harmful, it certainly isn’t fun to head to your final destination looking like a topographical map.
The Solution: Try using a silk or semi-silk pillowcase. While it won’t prevent wrinkles, a silk pillow will not leave any pesky creases and is an overall better option for those with sensitive skin. (It’s also just as easy on your hair.) We recommend the Shhh Silk travel pillow (ahalife.com, $149) or the Slip beauty set (dermstore.com, $119).
I need to put an end to the post-plane puffy-eye, puffy-face problem.
Whether it’s lack-of-sleep-related or just the result of being shuttled through the air in a metal tube, swollen eyes .
The Solution: The best way to address the post-plane puffy eye issue is threefold. When you board, remove any makeup (makeup wipe suggestions below) first thing. Sleeping with makeup on or even just sitting with it on during a long flight can irritate your eyes and the delicate skin around them a surprising amount. Once your skin is clear, do an eye mask like the Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels (dermstore.com, $30 for a set of eight). Then, right before landing, you could treat yourself to a little facial massage using a roller, like this Jade Roller Beauty Rose Quartz Beauty Roller (dermstore.com, $65) to jumpstart your circulation again, and use your index finger to gently dab a little something restorative and hydrating under your eyes, like SkinCeuticals A.G.E Complex (dermstore.com, $98) or La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Eyes Cream (dermstore.com, $34). If you still feel like you need a concealer, try the top-rated Glo Skin Beauty, which features two hydrating, blendable hues (dermstore.com, $32).
I never feel like washing my face after a long or stressful day of travel.
Cleansing your face is a vital — I repeat, vital — step to any in-flight (or on-train, in-car, on-boat) beauty routine if you’re hoping to keep your skin as happy and clear as possible during your trip. Makeup remover wipes are easy to toss into a carry-on, and some are especially helpful on the go because they provide a boost of hydration or acne-fighting ingredients, like salicylic acid.
The Solution: Know your skin when it comes to makeup removers. If you tend to have sensitive skin and/or are prone to breakouts and dryness, be sure to opt for a gentle and hydrating option, like Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes (dermstore.com, $6), which use gentle cotton extract to moisturize and remove dirt and makeup. If you have combination skin, the Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes (dermstore.com, $24) are a good option, as they use the company’s 4-in-1 Essential Tonic that is chock-full of aloe vera, witch hazel, and other pH-balancing ingredients. Plus, they’re individually wrapped — making them especially easy to stow in your handbag.
I need my hair to look fresh when I step off the plane.
How is your hair wired to react to a dry environment like an airplane cabin? Why, with oil, of course. When heading to the hotel room for a shower isn’t an option, we’ve got you covered.
The Solution: Bumble & Bumble makes a powder dry shampoo (nordstrom.com, $13) that comes in a very convenient travel size, lasts a really long time (especially if used sparingly), and soaks up grease, dirt, and moisture around the roots of your hair very effectively, giving it body, too. R+Co Death Valley Dry Shampoo (dermstore.com, $17) is another favorite of ours. It’s tiny enough to pop into your clear, TSA-approved bag, and will give you a good boost of volume and freshness. Plus, it smells divine.
I tried to remember to reapply sunscreen but somehow got burnt anyway.
There’s nothing better than a week-long vacation soaking up that summer sun. Conversely, there is nothing worse than nursing an epic sunburn from said summer sun.
The Solution: If you’ve already been burned and need a post-trip refuge, aloe is your new best friend. Start with an aloe-loaded cooling mist, like this sustainable option from Farmaesthetics (dermstore.com, $26). It’s especially easy to toss in a bag and spritz on the go. If you’re looking to target your face, check out this Peter Thomas Roth cooling cucumber gel mask (dermstore.com, $52) that not only feels like sweet relief but also packs a real punch in the moisture department. Another cooling gel that utilizes a unique but very effective ingredient is Korres Greek Yoghurt After-Sun Gel, which is great for both face and body (dermstore.com, $26).
Obviously, it’s best for your skin and your personal comfort to avoid the burn by covering your face and body with a top-rated sunscreen the moment (read: before) you step outside. A few favorites include the Sun Bum Face Stick, which is easy to carry on (dermstore.com, $10), the Cellular Protection Sunscreen from The Organic Pharmacy (dermstore.com, $69), and the Soleil Toujours Sheer Sunscreen Mist (dermstore.com, $34), which is both super-protective and cooling. Hot tip: keep your sunscreen in your cooler so you’ll get a visual reapply reminder as you’re grabbing a drink or a snack and it’ll feel soothing to slather on in the hot sun.
I need to treat and/or prevent bug bites on my next outdoor excursion.
Odds are, if you’re planning to spend some time in nature during the warmer months, you fall prey to an insect bite or two (or 20). And they will itch.
The Solution: First things first: invest in a good bug spray. If you don’t care so much about ingredients, something like this Deet spray (amazon.com, $6) will be pretty effective. But if you’re looking for a more natural or organic option, try something like Zoe Organics’ insect repellent (dermstore.com, $20) or Fragrance With Benefits’ Insect-repelling NoMo Eau Fraiche (ahalife.com, $85).
When it comes to treating bites that already exist, rule number one is no itching. Instead, dab on an essential oil like tea tree (amazon.com, $10), which will both soothe your skin and help to fade the mark a bite leaves behind and add in a little peppermint oil (bloomingdales.com, $15) to give your skin some extra love. Additionally, carrying an After-Bite Itch Eraser can save you some from major post-bite irritation (amazon.com, $11).
My hair isn’t itself after using hotel water, swimming in a pool, or laying in the sun.
Tangles? Frizziness? Post-pool chlorine smells? Hotel shampoos and conditioners that simply do not leave your hair as luscious as it deserves to be? We hear you.
The Solution: There are all sorts of spritzes, sprays, and serums that will leave your hair feeling fresh and natural along your journey, like this leave-in spray by It’s a Ten (amazon.com, $11) which we swear by for detangling, de-frizzing, and heat protection. If you’re hoping to keep your beach waves intact, try this Sun Bum spray (dermstore.com, $15) which protects from humidity and UV rays while maintaining that saltwater-kissed texture. A good hydrating oil or serum, like Rahua Elixir Daily Hair Drops (dermstore.com, $105), will fortify your hair and follicles while giving it a powerful hydrating boost.
I don't want to smell like I've been traveling all day.
Let’s face it: whether you’re rushing through an airport, riding in a car for 12 hours, hailing cabs in the rain, or some unfortunate combination of all of the above, smelling like flowers from beginning to end can be tough.
The Solution: There are lots and lots of travel-sized perfume options, and oftentimes your usual fragrance of choice just won’t cut it when it comes to the hustle and bustle of a transit-heavy day. Plus, you don’t want to overwhelm those sitting near you with a strong scent. Opt for something fresh, like Glossier You, which takes on your own scent when you spritz it on. It comes in a solid form, too, (glossier.com, $22) making it extra TSA-friendly. You can also opt for a hydrating lotion that carries a fresh scent, ideally something plant-based or floral that won’t overpower, like Weleda Skin Food (amazon.com, $6) which has a very modest citrus scent and provides rich hydration. (It also doubles as a great moisturizing highlighter for cheek and brow bones.) Another great travel-sized option is Kai Perfume Oil (dermstore.com, $48), which is full of gardenia and white florals and a little goes a long way.
My pants pinch, squeeze, or pull at my waist when I’m sitting down for a long flight.
You get all settled into your seat, only to realize the waistband of your pants is pressing into your stomach. Do you unbutton, and risk the person next you seeing? What if you get an in-flight tummy bloat? (Don’t worry, we’ve got help for that, too!)
The Solution: No, it’s not sweatpants, leggings, or full-on pajamas (although all of those do work). You don’t have to dress down entirely in order to solve the painful pants problem when you’re embarking on a long-haul trip. We love these cute and comfy non-jean pants (uniqlo.com, $30) that are simply made for those travel situations when you need to be able to relax, breathe, and look totally put together
My shoes always give me blisters — but I don't want to sacrifice style for comfort.
Even the most comfortable pairs of travel shoes can end up rubbing you the wrong way if you’re walking around in them for hours on end. And the new pair you bought just for this trip and haven’t yet had the chance to break in will do you even worse.
The Solution: Fear not. It’s completely possible to stay comfy and blister-free while getting through security in a hurry or wandering in a foreign city all day long. If you’re prone to blister in certain areas — like your heel or the outer edge of your foot — you can either adhere a protective padding like Dr. Scholl's Moleskin directly to your foot (amazon.com, $5) or add a friction-reducing patch (amazon.com, $15 for a set of six) to the inside of your shoes before heading out to explore.