It’s no secret that the moisture-depleting aircraft cabin coupled with a lack of comfortable, restful sleep are the two primary reasons why passengers appear a tad worse for the wear after a long trip. Yet somehow, flight attendants who often work multiple flights per day—including red-eyes and long-haul routes, crossing multiple time zones—and have to be ready for extended duty days caused by delays and unforeseen situations, appear to defy all odds. As you walk down the aisle at the end of the flight and look toward your cabin crew as they say goodbye, they always seem to look fresh, like they just left their house and haven’t been traveling at all.
So how do they do it? I spoke with a few flight attendants to find out what’s on their beauty checklist before, during, and after a flight to keep them looking ready for takeoff at all hours of the day. Below, their best skincare and beauty tips, primed for frequent fliers to steal.
Reusable eye masks
One of the hardest things to do is sleep during daylight hours to prepare for a red-eye flight, then wake up and fly all night. And while passengers may not have this concern, the puffy eyes that come from an overnight flight are still real. “I use Dieux Skin reusable eye masks before every flight to look somewhat alive,” says Deidre Russo, a flight attendant based in California. The eye mask is designed to hold other creams and serums close to the skin to aid in absorption. “They last forever and are perfect for people on a budget. I wear them every night, or every time I sleep, to wake up and look refreshed, even if I don’t feel that way.”
“It’s pricey, but their products are the best,” and “I’ve used Obagi for years and I love it!” are two of the many comments I received about this skincare line when asking for beauty tips. Flight attendant and certified aesthetician Aimee LaMay told me: “The molecular structure of the Obagi products are smaller, meaning they penetrate deeper into your skin. Some drugstore products have larger molecules that don’t absorb into the skin, they sit on top of it.” The daily hydro-drops and moisturizer seem to be cabin crew favorites and are sold in a set. “You don’t feel the need to reapply throughout the day, it lasts until you’re ready to wash your face at night, have a glass of wine, and go to sleep,” says Jenny Yock, a flight attendant from New York.
“Female flight attendants are required to wear makeup, and at some airlines, required to reapply their makeup prior to landing. Sometimes this is referred to as putting on our ‘landing lips,’” flight attendant Shari Nunez says. “I found that M.A.C. lipstick and eyeshadow last all day and don’t require me to worry about reapplying throughout the day or prior to landing. I use less product, save more money, and have one less thing to think about at work.”
“My hands are always dry at work,” a flight attendant from San Diego told me. The ups and downs of being on the ground during boarding and deplaning and then in the air with reduced moisture, sometimes multiple times per day, takes its toll on your skin. “Nivea lotion, in the little tiny tin can, is my go-to. It always leaves my hands feeling moisturized and removes the dry flaky feeling.”
Long flights can be draining, and while coffee may help boost your energy level, it won’t help revive your appearance. “Evian mist, all the time, anytime, always,” says Shawn Kathleen, a former flight attendant. “The blast of mineral-enriched water helps to tone, refresh, and hydrate your skin throughout the day. When you’re feeling tired or when you’re trying to reset between flights, a few quick sprays and you feel like new.”
Developed by a flight attendant to “first and foremost support me and my recovery from flights,” Kirsten’s Apothecary sources organic botanicals from small farms and minimizes the use of plastic used to hold its products. Many cabin crew members such as Las Vegas–based Kelly Westeel recommended Kirsten’s Blue Cactus Body Oil, saying “it’s perfect after a long day or just before bed. After you apply it to your face, you first smell this amazing scent that soothes and calms you, and it’s almost as though you can instantly feel the moisture it provides to your skin. I knew it was developed by a flight attendant so I thought I’d give it a try. Having it designed by someone who knows the job and the amount of time we spend in the air, it’s perfect for frequent fliers and crew.”
“After a long day, you sometimes feel like you really just want to wash the day away and reset,” says Jasmin Jung, a New York–based flight attendant. “This is my all-time favorite moisturizing toner. I have very dehydrated skin from flying so much and this is the only brand that does anything for me. I just put some in my hands, and then apply it directly to my face.”