A direct flight from New York to Tokyo is 13 hours long—which, depending on your income bracket and seating assignment, is either 13 hours of restful me-time or two hours of restful me-time plus an 11-hour crescendo of tailbone pain. If you’re me, it’s going to be a spa-like experience regardless of travel time. Whenever you fly, remember that commercial plane crashes happen all the time, and every flight could be your last. Also never forget that plane travel turns your skin into jerky. Something about the cabin pressure, I don’t know, Google it.
You can almost feel the moisture being sucked out of your skin as soon as you hit cruising altitude. An airborne skincare routine is essential—especially if you land in Tokyo at 3 PM and are expected to look remotely presentable for a dinner later on. You might think that masks and moisturizers are things reserved for First Class, but you’d be wrong! Cabin pressure destroys everybody’s skin equally. The key is knowing how to sneak in a routine, and knowing what not to do. Also, you’ll want to check your dignity at the gate.
The first and most important consideration is whoever is sitting next to you—you two are cellmates on this great big prison boat we’ll call All Nippon Airways Flight NH00009. My seat buddy for this particular flight was an enormous but gentle hulk who immediately put his headphones in and devoured all eight Star Wars movies available On Demand. I made no effort to engage him, and in return, he did not so much as glance over every time I produced a new skincare product from my carry-on. Very symbiotic.
Before the flight, I picked up a travel size Kate Somerville DermalQuench (great name!), a tiny pressurized moisturizing water that I’ve heard celebrities use specifically for plane travel. Despite the featherweight texture, it’s incredibly hydrating, although it requires pretty frequent reapplication and the PSSSSSSSSSSSP noise it makes when you spray it is extremely conspicuous. I used it every two hours, and each time, my seatmate jumped sixteen feet from his Star Wars-induced slumber. He said nothing, but his anger was palpable. A chilling thought would cross my mind momentarily: Am I the worst person to sit next to on a flight?
The answer, apparently, is yes. On the flight back to New York I was delighted to sit next to an older woman who had sort of a rockabilly thing going on. Something about the leopard-print corset she was wearing indicated to me that she would be down to hang, so I waited until after our dinner before offering her a set of undereye gels from the economy-sized Botanic Farm canister I travel with. They’re made with salmon eggs, are gold, and protect the thin skin under your eye sockets from drying out and going dark. “Would you like some?”
When she turned to look at me, I noticed the surgical tape jetting out from each of her eyes and a chilling gaze that pierced my jovial delivery: “I just had surgery, so no.”
Before offering to share skincare products, it helps to look for context clues, like: Does your seat-mate seem generally unpleasant, or did they recently have facial surgery? If the answer is yes to either, maybe hold your offer and don’t try to engage them in friendly banter. She did not speak to me for the rest of the flight, though, and that was very nice.
Flight attendants will pay you absolutely no mind, because they are foreign nationals who already assume you’re entitled. Or you’re flying United on the way back and they have bigger fish to fry than calling attention to the weird—yet very handsome—dude in 25D with a wet piece of paper on his face. Which brings me to sheet masks—tailor made for air travel because they’re so damn hydrating. The Nature Republic Aqua Collagen ones are my favorites because they’re hydrogel, which means they apply clear and are thus a little less serial killer-looking, but what ever floats your life vest.
Alternatively, you can pay a king’s ransom and upgrade to Business Class, where the meals are seared, the champagne is abundant, and the in-flight entertainment options exceed Stars Wars and The Devil Wears Prada. If, like me, you simply cannot afford it, know that Economy is a safe place for your moisturizing habits. You can deplane a 13-hour flight, take a two hour train into Tokyo, and your friends will remark on how good your skin looks. “Did you fly Business Class?”
You may now mask freely about the cabin.