How to look and feel fresh after a long-haul flight

Who wants to spend 13 hours sitting in the one spot only to touchdown at their dream destination with flaky skin and undereye bags big enough to rival actual cabin luggage? No one, that’s who.

While jet-setting around the world sounds luxurious, the reality of clocking up those frequent flyer miles is anything but.

Swollen ankles, jet lag and tummy discomfort are just some of the most common side effects brought on by long-haul flights. But don’t cancel your next holiday just yet – there are a number of things you can do to minimise the effects of an epically long flight.

Renowned Australian skin professional Melanie Grant isn’t just a healthy skin expert, she’s also the go-to skin guru for Lara Worthington, Jessica Gomes and Zoe Foster Blake, to name a few. Here she shares her sage advice for those who aren’t prepared to sacrifice looking and feeling good for a few hours high in the sky.

Why is it that our bodies (more specifically our skin) are so affected by flying? From dry arms to chapped lips, puffy fingers, dry noses, and swollen ankles – it seems we can’t catch a break!

“There are several culprits to blame for the detrimental effects of long-haul travel on our skin, including the altitude and cabin pressure along with the continual exposure to harsh air conditioning over extended periods of time. Combined, this depletes the skin of protective lipids and the vital water content in the epidermis responsible for keeping our skin hydrated, plump and comfortable.

As a result, our skin is also subjected to the assault of free radical damage, oxidative stress and pollution at much higher than average levels, which deteriorates skin cells and results in a dull, lacklustre and devitalised complexion.”

Is there anything we can do to minimise these issues?

“My post-flight go-to is always an ice-plunge and a cold shower or bath. The cold water works to stimulate lymphatic circulation and blood flow to flush the face. It also constricts capillaries and pores, leaving skin refined and awake!

If it’s too cold for a freezing bath, try plunging your feet and ankles in ice cold water post flight to reduce fluid retention and swollen ankles and feet. Swap alcohol and coffee for herbal tea and still water and avoid salty aeroplane food, as this only encourages water retention and puffiness.

If you’re prone to swelling and fluid retention, apply a body oil that stimulates circulation - I use Dr Haushka Revitalising Arm and Leg Tonic. Always wear compression stockings - Wolford make really nice, normal looking ones.”

We see a lot of celebrities and models posting pictures with their face masks on during flights. Do they really work?

“I'm a firm believer in the power of the mid-flight facial. Ensuring your skin is adequately protected, hydrated and supplied with an arsenal of anti-oxidants is key to preventing cellular damage, dryness and discomfort so commonly experienced during long-haul travel.

Inflight masking is the best way to infuse the skin with essential vitamins and low molecular hydration to lock moisture in. If you prefer to be discreet, try a cream mask that rubs in like a moisturiser, without the need to rinse.”

Do you have rituals you complete before and after flying that help you maintain excellent skin and a general sense of wellbeing? 

“I avoid alcohol for 48 hours pre-flight and of course during the flight. I never wear makeup on a plane and try to avoid salty plane food by taking my own healthy snacks. Sleep is also super important in maintaining a great complexion, so take a good quality sleep mask. I love SLIP silk masks along with a good set of earplugs and a humidifying mask.”

What are your top three tips women can use if they fly a lot for work?

“If you travel frequently for work, I'd recommend building your regime around a formula of pre, mid and post-flight skin salves.

Pre-flight skin care can be something as simple as a thorough exfoliation using a lactic acid-based cleanser or enzyme mask the day before.

Mid-flight would include occlusive creams, lipid dense masks or sheet masks soaked in vitamins and antioxidants to draw upon for protection and nourishment while in the air.

Then, post flight the focus would be on rehydration, brightening and scavenging accumulated toxins with a good active anti-oxidant serum - Ferulic Acid, Vitamin B, Niacinamide and Vitamin C are among some of my favourites.”

Do you have many clients coming to you post-flying for procedures or treatments to reverse the effects of long-haul travel?

“I and so many of my clients travel weekly for work and we all feel the depleting effects of this on the skin, both immediately and cumulatively over time.

Gentle peels and microdermabrasion are wonderful treatment options for addressing any travel-induced congestion, dryness and devitalisation and assisting in helping the complexion feel a little more refined. Light therapy is the most popular treatment to minimise jet lag and boost hydration and glow.”


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Perhaps your skin is winning the mid-flight battle, but your stomach is on the losing side? Don’t worry, it’s not just you – we all fill up with gas when flying.

Being in the air does all kinds of things to our digestion, including constipation, an inability to taste food and fatigue from trying to digest our meals. While most airlines dose their food with extra salt, the pressurised air makes it harder for our taste buds to actually taste anything.

So here we are, dehydrated and eating overly-processed food that’s doused with extra salt and spices. No wonder we feel bloated!

Flight Attendants' Association of Australia representative, Rebecca Maclean, has been in the flying business for nearly two decades and understands the extreme effects air-flight can have on our tummies.

Why is it that our stomachs fill up with gas while we’re flying and what can we do to help ourselves out?

“It’s extremely common to feel bloated and constipated – even for those who try their best to minimise the impact. Due to the difference in pressure between outside and inside the plane, gas gets trapped in body cavities, not just the stomach. You can try to assist your body by hydrating and eating less gassy foods.

Cabin crew will often drink herbal tea, like peppermint which is a known stomach soother, and ensure they drink plenty of water. Crew also like to limit carbohydrates and gassy vegetables, like brussel sprouts. The best thing to do is eat light and fresh food, which can minimise bloating.”

Are there any specific procedures or activities people can do following a long-haul flight to reduce bloating?

“Sleep first, then try some light exercise. I’ve been told it can be dangerous on your body if you attempt to exercise straight after a long-haul flight, due to the viscosity of your blood so getting a good sleep prior to exercise is my preferred method.”

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