I am a firm believer that there are two types of people in this world: Those who pack well in advance (and in very systematic fashion) for a trip and those who open their empty suitcase for the first time three hours before their plane is scheduled to take off. I am most definitely the latter—which is why it's not exactly surprising that until very recently, my travel skincare routine was haphazard at best. I'd grab whatever bottles were currently on top of my vanity, shove them in my bag, and run out the door to hop in my Lyft. If I forgot anything, I told myself, I could always purchase it whenever I arrived at my destination.
This ultimately didn't bode well for my wallet or my skin—something that became abundantly clear in February during a trip to Paris. While traveling has always dried out my skin and left me more prone to breakouts, my face was a downright mess by the time I arrived in my favorite city. The long-haul flight had dehydrated my complexion to the point that it was flaking off; the drastic change in climate from "wintry" L.A. to wintry France kicked up some redness and inflammation. To top it all off, some hormonal acne decided to make an appearance on my jawline. So I did what any beauty fan in Paris would do: I made a beeline for the French pharmacy and spent an obscene amount of money to get my skin back in order.
After that fateful journey, I made it my mission to establish a relatively minimalist but highly effective lineup of products that would keep my complexion on lock no matter where I was headed. And thanks to a very travel-heavy year that has brought me to six cities, four countries, and climates ranging from desert to rainforest-adjacent, I've had a lot of opportunities to get it down to a science.
Nailing down a great lineup of versatile products has been incredibly helpful—they now stay packed away in a pouch in my suitcase, which is admittedly a very uncharacteristic move for this hurricane packer. But the takeaway I hadn't anticipated was realizing this: The way I take care of my skin on the plane dictates how well it will behave for the rest of my trip.
My complexion is prone to dehydration as it is, and the moisture-zapping qualities of cabin air simultaneously dull my skin and make my oil production go into overdrive to compensate. The result: breakouts and flaking for the following days. But if I'm proactive and diligently moisturize throughout the flight, I arrive at my destination with much brighter (and much more cooperative) skin.
As for the products that make it all happen? Find them below.
Again, I need the majority of my products to moonlight as hydration—and this cleansing balm does precisely that thanks to an impressive lineup of botanical oils. The texture is luscious, and it works deep into my skin to dislodge makeup and grime without ever drying me out. It also smells amazing, which is a nice bonus.
Since I'm rarely away for more than a week at a time, I don't really find it necessary to lug an enzyme exfoliant, retinol, and any other resurfacing treatments I have lying around. Instead, I just tote these handy pads, which contain glycolic and salicylic acids to reveal brighter-looking skin in less than a minute. They're also inconspicuous enough to use on the plane if I'm feeling motivated.
The Supercharged Moisturizer
Aussie dermal therapist James Vivian told me this moisturizer would change my life after I vented my frustrations about my perpetually dry skin. He wasn't wrong: I now use it day and night, and nothing I've tried locks in moisture better.
When I'm traveling, I apply a thin layer before even getting on the plane and then reapply about halfway through my trip (or more frequently if the flight is much longer).
The Leave-On Mask
Some people are happy to throw on a sheet mask while they jostle for elbow room in their middle seat. I am not one of those people, so leave-on masks are a must—and all the better if they multitask like this one, which deeply hydrates and soothes inflammation all in one go. Natural ingredients like lavender, seaweed, tulsi, and cucumber are as effective at calming sun exposure as they are wind-chapped skin. This mask is my all-weather friend—and if the price tag seems steep, just know that a little goes a long way.
The Face Mist
Keep this bottle in your carry-on—in between moisturizer applications, there's nothing easier (or more refreshing) than giving your face a quick spritz.
The Multi-Use Oil
Dry skin and strands? Get you oil that can handle both. I usually use this addictively scented oil on my hair for a dose of moisture, but I love adding a few drops to my face as well as needed. (It's a great body moisturizer to boot.)
One of the better fruits of my Parisian shopping spree was this fabulous SPF, which is a non-negotiable wherever I'm traveling. I love that this formula is extremely lightweight and never chalky but totally effective. (European SPF tends to be superior in all regards, in my opinion.)
The Spot Treatment
Should a blemish arise, I stand by my favorite classic remedy: tea tree oil. I just apply a drop or two wherever necessary, and it dries the zit right up, virtually overnight.