Airplane window

Joanna Vargas Shares Her In-Flight Skincare Routine

As Memorial Day approaches and summer officially kicks off, travel to destinations both near  far is on the horizon (hurray!). But while a getaway can be heaven, flying can beand hell. And we’re not just talking cancellations and lost luggage: air travel can also take a toll on your skin, leaving it dry, dull, and prone to breakouts.  

The reasons that flying–both short and long haul–can wreak havoc on your skin are multiple, as it throws up a host of unique skin inflammation triggers, ranging from sleep deprivation and stress, to UV exposure and sudden changes in climate, along with dry cabin air and low air pressure. Prepping the skin before you travel, maintaining a good skincare routine when you’re on a flight, and treating the skin once you’ve reached your final destination, can therefore all help mitigate some of these negative effects. “When it comes to travel, I’m a well-oiled machine,”says celebrity skincare guru Joanna Vargas, who regularly jets across the country to prep A-listers for fresh-off-the-airplane red carpet appearances. 

Air travel can also take a toll on your skin, leaving it dry, dull and prone to breakouts.

Read on for Joanna’s top tips on how to take care of your skin before, during, and after your flight so you can arrive at your destination with a vacation-worthy glow already in place.

Travelers generally get dehydrated, starting on the airplane.

Firstly, the air on planes is notoriously dry. At the average cruising altitude of  about 30,000 feet, the humidity on board can be less than 12%, which is drier than most deserts. This low humidity can trigger osmosis, a process by which the air is so dry that it pulls moisture from wherever it can. This causes the skin to become dehydrated and irritated, and for those prone to oily skin it causes an overproduction of oil in order to make up for the oil lost. For that reason Vargas says,Drinking water on board is essential. I would avoid eating airplane food in general because it’s loaded with sodium. Instead, pack a healthy meal like a salad or bring small snacks like nuts and fruit.” When it comes to her pre-boarding protocol, Vargas adds, “I would never do a retinol pre-flight because it will dry you out even more. Also, never get on board with makeup on so you can apply skincare throughout the flight. I take all my skincare in my carry-on so I can give myself a mini treatment mid-flight.”

At the average cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, the air on planes is drier than the desert.

Another factor to consider even before you arrive is UV protection. A 2015 study published in JAMA Dermatology showed that pilots flying for 56 minutes at 30,000 feet received the same amount of UV-A radiation as one would get from 20 minutes in a tanning bed. The reason for this is that at a higher altitude, you're closer to the sun, and therefore subject to more UV exposure. While you may covet a window seat, consider keeping the shade down during daylight hours and keeping your SPF on hand. 

Higher altitudes on airplanes also means more UV sun exposure, so pack your SPF.

When it comes to red eyes and long haul journeys, the stress and lack of sleep that often accompany these can further exacerbate skin problems, making an in-flight skincare routine essential. “I encourage my clients to take my Rejuvenating Serum on board. Using it mid-flight will rehydrate the skin  softening Olive and Rosehips Oils, and Neroli Oil for increasing circulation. The Jojoba Oil in it will also ensure that your pores won't be clogged once you arrive at your destination.” Another must-have is a sheet mask, she says. “I tell my clients to use them on the plane. They are also great for a quick boost before the vacation.”

Take all of your skincare in your carry-on so you can do a mini treatment mid-flight. 

Throughout the journey, Vargas also likes to keep rosewater in a spray bottle at the ready. “Rosewater is incredibly hydrating, so if you spray it directly on your face, it gets moisture into the skin immediately,” she says. “I recommend doing it twice mid-flight and your skin will be refreshed when you get off the plane.” Her final must-have is an eye cream: since the skin around the eyes is extremely thin, it's the first place to show signs of stress and fatigue, like puffiness brought on by cabin pressure or dark circles from lack of sleep.

Multi-tasking products are a must have when traveling.

Finally, once you do deplane, Vargas recommends taking immediate action. “When you arrive at your destination, exfoliate to get dead skin cells off the skin,” she says. “It will help you to look refreshed. My Exfoliating Mask contains Lactic Acid and Volcanic Ash to draw out impurities, dirt, and oil from your pores, as well as Galactoarabinan, which is derived from the Larch Tree and causes mega cell turnover and skin lightening. It's also an anti-inflammatory, so it's great for even the most sensitive skin. I’m a big fan of multi-tasking with products anytime, especially while traveling. Another great thing to do after you land is to have a big salad with lots of avocado. Avocado hydrates from the inside out and the greens and veggies will help oxygenate your skin so it functions properly while you’re away.”

Shop Expert Joanna Vargas’ In Flight Skincare Packing List


This non-comedogenic serum offers both moisture and hydration, thanks to a blend of antioxidant-rich, plant based oils that replenish and nourish the skin, without leaving a greasy residue.


This luxuriously clean, mineral SPF 30 sunscreen is infused with nutrient-rich flowers like Desert Rose, Jasmine, and Hibiscus. These flowers thrive in sun-drenched climates and have powerful antioxidant properties and deliver deep moisture.

Formulated with antioxidant-rich Plum Superfruit Complex® which shelters skin and protects collagen from pollution, blue light, and UV damage while shielding from DNA-damaging free radicals, this sunscreen also provides long-lasting moisturization.


Super hydrating ingredients in this cloth sheet mask instantly diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, help even tone, and leave skin with a youthful glow. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients protect the lipid barrier, increasing hydration and protecting against free radical damage. 


This blend of soothing Damask Rose Petal Extract and healing Vitamin E acts both as a restoring spritz and a hydrating pick-me-up and leaves skin glowing and plumped.


A cooling rollerball applicator delivers an intensely hydrating blend of Microalgae and Silica derived from the Blue Lagoon’s unique bioactive mineral-rich waters to strengthen the skin barrier, prevent collagen breakdown, promote collagen synthesis, and relieve signs of fatigue and puffiness.

Formulated with ultra-hydrating Squalane and skin-brightening Niacinamide, this nourishing yet lightweight, pearlescent cream instantly diminishes the appearance of dark circles and puffiness and visibly brightens. 


This multi-tasking mask combines chemical and physical exfoliation to refine skin tone and unveil a brighter complexion with hard-working ingredients such as Lactic Acid, Kaolin Clay, and Galactoarabinan to sweep away dead skin cells, clearing pores and removing impurities for a healthier glow.

This gentle, renewing facial scrub brightens by clearing away dead skin cells and debris, while also boosting circulation and delivering immediate and lasting moisture.

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