How to walk off a flight not looking jet lagged

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Abandoning our mundane everyday surroundings in favour of a more exciting climate feels more alluring than ever thanks to social media. Stunningly picturesque backdrops that once seemed to only exist as default laptop screensavers are now the reality for many, with our Instagram feeds full of friends and influencers alike appearing to live their best lives by jetting off to incredible travel destinations around the world.

However what these photos don’t show are the contrastingly less than attractive long haul flights taken to reach such exotic places. These journeys are likely to include a frustratingly disjointed sleep (I’m convinced that anyone who can easily doze off uncomfortably upright must have some kind of superpower), heart racing turbulence and bathrooms that are straight out of a claustrophobic’s nightmare. Not only this, but flying takes a huge toll on the body with dehydration, skin dryness, headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea included. Not sounding so idyllic now, right?

Against these odds, it’s unlikely that anyone would be feeling and looking their best after a long flight, with posing for holiday photos the last thing on the agenda and instead the thought of sleeping in a comfy, horizontal hotel bed for 15 hours straight sounding much more appealing.Having endured a multitude of long haul flights myself (many totalling over 24 disorienting hours air bound), I’ve literally gone the extra mile to find the best ways to avoid the dreaded jet lag and it’s accompanying dishevelled look so that you can strut down that plane aisle like it’s your runway and have the best possible start to your trip.

Remove your makeup

Now I know that the mere thought of this may cause you to shudder, but hear me out.

The humidity on a plane is often lower than 20%, which is drastically less than the optimal level of around 40-60% that our skin is used to, causing it to dry and tighten. Other side effects from this unnatural environment include chapped lips and itchy eyes. Letting your skin breathe as opposed to clogging pores with makeup can reduce this irritation. Not to mention that sleeping on the flight will feel so much better with a bare face, I mean have you ever woken up with mascara still on and had to literally peel your eyes open? Not a pleasant experience to say the least.

Apply a sheet mask

Whilst the sight of this may alarm the child in the row next to you, wearing a sheet mask will combat the lack of hydration and humidity to your skin caused by that nasty recycled plane air (typically only half of the air pumped around the cabin is fresh), whilst giving you an enviable glow. There’s also an undeniably soothing and relaxing feeling that you can’t help but experience with a face mask gently pressed upon your face and whilst on an uncomfortable flight, I’m all for anything that promotes this spa-like feeling. Most sheet masks have a recommended application time of less than half an hour, so be sure to remove it at this point as the mask will otherwise dry out and have an adverse effect on your complexion. Sheet Masks also deserve a special mention for their light and flat shape, meaning they take up little to no room and can slide into your hand luggage with ease, no matter how many outfit changes and duty free purchases (no judgement) you’ve crammed in.

Stay hydrated

Kind of a cliché and kind of a general rule to life but never underestimate the importance of drinking water. Water, which benefits us from the inside out, is good for our skin, immune system, energy levels and so much more. Also the decreased cabin pressure weakens the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, lowering our alcohol tolerance, meaning you’ll feel that G&T a lot stronger than usual. Feeling drunk on a plane will only add to the light-headedness and fatigue you will probably already be experiencing from flying and depending how long your flight is, your hangover can even kick in before you’ve even landed, so be sure to drink twice as much water for every alcoholic drink consumed. As well as alcohol, other dehydrating beverages to avoid include caffeine-based stimulants as they will make it harder for your body to relax and sleep. Whilst I’m aware that coffee is a daily staple for many, your body will thank you if you can muster the willpower to hold off until the end of the journey. I’d recommend purchasing a large bottle of still, spring water just prior to boarding as although airlines provide water, I find it’s never really enough and this saves you awkwardly having to signal the flight attendants every hour.

Pack the essentials

I remember being so unprepared on my first long haul flight that I didn’t even pack a hairbrush in my hand luggage, causing me to spend the entirety of my layover in hiding, whilst also wishing back combing was still in style. Since then, I’ve taken to braiding my hair before departure, which not only avoids this stress entirely, but I’m also always pleasantly surprised how it’s still intact and presentable when I arrive.

As I’ve drilled into you at this point, hydration is key, so be sure to also pack a lip balm and moisturiser, ideally containing SPF as the plane brings you a lot closer to the o-zone layer and some UV rays can still penetrate through glass (one silver lining to not getting the window seat).

Unless you are lucky enough to afford the ultimate cabin class experience, (oh how I envy you) you will be unable to shower when you feel in need of one more than ever, so a great way to freshen up is with facial/body wipes and a mini deodorant. Other standard essentials include hand sanitizer (breathing the same air as a large number of people for hours on end will inevitably leave you susceptible to picking up illnesses) and a toothbrush and toothpaste which although are provided by most long haul airlines, I find it’s always more comforting to use your own familiar products.

Remember you can also bring makeup (hurrah) if it’s in quantities of 100ml or less. I like to apply mine just before the final meal on the plane is served (and therefore beating the final bathroom rush), usually about 2 hours before landing.

Sleep as much as possible

Beauty experts and medical professionals alike have all backed the benefits of sleep from reducing stress to maintaining a healthy heart and combine this with knocking off hours from that long flight duration and it truly is hitting the jackpot. Whilst you might sleep like a baby on solid ground, it’s a completely different situation air bound, so be sure to get a good night’s sleep pre-flight.

Calculating and timing sleep to tie in with your destination’s local time zone is key to avoiding jet lag, although getting shuteye at any given moment is never a bad thing.

The pillows that airlines provide are usually small, thin and generally lacking in comfort, so I most definitely recommend purchasing a travel pillow. Whilst using one doesn’t fully solve the sleeping upright situation, they really do help and by having the extra neck support, you’re less likely to wake up drooling on the shoulder of the person next to you (might be speaking from personal experience). They’re designed for travel in every way, travel pillows usually have a clip that can go around the handle of your hand luggage, meaning you don’t need to free up any precious packing space.

Other simple tricks that work wonders for sleeping on planes if you’re struggling to nod off include using sweaters and coats as extra blankets for comfort and warmth and listening to calming music or a guided sleep meditation.

Move around

My final tip is an important one for your health, so listen up. You must ensure blood is circulating round your body by maintaining movement, from stretching and flexing your muscles and joints whilst seated, to walking up and down the aisles. Not only do swollen ankles not look aesthetically pleasing, but not moving around can potentially lead to blood clots which could have much more serious (albeit very rare) consequences such as an artery clog. Even if you are sporting compression socks you are not immune, so make sure you are keeping active every hour.

By Emma Warner

I’m Emma, a Brit with a love of travel and doing things that are good for the mind, body and soul. I have lived in four different countries (and counting) and can’t stay still for long as I believe there is too much beauty to be discovered in this world of ours. Wellness and self-care are very important to me and I’m a person of inquisitive nature, striving to be forever learning and exploring.

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