This article first appeared on Traveller.com
A hotel bathroom that has lots of mirrors is not my friend.
Often, the first glimpse I have of myself is after I’ve come off a long-haul flight, with sallow skin, stressed hair and dark shadows under my eyes. As the days wear on, I find the hotel airconditioning deepens those shadows, irritates my eyes and dries my skin further.
I travel lightly, so I leave many of my usual skincare products at home because of their size, preferring to grab small samples of products I don’t routinely use.
That’s not a wise idea, according to Janet Muggivan, who is the founder of Beauty Dossier, an online video-based course on skincare and makeup, targeted at women over 40. With 35 years in the beauty business and no sponsorship from any commercial entry, she’s my go-to girl for beauty problems. She can be trusted not to be flogging any particular product, although when she says one is worth buying, I listen.
Her skincare advice also applies to men, who often neglect to look after their body’s largest organ when travelling.
“Your skin doesn’t like extremes,” Janet says. “It likes comfort.” Flying is “terrible” as cabins are Sahara-dry. Wild swings of temperature (travelling from Brisbane summer to Oslo in winter, for instance) create further problems – extreme dehydration and clogged pores if the skin is oily. “Your skin is trying to adjust to new climates constantly. It gets jetlagged. It gets stressed.” Just like we do when rushing to the airport.
“The key is consistency. Find a skincare range that works for you and use it every day at home,” she says. Don’t leave it behind when you travel, as I do: look for travel sizes of your regular product or decant it into small plastic bottles sold at pharmacies.
Products are designed to work with other products in the same range, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a moisturiser and serum from different brands. Just stay consistent. Janet likes the extremely gentle Avene range from France, available at most pharmacies, and says price point doesn’t matter, as long as you don’t change the products frequently.
“For travel you then need to amp it up,” she says. “Add extra products that are specifically designed for times when skin is abnormally dehydrated or stressed, such as serum or a hydrating face mask.” Serums deliver active ingredients such as Vitamin A or C, whereas moisturisers just deliver moisture. She’s a fan of products containing hyaluronic acid, a gel-like molecule that attracts and retains moisture.
It looks a bit freaky, but I’ve sometimes taken advantage of the long hours on a flight to put a Shiseido cloth mask over my face – it works a treat, if you don’t mind the stares. Janet says Comodynes is a brand that packages its cloth beauty masks, cleansers and moisturisers in sachets, perfect for travel.
Another useful hint is to spray the face regularly with a mineral-rich water such as Avene Eau Thermal. If applied before moisturiser it helps the skin retain the moisture, a handy trick. Unfortunately, aerosol cans (aerosol gives the finest spray) can no longer be taken on flights – buy a can at the destination instead. Keep it in the fridge when it’s hot.
A broad-spectrum physical sunscreen like Clinique’s City Block Sheer is essential on the road and can go over skin care – works well for men, too. Don’t forget the lip balm. There are many brands that are excellent – Janet uses Blistex Ultra with SPF 30+. It’s a pocketable stick that can be used to protect your nose, chin and tips of ears as well as lips.
Another product Janet suggests for travellers is Micellar Water, an inexpensive cleanser available in several brands. It has special properties that attract dirt and oil, and restores skin to its best PH level, taking the place of two products.
When skin gets clogged an exfoliator is useful, but there’s no need to bring one along. Just take a pristine face cloth, dip it in lukewarm water and gently rub it over your face.
And my biggest complaint – those bags under the eyes caused by jetlag and airconditioning? The simplest trick is to dampen two tea bags from the mini bar, cool them in the fridge and rest with them on your eyelids for three minutes.
Volia! No more staggering around in my hotel room, eyes closed, avoiding those terrifying mirrors.