When I was in high school I frequently went skiing with friends on the weekends, and SHE always mocked me. You know who SHE is. SHE is the one standing next to you in line for an overpriced foam cup of something disgusting masquerading as tea or coffee and making you feel inadequate. Like you, her hair has been under a knit hat all day but hers doesn’t look like it was matted to her head with glue and ice crystals; her face does not bear the telltale signs of windburn or goggle imprints. In short, SHE looks like a million bucks and you look like the snowmobile patrol scooped you out of a tree and propped you up next to the samovar.
This usually happens after a long flight, too: you look like you were scraped off the fuselage while your fellow travelers look effortlessly fresh. Usually that’s okay. If you’re just going straight home or to the hotel, you can put yourself back together in your own good time. But there are going to be times when that isn’t possible: your itinerary is packed and you have to go straight to an event, commitments that had been scheduled post-flight with adequate prep time are suddenly bearing down on you after a flight delay, your colleague who saw you drooling-drunk that time at the Christmas party has been assigned to pick you up…whatever. Maybe you’re just vain. I’m not judging. My point is that life happens and sometimes you have to spruce yourself up in the airport bathroom right before you head to the baggage claim. Here’s how to make the most of that quickie primp so you can make the leap from being frazzle-fried to a full-fledged SHE.
1. Prep before your flight.
Whenever possible, I like to take the extra time on my hair before I fly to make it look pretty. All the anti-frizz, extra-volume, extra-shine products I have; a blow-dryer; a flat-iron. I have sad, sad, flat hair and it takes me an extra 15-20 minutes to style it into smooth, sleek shape but it holds for hoooooooours. I try not to pull it back at all–vanity aside, the hair bump on the back of my head makes finding an upright napping position difficult. All I have to do at my destination is flip it over, put a little hairspray or dry shampoo at the roots, and brush it out. And be kind to your skin: don’t wear makeup on the plane. All that recycled plane air does really unholy things to foundation and powder. Wash your face really well and use a rich moisturizer and a great eye cream, but don’t make it up.
2. Take care of yourself on the flight.
Don’t wear perfume or cologne. It’s rude to other passengers and near the end you’ll smell like a sachet that was left in Grandma’s sock drawer for too long. Drink a lot of water: besides the obvious skin benefits it will also force you to get up to use the bathroom more frequently, which is good for your circulation and general energy levels. Take an Airborne or Emergen-C packet to mix into your water bottle and skip sodas (if you have flight anxiety and need a glass of merlot to wash down your Xanax, well…I’m not judging). I’m not even going to bother to tell you to sleep because I have an easily-stimulated toddler and an infant on the way. Maggie’s record for not sleeping during a flight is ten straight hours. TEN. TEN HOURS. ON A RED-EYE. If you can sleep, do. If you can’t, come hang out with me. I have cartoons on the iPad.
3. Dress for the occasion
Polyvore.com is a wonderful site. I can’t actually dress myself–I’m wearing a men’s undershirt, full-panel maternity jeans, and an American University sweatshirt circa 2006–but I can look at how OTHER people dress and figure out how to look put together without sacrificing comfort on a flight. The three outfits–casual day, casual day-to-night, okay for work or a restaurant–below meet my criteria for airplane travel: easy-off shoes, large bag, incorporates a cardigan and scarf for varying temperatures. (I made the yellow-and-teal casual one myself. Ignore the fact that I used infant shoes. Don’t YOU have dainty feet?)
4. The bag of tricks
In your allowed 1-quart bag you should have the following: a bottle of light-hold hairspray if you have fine or thin hair, good eye cream, eye drops, hand lotion, a small bottle of refresher (I’ll get back to that), some cotton balls, tinted lip balm and gloss, cream-based bronzer, and a travel toothbrush/paste/floss. First, take care of your teeth. You’ll just feel better about life after you brush and floss. Then you want to take the homemade refresher you whipped up, you crafty thing you–chamomile tea with a few drops of rosemary and tea tree oil in a little travel-size fingertip mister–and spritz your face (avoid your eyes). Let it sit while you apply your eye cream and redness-reducing eye drops. I’ve heard great things about Kiehl’s Eye Alert but haven’t used it myself; supposedly it’s a miracle for post-flight circles and puffing.
Use the cotton ball to wipe off any of the refreshing spray left on your face. Do your lips and then use a VERY tiny bit of the bronzer on the places where the sun would normally hit–practice at home with good light and use much less under the glare of the airplane bathroom fluorescents. You just want enough to put some sun-kissed life into your face, not convince people you have been on holiday in Ibiza. There’s a line; know it. Bring foundation and mascara if you want and do it up, but the bronzer is key: makes you look healthier. Finally, lotion it up on your arms–you’ll feel better rubbing some life into your limbs and airplane air is really drying. It’s worth springing for the travel size L’Occitane shea butter cream. The smell is pleasant but not so overpowering as to be offensive.
There. Now you look ready to conquer the world. Just make sure your seatmate doesn’t dump his one-last-coffee on your lap before the descent. You didn’t bring any perfume with which to gas him.