Air care for frequent fliers
By Emma Jacobs
Published: February 2 2008 02:00 | Last updated: February 2 2008 02:00
A petite woman with an elfin haircut, in a black waisted tunic and 4in heels, stands before a group of immaculately tidy men and women. She is delivering a lesson but she has one instruction just for the men – they must never wear Lancôme juicy tubes at work. Mim Allgood will, however, permit tinted moisturiser, clear mascara and lip balm.
That’s because Allgood is teaching grooming to a group of wannabe air stewards and stewardesses in an unprepossessing metallic grey building near Gatwick airport. Inside, the Virgin Airlines campus is like being in Britney Spears’s Toxic video – everyone wears their compulsory post-box red uniforms and the women’s hair is swept up in French pleats and rolled ponytails.
It’s a relatively easy look to maintain on the ground but how do flight attendants manage to look so groomed and fresh at the end of a long flight while passengers’ skin is blotchy and their hair frazzled? Even in the relative luxury of business class, the pallid zombie look, a by-product of the aircraft’s recycled air, is hard to avoid. So perhaps a few tips from the airline grooming classes at Virgin and Silverjet will help to even the score.
Allgood’s class is peppered with women who look like they’re in the qualifying heat for a Miss UK competition. Everyone is impossibly glossy and neat. But the overall message from this seminar is that frequent flying is bad for your skin. The air in the cabin is dehydrating, and moving between climates and time zones will increase your skin’s sensitivity. More worryingly, frequent flying can be ageing. Remedial and preventative action must be taken.
“When you start flying, your skin will become very dehydrated. Look at a bowl of fruit in first class. At the start of the flight, it’s really juicy. At the end, it’s wrinkly and shrivelled. Same for your skin. Even oily skin,” Allgood warns. “People with oily skin often think they escape dehydration because they look shinier at touchdown. But it’s not true.”
The mantra is: drink lots of water, limit tea and coffee, and avoid alcohol. It’s not just imbibing water but also spritzing it on your face and hair, if it’s prone to frizz. However, steer clear of sprays that are pure water. Marcella Knibb, the Silverjet instructor, puckers her face in disgust at the very thought of them. Water sprays dehydrate your skin by sapping it of any existing moisture so she advises using one with refreshing, hydrating additives such as aloe vera, mint or lavender. If you don’t like spraying liquid on your eyes, then squirt it on cotton pads first. Skin wipes are also a good way to refresh your skin but steer clear of the ones they give away on aircraft – the lanolin in those can be an irritant. Go for ones such as Dermalogica’s skin purifying wipes, which have the added benefit of not being included as a liquid for airport security rules.
Ideally, passengers, not cabin crew, should take make-up off at the start of a flight. But if that is unrealistic, then at least some products are no-nos. Red and yellow dyes in make-up, including red lipstick and fake tan, are dehydrating. We are all fiercely warned away from YSL’s Touche Eclat, which is too drying to wear on a flight. In fact, we should restrict our use of the magic wand for special occasions and never wear it as a concealer – it reflects light so highlights rather than hides spots.
The best make-up for flights is mineral-based such as the ranges produced by ID Bare Minerals or Jane Iredale, which use 100 per cent minerals and no preservatives or oils. Unlike a powder, the crushed minerals won’t be absorbed into pores and nurture spots. “It’s so pure, you can sleep in it,” laughs Allgood. She catches herself: “Although don’t. Always take your make-up off.” Also beware of make-up exploding because of cabin pressure. If you reapply mid-flight, always put a napkin on your lap in case of leaks.
We are advised that, whenever possible, we should use flights for a bit of pampering. Knibb takes us through a flight’s pampering routine and instructs us to scrape our hair back, cleanse and tone. If you’re prone to spots, try pinning your hair back on a flight as flopping fringes will only exacerbate the problem. Then, she suggests using a multivitamin concentrate or Dermalogica’s skin hydrating booster and then moisturiser such as Dermalogica’s anhydrous barrier repair. “Don’t worry about nipping to the toilet to rub in body lotion. It’s only the exposed areas – face, hands and neck – that dry out on flights,” she points out. “If you have the guts, put a face mask on, though not a clay-based one to save embarrassment. [Try] a clear one, perhaps a rose hydrating mask by Aromatherapy Associates.” Allgood would go one step further and put an eye mask on, such as one by Guinot. She recommends dunking the tube in some iced water to make it extra soothing. Steer clear of eye drops as they’re drying.
If all these potions look like they’re going to breach security rules, you should pick up samples from beauty department stores. They’ll fit into the airport’s clear plastic bags.
For those who haven’t the time or inclination to pack a range of products or go through a mile-high beauty routine, Elizabeth Arden’s eight-hour cream is “an essential”, says Allgood. According to Rebecca Wadsworth, a member of British Airways’ crew, her colleagues swear by it as the ultimate multitasking cream. It can be rubbed into cuticles, heels, on your face, on your lips before applying lipstick, on your hands and to calm any rashes.
But the ultimate beauty no-no on a flight is alcohol. On this topic, everyone agrees that water or maybe a drink with Vitamin C is best – and if you’re in the mood for a cocktail, try a tomato juice or water with fizzy Vitamin C as an alternative.
Er, what about something stiffer? “If you need to calm your pre-flight nerves, substitute alcohol with cotton wool dipped in lavender and put it in a sealed plastic bag – open it up and smell it when you need a boost,” suggested one flight attendant. Not quite the substitute you were hoping for? Herbal tea was the other accepted alternative.
But if you just have to have a drink, then be sure to have two glasses of water for every alcoholic beverage. That way, your repeated trips to the loo will give you a bit of exercise and prevent swollen ankles.
‘Make yourself feel better with a pampering session’
Elle Macpherson, model and businesswoman: “After long-haul flights, I go to the Luzmon Clinic in Kensington, London, to relieve jet lag and for rebalancing. Luzmon technology is thermostimulation, a combination of electrostimulation and infra-red heat and works wonders for detoxification.”
Sean Harrington, managing director of Elemis: “There’s a lot of dead time when you travel, so if you can make yourself feel better in the sky with a good pampering session, then why not? I think a scrub is always good to do or even a face mask that you can leave on, so that when you get off the plane, you don’t look exhausted, especially if you have a business meeting straight away.”
Amanda Wakeley, fashion designer: “I always get cold on flights, so I wear different layers of my ultra-fine cashmere that I can peel off as I warm up. I find that Australian Bush Flowers travel essence is unbeatable in countering jet lag. I also advocate going straight to the gym post a long-haul flight – it gets your circulation flowing properly and again counters jet lag. I am also a great believer in mind over matter: set your watch to your destination’s time as soon as you board and begin to imagine you are already there.”
Susan Harmsworth, chief executive of ESPA International, a spa and beauty company: “I swear by the Bose noise eliminators that reduce jet lag by cutting out the sound of the engines during flight.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008