Photo: Katie Scott Aiton

On Long-Haul Flights, Get Ready to Sleep Just Like You Do at Home: With Facials and PJs

Wellness Technology + Gear Airports + Flying
by Katie Scott Aiton Aug 14, 2023

I was listening to a podcast debate the other day about whether taking your shoes off on a long-flight is rude. In fairness, the advocate came across as somewhat old-fashioned, but I couldn’t help smirking because not only do I change into my slippers, but I put on my PJs and keep my nighttime skincare routine on track.

Do you struggle to sleep on the plane? Check out Matador’s rundown of everything that can make it easier for you:

I’m in my late thirties and have sat through enough long-haul flights to now give zero energy to whether or not I’ll be judged for simply getting comfortable. To me, it’s vital to make sure I’m getting to my destination without feeling hungover or have a face like a dehydrated prune. What I’m suggesting here is going way beyond rubbing your makeup around and damaging your skin’s barrier with a cheap cleansing wipe. I’m recommending that you actually get ready for bed and give yourself a luxury in-flight facial.

The first step is to leave you inhibitions at the passenger entry door. If you go into this thinking of others, you’re going to defeat the purpose. This is indulgent self care, which is so vital in a space that can often cause many of us anxiety. The facial products listed here are some of my cult favorites and are part of my relaxing at-home practice. I use these in varying combinations. You might find a few are sufficient depending on your needs. They come in TSA approved sizes, suit most skin types, and all but one can be used from the comfort of your seat.

We hope you love the facial products we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to purchase. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.



ProCase TSA Approved Travel Toiletry Bag


For me, pissing about with fiddly bottles at security is a fast-track to Anxietyville. A toiletry grab-bag like this is the foundation for your in-flight facial. It will protect your carry-on from any leaks and keep all your goodies organized. It also makes a trip to the bathroom on the aircraft easier. And let’s be honest, you want to keep your time in there short.

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Price: $14.99


The Ordinary Mini Squalane Cleanser


Cleansing is among the most important step to achieving a fresh face. There’s an argument to be had whether you really need to spend a lot on a cleanser. As long as it takes your make-up clean off without stripping your barrier, it gets a tick.

This is the only product I’m listing here where you will need to go to the bathroom for and luckily, it’s first on the list and you can time that accordingly. I live and die by using a fresh hot cloth with my cleanser every morning and night. And there’s no reason you can’t do that on board. I recommend rolling up your cloth and placing it in a separate small plastic bag. That way you can ring it out and pop it back in there after use. This means your other products won’t get wet and make a mess of your tray table.

I adore The Ordinary. I’ve not fallen out of love with the brand since they burst on the scene and although you kinda need base-level knowledge about active ingredients, they have really stepped up their customer service and you can do an online quiz to see what your skin is needing.

I use this squalane cleanser every day. Plant-based squalane is having its moment, and I’m overjoyed. Not only because it’s fun to say, it’s a natural oil suitable for all skin types, including problem and congested skin. It adds heaps of moisture and suppleness — and best of all, this face wash quickly cleans off all the gunk.

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Price: $13.99


NuFACE Prep-N-Glow Facial Towelette – Exfoliating and Hydrating Facial Wipes (20 Pack)


“Don’t use face wipes,” she said. Without trying to contradict myself, if you are someone who feels very uneasy about washing their face in the bathroom, you’re going to want to invest in a high-quality towelette.

These are dual-sided. There’s a softer side for taking off makeup and impurities and then a second with a micro-dot surface. Although I find many textured wipes like this a bit rough on my skin, NuFACE has done a great job developing their material and active ingredients (hi hyaluronic acid) so my skin does not feel squeaky and sucked of moisture after use. They are also huge, so you could rip one in half and use the other side later. On that note, you might want to have environmentally friendly wipes handy (no pun intended,) if only to clean off your hands between products.

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Price: $33.25


Patchology Hydrogel Face Mask


Next step is your mask. Take a deep breath and go for it. I regularly use sheet masks on long-haul flights. If anything, I’ve received celebratory compliments for the idea from fellow passengers. If I was at home, I’d put this in the fridge before use, but this mask works wonders by itself in ten minutes.

One of the active ingredients is retinol. But don’t let that scare you off. It’s not a high enough percent to cause irritability to anyone who has never used or is starting a journey with retinol. There’s just a smidge in there to give you a gentle end-of-day cell turnover. Peptides also make their debut (more of them later) and overall it leaves your face feeling relaxed and plump. Best of all, you can massage the serum in and you don’t need to rinse.

If you are concerned about retinol, opt for a moisture bomb night mask from Garnier.

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Price: $10.00


BAIMEI Jade Roller and Gua Sha


I’ve tried a few face toning devices. I started with NuFace’s range during lockdown, and it’s got a hefty price point for good reason. Botox has its place, but committing to a robust skin workout can do chemical-free wonders. NuFace’s devices gives you a temporary “facelift.” With low levels of electrical current, it defines cheek bones, improves circulation, and gives you a firmer, youthful-looking face. Being transparent, however, remembering to charge the device, order hyaluronic gel and issues with faults (I’ve had two replaced), has led me to shift over to a more affordable and chuck-in-your-handbag-option; jade.

Jade rollers and Gua Sha tools give a noticeable, short-term perkiness and firmness to my face. It’s a nice addition to a well-kept diligent regime. I don’t think long-term benefits stack up for me, but the repetitive movements of using this tool are calming, and they do offer a noticeable short-term fix. It also glides nicely on the serum from the face mask.

Another product I back is FaceGym’s Multi-Sculpt tool. I also chill this before use, and if you do want to invest (they come in at $66) you can take this on-board and pop it in a glass of ice and wipe it down before starting your five-minute workout. Use it with a couple of drops of squalane oil (mentioned below) or the lubricant of your choice.

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Price: $16.99


Cerave Hyaluronic Acid Serum


Hyaluronic acid is a friend to all. It makes an appearance in our night sheet mask above, but if you’d like an extra hydration boost, this little beauty can hold a thousand times its weight in water. Don’t be tripped up by the word “acid,” it makes an appearance in so many products and you can double or triple your dose at will.

This is another skincare ingredient that there’s been discussion on whether or not you really need to fork out for over $50 for Medik8 or $300 for Dr. Barbara Sturm. The long and the short of it is, no, you really don’t. There are a ton of products out there that do great work without costing an arm and a leg. The other valid point is that you need your skin care regime to be sustainable. And there’s not many of us who can pay the mortgage and invest regularly in Dr. Barbara Sturm. When it comes to hyaluronic acid, I skip the heavy hitters, squirrel my money, and put it towards retinol or raising hydration star polyglutamic acid (keep an eye out for this name, it’s going to be the new popular kid in town).

I have a couple of favorite hyaluronic acid products. The first is Cerave’s creamy face serum. It leaves my skin dewy and I find I don’t need to add a heavy layer of moisturizer after application. I use this twice a day (in the morning before my light-weight SPF.) Another excellent product is The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. It’s affordable and the formula is a perfect consistency. Once dry, you will need to add a layer of moisturizer, but this serum get’s a huge tick from me for its price tag and how residue-free and plump my skin feels after application.

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Price: $16.05


Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow AHA Night Treatment


When Watermelon Glow AHA Night Treatment first launched, the K-beauty-inspired product was a TikTok sensation, and that initially put me off. I thought it was a fad, that over time, it would join other on-a-whim purchases at the back of my bathroom drawer. But I’m so glad it hasn’t.

The first time I slept in the mask, I woke up with noticeably brighter and more supple skin. But it’s not a one-trick pony. I now use this three times a week (but it’s gentle enough to use every night) and overtime it has drastically improved the texture of my skin and reduced redness, especially around my nose area.

It has a lightweight consistency and seeps right into your skin upon application. This is great news for those of you who use silk pillowcases or hair wraps.

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Price: $27.69


The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane


This is the perfect oil for those who think they hate oil. Mentioned above in our cleanser, squalane is back baby. There’s a newfound appreciation for old-fashioned ingredient (commonly sourced from olives or sugarcane) which adds a ton of moisture without clogging up pours or causing greasiness. It also gets on well with everyone. Due to its unadulterated nature, it won’t clash with other products and is kind to those with sensitive skin.

I use this at night instead of, or under my night cream or mask, depending on how my skin is behaving. It’s also a great lubricant for face sculpting tools. I’ve had similar results with this simple unfussy oil as I have had with high-quality expensive facial oils.

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Price: $18.99


ZIMASILK Mulberry Silk Bonnet


All the goods listed here can be used in conjunction and layered, and I’d recommend taking your time to let each settle and do their job between applications. I’m also an advocated for using a locking in product that does not leave my face feeling sticky. This is mainly because I champion sleeping in a silk bonnet and eye mask.

I hopped on the silk bonnet train a couple of years back and it has given life back to my hair and drastically changed my morning regime. Stick with me here, yes, sitting in a bonnet in-flight might afford you a few side glances, but when you disembark with bouncy, frizz-free, clean hair, you’ll be a convert.

Silk helps retain moisture and protects the strands from breakage from rubbing up against rough textures. Bonnets are roomy and allow your hair to sit freely inside them. Every night, I simply spin my hair into a loose bun (without fixing) and tuck it inside the silk. When I wake, it falls naturally into place and often times looks better than it did the night before.

You can top with off with a silk eye mask. It does a similar job of retaining hydration, and if you are a fan of sleeping in an eye mask on flights, you may as well invest in something that is gentle to the fragile skin around your eyes.

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Price: $32.99

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