Going on holiday? Here's how to jet lag-proof yourself inside and out

Posted by
Stylist Team
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Resetting your watch once you touch down is easy. Resetting your skin and body? Not so much. Stylist reveals how to jet lag-proof yourself inside and out.

Words: Fiona Embleton
Photography: Julia Kennedy

Pre flight

Prepare ahead to stop plane cabins playing havoc with your skin

In the UK, humidity in the air tends to range from about 60-80%. At 30,000 feet (the average altitude for most flights), humidity in an aircraft cabin drops to about 12% – drier than most deserts. To avoid skin that looks like a worn emery board, start taking omega 3 supplements (Solgar Triple Strength Omega-3, £24.29 for 50, is good) two weeks before you fly. “Fortifying your skin with these essential fatty acids will prevent moisture escaping from the skin’s outermost layer,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting.

To prepare yourself for a moisture-less cabin, apply a sheet mask every day in the week before take-off. You’ll saturate your skin with far more nourishing ingredients than you would from a regular jar of moisturiser as the fibre sheets are doused in an intensely hydrating serum. “When you place the mask on the face it traps the serum on top of your skin,” says facialist Nichola Joss. “This decreases water evaporation and also increases the temperature of your skin, encouraging the hydrating serum to be absorbed more thoroughly.” Givenchy’s Hydra Sparkling Fresh and Fast Masks, £39, contain hyaluronic acid, which is proven to hold 1,000 times its own weight in water on the skin.

The body is always trying to maintain a pH of 7.365, which is slightly alkaline. But the stress of travel can cause you to produce the acidic hormone cortisol, which weakens the good bacteria in your gut and can cause inflammation. “Two to three days before you fly, swap your espresso for a cup of warm water with fresh lemon juice, which changes from acidic to alkaline when metabolised by the body, to keep the gut in balance,” says facialist Debbie Thomas.

The earth’s atmosphere thins out above cloud level, meaning the sun’s rays are significantly stronger (a new study by the University of California has found that airline pilots face the equivalent of 20 minutes on a sunbed after an hour in the cockpit). “If you’re departing or arriving in daylight, wear an SPF30+ and pop a double dose of antioxidant supplements two hours before your flight to help protect against the cell-damaging effects of UV rays from the inside out,” says Margo Marrone, pharmacist and founder of The Organic Pharmacy. Studies show that antioxidants become more powerful when combined, so try her Superantioxidant capsules, £45 for 60, a potent blend of vitamins A, C and E.

Browse the gallery below to see the full toolkit

On board

Prevent your body being thrown out of balance

Flying disrupts your circadian rhythm – the body clock that tells you when you should be awake and when you should sleep. This directly affects the skin’s natural healing process, warns dermatologist Dr Ronald Moy. “DNA repair in our skin occurs in the afternoon and evening so these sensitive processes are likely to be interrupted when we’re changing time zones.” Slather on a moisturiser containing DNA-repair enzymes with a liberal hand to dodge the worst damage. It’s pricey, but DNA Renewal’s new Regeneration Serum, £85, is based on Nobel prize-winning research and contains enzymes from marine plankton proven to boost skin DNA repair.

As you take off, the air pressure in the cabin begins to decrease. This disturbs your digestive bacteria, slows down your metabolism and causes the gases in your intestines to expand by up to 30%. “Altitude and a reduction in pressure causes the colon to expand, and as we become more dehydrated, there is less water in the digestive tract so food doesn’t digest as well, resulting in bloating,” explains Thomas. Take a probiotic supplement such as Terranova Probiotic Complex With Prebiotics, £14.75 for 50, to strengthen your gut and reduce acidity.

Both alcohol and caffeine are stimulants that prevent you from sinking into slow-wave sleep – the deeper stages of sleep where your body releases human growth hormones to increase muscle mass, thicken skin and repair tissue. “If this function is impaired, skin looks fatigued, exaggerating jet lag symptoms,” explains Dr Bunting. As well as water, sip green tea: it is rich in antioxidants and has been scientifically proven to speed up your metabolic rate by 4% due to the high concentrations of fat-burning polyphenols.

Plane cabins are pressurised to simulate the conditions found at 7,000 feet – an altitude similar to the top of a mountain where there is less oxygen in the air. Blood oxygen levels drop to 93% – meaning fewer nutrients are carried from the arteries to the skin, making your face look dull. For immediate brightening, apply La Roche Posay Redermic C10 Correcting Filler, £29.50 – it contains 10% pure vitamin C and is like a lightbulb moment for skin.

The combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds to salty foods by around 30%. “Too much sodium, however, can cause water retention, leading to a puffy face and limbs,” warns Joss. Avoid sprinkling more salt to make in-flight food less bland and snack on fruit and vegetable batons from the food tray rather than salted pretzels.

Browse the gallery below to see the full toolkit

On landing

Here’s how to reinvigorate body and mind when jet lag kicks in

About 50% of the air in the cabin is recycled. When combined with sluggish digestion, it leads to a build-up of toxins in the body and suffocates pores. Detoxifying charcoal is incredibly porous, attracting up to 100 times its own weight in impurities. Simply massage the Sanctuary Spa’s Warming Detox Charcoal Wash, £9, into the skin and rinse when it begins to lather – that’s your cue that the charcoal has swallowed up all the grease and grime.

Sitting still for prolonged periods causes blood flow to stagnate. Your lymphatic system also becomes less effective at flushing out toxins and excess fluid – cue swollen legs and feet. “Using a dry brush, working up towards your heart from your toes will reinvigorate your circulation and help you eliminate toxins,” says Noella Gabriel, co-founder of spa brand Elemis. The brand’s Body Detox Skin Brush, £21, uses cactus bristles to create just the right amount of friction on the skin.

While bath salts have long claimed to detox skin with minerals, their real benefits may come from the salt’s moisturising effects. A study at the University of Kiel in Germany found that participants with chronic dryness who bathed in sea salt for just 15 minutes had more hydrated and stronger skin for a full six weeks. L’Occitane Aromachologie Relaxing Bath Salts, £16, are laced with lavender, an essential oil proven to soothe an over-worked nervous system and put the body in a deep state of relaxation.

By superficially dehydrating skin, dry cabin air can cause sensitivity and an increase in oil production. “Applying a cream rich in niacinamide can help,” says Dr Bunting. “The B vitamin boosts ceramide production for added moisture but has anti-inflammatory benefits to suppress blemishes.” Try Olay Regenerist 3 Point Age-Defying Night Cream, £29.99, to jet-lagged skin.

Post-plane hair is a combination of oily roots and frizzy ends. “The frizz is due to dry cabin air, exacerbated by static from the headrest,” explains Thomas. “If your face is overcompensating by producing more oil, so too will your scalp.” Take a cocktail approach when you next wash your hair: use a detoxifying shampoo such as Philip Kingsley Moisture Balancing Shampoo, £18, then leave a nourishing conditioner on your ends for two full minutes before rinsing.

Forget hotel gyms – go for an outdoor run the next morning. “Light combined with movement tells the body it’s time to be awake,” explains Dr Bunting. “This will help synchronise your body with the timeframe of your new environment.”

Browse the gallery below to see the full toolkit

  • 1. Sanctuary Spa Warming Detox Charcoal Wash


  • 2. L’Occitane Aromachologie Relaxing Bath Salts

Which way?

Match your skincare regime to your journey direction

Beating jet lag is fundamentally about getting the right amount of darkness and light at the right times to reset your body clock. And the direction and amount of time you fly will significantly impact it.

Jet lag will be more severe travelling from west to east because by going forward in time, you are adding more hours of darkness, leading to less consistent sleep. The knock-on effect is a rise in anxiety and an increase in stress hormones. “Cortisol, in particular, is very sensitive to the circadian rhythm,” says Marrone. “When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of this hormone, which can break down skin-smoothing collagen.” A cream like Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, £36, containing the double whammy of skin-replenishing fatty acids and soothing lavender oil, is a must for the sleep-deprived.

Flying from east to west means you’re adding hours of daylight, making your days longer. While this helps delay sleep, making it easier for your body to adjust, it shortens the time your skin has to renew itself at night. Instead, gentle exfoliation becomes key. Ole Henriksen Blue/Black Berry Enzyme Mask, £36, uses fruit enzymes to slough away the top layer of dead skin cells to reveal fresh, glowing skin underneath.

While a flight of under four hours won’t result in jet lag because you’re rarely adjusting to a new time zone, aeroplanes are still moisture-sucking machines. Ditch face mists – for hydration at least. A common misconception is that a few hits will restore moisture when, in fact, the opposite is true. “The droplets of water evaporate on contact with the skin and actually take surface moisture with them,” warns Joss. Instead, keep Caudalie Beauty Elixir, £32, with the invigorating scents of mint and rosemary, handy when landing for an instant burst of freshness.

If your facial features look like they’re dropping on a red-eye flight, you’re not just imagining it. “There really is such a thing as ‘plane face’,” says Joss. “Fluid retention, air pressure, dehydration and tense facial muscles can make your face look sunken.” She’s an advocate of massaging your face using rosehip oil (try Neal’s Yard Remedies Rosehip Oil, £16) to lift facial muscles and drain away excess fluid. “Slide the knuckles of your forefinger and middle finger along your jaw to stimulate the lymph nodes under the ears. Next sweep your thumbs under the cheekbones in a reverse ‘c’ shape to reposition your cheek muscles.”

Browse the gallery below to see the full toolkit

Photography: Julia Kennedy/

To read this week's issue of Stylist, download from

Share this article


Stylist Team