Red Eye Reduction: The Frequent Flyer’s Grooming Guide

How is your summer shaping up? Weddings, weekends away, holidays and business trips aplenty? Sounds busy, but how do you stay looking your best when you’re always on the go?

A while ago we boarded the same London to Los Angeles flight behind legendary fashion designer Tom Ford. He turned left, we turned right, naturally. When we were reunited at the cabin doors 12 hours later, we stood in awe: he looked like a wax work – there wasn’t a wrinkle, a crinkle or a hair out of place. He was so spotlessly preserved in comparison to our crumpled, sweaty selves, that we assumed he’d been stored upright for the entire journey and carefully unpacked just before landing. Of course, the level of wealth Mr Ford enjoys is like an invisible force field. The rest of us, often wedged into economy like market cattle, need a few more tricks up our sleeve to arrive with the same level of polish.

Well-groomed male model Richard Biedul gave us this sage advice on how to travel better: “In my line of business, you often have to travel on extremely short notice, so I keep a weekend bag containing my travel essentials packed and ready to go at all times. It only took me seven years to figure this was the most efficient way to prepare, but hey, I got there in the end,” he says, giving us all hope.

Delve into his Aspinal weekend bag and you’ll find, “a universal plug adaptor, a spare iPhone charger, a back-up book, my passport, which now calls this bag ‘home’ to save turning my house upside down every time I’m going somewhere, and crucially, an integrated (detachable) wash bag containing a small (travel size) grooming kit.” So, the golden rule of the well-groomed traveller is a simple one: always have a pre-packed dopp kit on standby.

What Should Be In Your Travel Kit

All pro-flyers know the drill: nothing over 100ml, packed transparently, and you’ll whip through security, leaving the idiots fumbling. Your carry-on grooming kit needs to be in a clear wash bag (not a zip lock freezer bag or one of those pathetic plastic baggies handed out by security), of which Stow London make some of the most stylish.

Take it from Richard: this little flight bag should never be unpacked. Keep it in your holdall or suitcase when out of service, that way you know the essentials are covered. A really good moisturiser is a must; beyond that it should include:

Eye Drops & Lip Balm

Cabin air often leaves us chapped of lip and blinking sandpaper within an hour in the clouds. Eye drops will keep you comfortable for the entire flight, and applied just before landing after a red-eye or night flight to give you a brighter eyed appearance. A quality moisturising lip balm will also keep your lips protected from the intense dehydration.

Facial Spritz & Sheet Mask

Hydration, hydration, hydration: this is the most important mantra to any in-flight grooming routine. Sheet masks are perfect for flights because a) you’ve got the rare opportunity to just sit there with a mask on, b) the individual sachets mean you won’t taste it on your toothbrush later, and c) they pack a juicy punch for your parched epidermis. Starskin do good value masks; La Mer and 111Skin make some of the best. Locking in a little extra hydro in the form of a facial spray will also be beneficial and refreshing, just apply moisturiser after each spritz. We like Aesop’s Immediate Moisture Facial Hydrosol spray.

Eye Roller

A caffeinated eye product with a massaging roller or cooling metal tip is really going to help here, such as Clinique’s Super Energizer Anti-Fatigue Depuffing Eye Gel. Swollen eye bags and feeling fatigued are the most common long haul woes, so look for something invigorating as opposed to heavy or creamy. Stick it in the hotel mini bar when you arrive for an extra refreshing hit in the morning (or whenever your body clock tells you it is).

Toothbrush & Toothpaste Tabs

This should be your dedicated travel toothbrush because there is nothing more irritating that forgetting it or not having one right by the sink when you’re hauling your jet-lagged backside to bed. Maintaining the daily ritual in the air can also help deal with changing time zones. With toothpaste tabs (check out Lush and Georganics), you can carry all you need for the trip and still freshen up if turbulence leaves you seat bound. Fresh breath is essential in cramped surroundings and particularly when you’re heading straight to a meeting on landing.

Ear Plugs & Eye Mask

The better airlines used to hand these out complimentary so we had a free supply. Now, they are all so concerned with the bottom line these tiny luxuries are a thing of the past unless you travel up front. The quality of sleep, or rest, that you get in-flight can help determine your jet lag and an easier transition into a new time zone. Seasoned travellers know that to get maximum shut eye on a red eye you need to skip dinner, ignore the siren call of free entertainment and go “straight to bed”.

Block out light with a silk eye mask, which won’t crease the skin or sap moisture like synthetic equivalents. Pop some ear plugs in (or use noise cancelling headphones) and you’ve given yourself a better shot at actual sleep. And try to resist the booze trolley – it only adds to the furry tongue.

Fragrance & Deodorant

Lugging a full-size anything onto a flight is just asking to have it confiscated by security. Travel-sized atomisers by the likes of Frederic Malle and Byredo mean you can take your favourite scents along for the ride. Travel versions of your favourite products – like Malin+Goetz’s deo – also save space and are less galling to leave behind. And you’ll need to freshen up after sleeping in your clothes.

Concealer & Brow Gel

To achieve that elusive post-flight polished look that celebrities seem so capable of, it’s worth considering this power duo from Tom Ford himself: the concealer will cover up under eye shadows and the brow gel will groom and fix the eyebrows into shape, while the tint fills out any gaps making them look slicker and bushier. For something deceptively simple, it works.

In-Flight Exercises

We know sitting down for a long time isn’t good for us, so we tapped movement expert, Roger Frampton, author of the The Flexible Body, for some tips: “The best thing to do to prevent cramp and tightness on a flight is to make sure we move around at the airport,” he says.

“As for the flight, as soon as you are able get up from your seat, look for a place where you can stand or get small movement in. Try to spend no more than one hour at a time sitting in your seat. You might feel silly getting up and down numerous times,” he says [reading our mind], “but you’ll be having the last laugh when you feel a lot fresher at your destination.”

While seated, “shake your legs out and do the standard calf stretches and upper body spine rotations to keep the blood flowing. Standing on one leg is a really good one for getting a good amount of movement in. For added intensity try closing your eyes,” he advises. For a full post flight workout, head to his Instagram page @rogerframpton:


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Jessica Punter

Jessica Punter is a freelance journalist and stylist specialising in men's grooming and style. She has over 15 years experience in consumer magazines, having held the positions of Grooming Editor at British GQ and FHM. She also writes for MR PORTER, MATCHESFASHION, FashionBeans, British Airways and wellness magazine, BALANCE.