9 essential skincare items for the savviest travelers

If you regularly spend time 35,000 feet in the air, you’re likely no stranger to things you might encounter throughout your journey: Delayed flights, airport lounge food, HSBC jet bridges — and lest we forget about Hudson News.

Depending on who you are, though, one of the most overlooked rituals of the travel experience is a solid skincare routine.

We know we’re not the first ones to tell you that airplane air is incredibly dehydrating, and can send your skin into a tailspin if you don’t take care of it. Factor in potential climate changes, too, and you’re really putting your skin through the ringer, even for just a quick weekend trip. Take even a fraction of the amount of time you spend picking out your carry-on bag or backpack, and we promise your skin will thank you.

Even the airlines are hopping on board the skincare bandwagon. United Airlines introduced Sunday Riley products to its amenity kits early last year, and airlines such as Japan Airlines fill amenity kits with face masks.

If you play your cards right, you can earn bonus points or miles on cash back on these travel necessities, too.

First things first: You’ll want to use a credit card that’s prime for online shopping. We rounded up our favorites here, and by using one of them, you’ll start racking up valuable points and miles that you can use to fund your next trip. As far as your skincare purchases go, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card and Chase Freedom Unlimited will be your best bets.

The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred, Bank of America Cash Rewards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.          

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That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though.

Take advantage of online shopping portals, and you’ll also be able to rack up miles with your favorite airline. This is in addition to the credit card points and miles you’re getting on your aforementioned credit card — a little something we like to call “double dipping.”

Popular skincare sites such as Sephora, Dermstore and Bluemercury are all available on popular shopping portals such as Delta, United and American. Word to the wise: Check these sites before you make any purchases to earn bonus points on items you’d buy anyway.

Speaking of Sephora, the beauty giant is currently hosting its annual Spring Savings Event. Depending on your Beauty Insider level (essentially elite status at Sephora), you can get anywhere between 10% and 20% off your purchase until April 27. Just be sure to use code “SPRINGSAVE” at checkout.

If you’d rather go the cash-back route, be sure to take advantage of sites like Rakuten or RebatesMe. Installing one of the plug-ins in your internet browser is an easy, quick way to save a few dollars here and there. Rakuten, for example, is offering 2% cash back at Sephora — a nice addition to the savings you’re already getting at the retailer through the end of the month.

Just note that you can’t use a shopping portal or a cash back site at the same time, so you’ll want choose which one more closely fits your travel and financial goals.

Now that we have that, er, foundation, let’s take a look at some of our tried-and-true travel skincare favorites.

  • Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask
  • Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater
  • Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser
  • Glossier Balm Dotcom
  • Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water
  • Mei Apothecary Mini Jade Facial Roller
  • NuFACE Mini Facial Toning Device
  • Shiseido Pure Retinol Intensive Revitalizing Face Mask
  • Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Mini Peel

Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask

(Photo courtesy of SummerFridays)
(Photo courtesy of SummerFridays)

Why we love it: Once you have the Summer Fridays Jet Lag mask, you’ll never want to go anywhere without it. It naturally piqued our interest because it has the phrase “jet lag” in it, so we had to try out this Instagram-favorite for ourselves — and it definitely lives up to the hype. After just one use, your skin will have an unmistakable moisturized glow. Because you don’t have to wash it off, it’s especially great for travel. No need to bother your seatmate and run back and forth to the bathroom — just lather it on, sit back, relax and enjoy the flight (or a movie or two).

To buy: It retails for $48 directly through Summer Fridays, but if you use the above strategies, you can get it cheaper elsewhere. For example, it also retails for $48 at Sephora, but you can get it for at least 10% off, depending on your status level, plus an additional 2% cash back on Rakuten. Bada bing, bada boom.

Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater

(Photo courtesy of MarioBadescu)
(Photo courtesy of Mario Badescu)

Why we love it: Whether you’re on a mileage run or halfway through a 13-hour flight and need a little refreshment, Mario Badescu’s facial spray with aloe, herbs and rosewater will be a godsend. It will keep your skin feeling clean and dewy, and comes in handy to add an extra level of moisture when you need it most.

To buy: A two-pack of a 4 fluid ounces and 2 fluid ounces is only $12 on Amazon — so you can store one at home and keep the other in your carry-on. If you buy the same pack directly through Mario Badescu, you can get 25% off on orders over $35 with code “MB25.”

Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser

(Photo courtesy of Amazon)
(Photo courtesy of Amazon)

Why we love it: Everyone raves about Drunk Elephant, and for good reason. Their jelly cleanser is refreshing and lightweight, and your skin will notice the difference even after just a few uses. After spending even a little bit of time in an airport and on the plane, you’ll want to get as much grime off your face and you can. Drunk Elephant’s Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser does the trick every time.

To buy: You can find the travel-sized version (1 ounce) for $14.90 on Amazon.

Related: Best cards for Amazon purchases

Glossier Balm Dotcom

(Photo courtesy of Glossier)
(Photo courtesy of Glossier)

Why we love it: This lip balm does everything, and that’s because it’s not just lip balm. Yes, it will easily hydrate your chapped lips, but it also works wonders on your skin. Think: cracked palms and dry elbows. You’ll get your money out of it and then some. We’d recommend the original, fragrance-free flavor, but it also comes in a handful of others that might strike your fancy. Some other favorites are rose, birthday and mint.

To buy: You can only buy Balm Dotcom directly through Glossier. A single balm is $12, but you can get a trio on sale for $30 (usually $36).

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water

(Photo courtesy of
(Photo courtesy of dermstore.com)

Why we love it: If you want your skin to have the best possible outcome on a plane, you’ll want to keep things light and easy. Bioderma’s micellar cleansing water should be a regular step in your routine, whether on the ground or in the air. It will get rid of any makeup, dirt or grease and leave your skin feeling squeaky clean.

To buy: The travel size (3.33 fluid ounces) is available on Amazon and Dermstore for $5.90. If you shop at Dermstore, though, you can get an additional 15% off by signing up for emails, as well as 4% cash back through Rakuten.

Mei Apothecary Mini Jade Facial Roller

(Photo courtesy of MeiApothecary.com
(Photo courtesy of MeiApothecary.com

Why we love it: If you haven’t used a jade roller yet, you’re missing out. It’s incredibly soothing and will take the puffiness out of your face (which, let’s be real, we all need after a long-haul flight). We like this miniature roller from Mei Apothecary. It’s small and compact, and does the same work as some of the pricier rollers you’ll see on the market for half the price.

To buy: It sells for $12.99 directly from Mei Apothecary, but you can find it at Target for under $10.

Related: Why the Target debit REDcard makes sense to me during quarantine

NuFACE Mini Facial Toning Device

(Photo courtesy of mynuface.com)
(Photo courtesy of mynuface.com)

Why we love it: There’s no other way to say this: This thing is amazing. It uses microcurrent technology to contour and tighten your face in minutes. After sleeping with your face pressed against an airplane window, you’ll love using this to smooth and soothe your jawline, forehead and cheeks. Vogue calls it a “desert island must-have” and once you use it, you’ll understand why.

To buy: Such accolades don’t come cheap. It retails for $199 on NuFACE’S website, but you can find it cheaper through Sephora. It’s on sale there for $179, although it’s out of stock at the moment. When it’s back in stock, be sure to activate additional cash back on Rakuten. It’s also available on SkinStore for $199, with 30% off by using the code “COUNTDOWN.”

Shiseido Pure Retinol Intensive Revitalizing Face Mask

(Photo courtesy of shiseido.com
(Photo courtesy of shiseido.com

Why we love it: You can’t go wrong with anything from Japanese skincare brand Shiseido, and this face mask is no exception. Bring brightness and color back to your dull skin either at the end of your long flight or when you first check in to your hotel. You’ll be ready for a full day of sightseeing in no time.

To buy: A pack of four masks sells for $70 on Shiseido — and you can get 15% off by signing up for emails, as well as 2% cash back via Rakuten. It’s also available on Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Mini

(Photo courtesy of
(Photo courtesy of Sephora.com)

Why we love it: Exfoliate all of the germs and gunk off your face faster than you can say, “passport, please” with these Dr. Dennis Gross peels. The salicylic acid will clear out your pores, and the lactic acid will help naturally encourage your cells grow back. Your face will thank you for these.

To buy: You can find the peels at Sephora for $17 — and get an even deeper discount right now, depending on what type of Beauty Insider you are.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should you look for when buying skincare for travel?

When buying skincare products you want to travel with, be sure to buy things that are under 3.4 fluid ounces so they fit in your carry-on bag and stay TSA-compliant. Since you’re likely going to be away from your usual skincare routine, you’ll want to make sure the products are easy and functional and aren’t too time-consuming or messy to use. Above all, make sure the products keep your skin feeling fresh, clean and hydrated. No matter what, always test the products out first to make sure they work for your skin.

Related: What your luggage brand says about you

How much should you spend when buying skincare for travel?

You don’t need to buy a lot of expensive products to keep your skin feeling great while traveling. Many of these products can be found on Amazon, at Target or in department stores. Be sure to take advantage of cash back offers, and use a credit card that earns bonus points or extra cash back on your purchases, too.

Featured photo by UfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock.

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