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Crew Beauty Tip: No One Looks Good After a 12-Hour Flight

Retro Airline Stewardess or Flight Attendant Applying Make-up with a Brush at her Vanity

I hate to be a curmudgeon about this. There are a lot of ways you can look after a 12-hour flight — but “five years younger” ain’t one of them, right?

The Daily Mail article about British Airways crew beauty secrets amused me this week. There’s nothing really wrong with it, per se. I get why people would ask those of us who do it regularly about strategies for keeping fresh, especially when our companies want us to be (or, at least, act and look) inhumanly indefatigable. On the other hand, we’re just people who just work in an extremely arid climate. You might as well ask beauty tips from people who live in the desert.

If anyone actually thinks I look consistently perfect after a 12-hour flight, I’ll take the compliment! It’s just the rub between the reality of how we feel on the job – long shifts in dry air with little-to-no break time and, at some airlines, no food – and the picture painted by this beauty article and others of its kind. Of course I try to look nice when I work, but truly, after a 12-hour flight, my beauty goal is a little lower than hair that’s not “going flat.” It’s to not look like a zombie.*

A couple years ago, I read a different “flight attendant beauty secrets” article (also sourced by British Airways) that mentioned how (long-haul) flight attendants lay their silk uniform scarf on their pillow in order to avoid wrinkles when they take their rest break. I think this is a brilliant idea. I have thought about that tip on every rest break I’ve taken since. Specifically, I’ve thought about how I should try it sometime.

Instead, when I lie down for my hour-or-so rest in the middle of the night, I think about how fresh and clean my pillowcase is compared to the scarf I’ve been wearing for, oh, five to 12 hours (remember, I may have commuted to work in uniform). I waver over whether I want to wrap my face in it. I just can’t ever seem to unknot it and delicately spread it out like a princess before I’m passed out in my bunk. I tell myself it will be fine as I’m drifting off in my mind.

So my real-life “beauty secret” is that I set an alarm on my phone for 5-10 minutes before the wake-up call. At that point, I uncurl from the fetal position and stretch out face up so that any pillow-face can begin to fade. When the call comes, I step down the top few stairs (so I don’t actually have to crouch to see myself in the mirror) and rearrange my bangs so they cover whatever humiliating trenches need more time to disappear. That’s just the kind of girl I am, though. We’ve got all sorts up there.

As for the actual advice in the Daily Mail article, it’s hit and miss if you ask me. I do agree with the female pilots – removing make-up is the best cosmetic way to help your skin – but flight attendants don’t have that luxury at work, so I’ll have to take their word on how it feels.

Meanwhile, the advice given by flight attendant Jennifer Front is both the all-time best and worst.

Worst: bring “your favorite scent on board.” Just no. No, no, no, no. In my book, putting on any perfumes among hundreds of strangers in an enclosed space is rude. I’m not allergic (though many people are), but I can’t stand perfumes and extraneous smells. I definitely do not want competing perfumes all trapped in the cabin. If your favorite smell peps you up, put it on a cloth and smell it demurely at your seat. Bonus reason: it’ll last longer that way, too.

Best: Drinks lots and lots and lots and lots of water – as in, more than we have to provide each individual customer. I always bring my own bottle that I fill in the terminal when I travel! This is the only crew beauty advice that is surely universal.

*It’s actually to feel alert and have my evacuation commands in mind but hey, who wants to hear about that?

[Photo: Getty Images]

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