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How to Turn Coach Class Into a Spa Experience

Years ago, some airline or other briefly offered in-seat massages for its upper-class passengers. I remember thinking, “Now this is a good use of flight time.” I hoped it would become the Next Big Thing in airline amenities, eventually trickling back to economy class, but instead the entire industry decided to go with less, not more. 

So when faced with a long flight across the Pacific recently, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I resolved to find out a way to turn a long flight in an uncomfortable seat into something restorative. I wanted an inflight spa experience, even if there was nothing spa-like about coach class.

There were, predictably, some challenges. I needed products that didn’t require a mirror to apply or any trips to the bathroom to scrub off (doing anything spa-like in an airplane bathroom cancels out 100 percent of the benefits, in my opinion). Each product had to be lightweight, small, and TSA-friendly. And nothing could infringe on nearby passengers’ personal spaces in any way. No nail clipping sounds, no heavily scented products, no bare feet.

With some general ideas in mind—including a facial that didn’t need washing off and maybe a deep-moisturizing treatment for hands—I enlisted the help of the Pro artists at Sephora. They came up with a great list of mostly clean (no parabens, phthalates, etc.) products that would allow me to arrive at my destination looking better, not worse, than I had when I boarded the plane.

Sephora Collection Spa Gloves: Like a paraffin wax treatment without the crock pot, these gloves harness the power of grape seed, jojoba, and olive oils to, as Sephora Pro Artist Julie Taing put it, “seal in hydration, leaving you with soft, silky hands.” This was a great way to combat the drying effects of plane air, and I kept them on throughout the flight whenever I was doing anything that didn’t require fine motor skills (eating, swiping a screen, etc.). I continued wearing them each night for the duration of my trip, since the firm-gel-lined gloves can be used effectively about 50 times. My hands have rarely been softer. ($36)

Sephora Collection Face Mask: This was the first time I’ve tried a fiber mask—an infused paper that’s draped on the skin and then removed and discarded—but it won’t be the last. Taing recommended it because it’s “a portable, rinse-free mask that give you instant, intensive treatment that your skin needs when experiencing higher altitude, fluctuating temperature, and recycled air.”

Applying this sort of mask is as easy as lining up the eye holes and placing it over your face. And after removing it, you just massage in the excess product, no rinsing required. I opted for the Rose Mask, which promises deep moisture and brightening, and found the scent to be subtle enough for plane use. Taing also likes the Honey mask and Pomegranate mask for travel. The experience of doing a face mask in sort-of-public was easier because my seat mate was asleep, but even if she had shot me funny looks, I wouldn’t have seen them. I was safely ensconced under a cool layer of nourishing ingredients, blissful in my mini-spa. ($6 each)

Sephora Collection Instant Depuffing Eye Mask: About two hours before landing, I decided my eyes were puffy enough to be a formidable challenge to the Depuffing Eye Mask. For inflight use, this is great because the contoured mask adheres onto your face, so there’s no awkward tipping backward to try to balance it in the right spot. It was cool and soothing, and a nice pick-me-up at the end of a long flight. And it worked; after removing the mask, the puffiness was gone. Taing credits “toning, energizing, and moisturizing ingredients that make your eyes look and feel refreshed.” This mask is just the thing when you need to get off a plane looking well-rested. ($6)

Bite Beauty Lip Love Kit: When I first opened the kit, I thought that three products seemed a little excessive for two lips. But the flight (and every night since) totally changed my mind. I started off in exfoliation mode, massaging in the Whipped Cherry fruit scrub. It smelled so nice I ended up just leaving it on for a while, so it was only later that I discovered the moisturizing glory of the Agave Lip Mask (it has since become my go-to night lip balm). Just before landing I wiped my lips clean with one of the Lush Lip Wipes, applied some of the tinted, SPF 15 BB For Lips balm, and was ready for landing. The benefits lasted for days, and it was the closest my lips have ever come to having their very own spa treatment. ($36)

(Photos: Sephora)

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