Sitting in recycled cabin air on a plane for several hours can be rough on our skin and, it turns out, on our hair, too. “The air is so dry. You feel it on your skin, you feel it on your hair, you just feel it in your body,” Los Angeles-based hairstylist Courtney Housner told Shop TODAY.
Aside from dryness, static and breakage are other issues to think about when prepping your hair for a long flight. Plus, with many people coloring or using heat products on their hair, hairstylist Mary Kendall notes that additional breakage can occur from the friction of rubbing your head against the fabric of the seat or from finding different (and sometimes awkward) positions to sleep in.
To come up with the best hair care routine for long flights, we turned to experts like Housner, Kendall and stylist David Dang for their best tips and recommendations.
Tips for taking care of hair on long flights
Prep your hair pre-flight
Before you even step into the airport, Housner recommends prepping your hair the night before or the morning of — whenever you prefer to shower — before you get on a flight. The key to a good pre-flight routine is using a moisturizing cream while your hair is still wet, she noted. She personally likes to use two moisturizing creams on her own tresses.
Use a hair mask in flight
Dang loves using a hair mask while in the sky and recommends the same to his clients. He says to put it on the mid-length to ends of dry hair and then bun it up. (Be sure to put it in a bun, not a ponytail, because a ponytail will pull on the hair, he added.) Putting your hair up will give your hair “the time to absorb all of those nutrients and [get the] benefits of the conditioning treatment,” he explained.
Put it in a loose ponytail or braid in flight
Kendall, Dang and Housner all recommend wearing your hair in a loose ponytail or braid during your flight.
“If you have it in a tight ponytail and you, for some strange reason, decide to keep this tight ponytail on a five-hour flight and move back and forth...it could cause friction on the hair, for sure. You might be damaging the cuticle,” Dang told us. Another benefit of a low ponytail is avoiding the irritating line of demarcation that inevitably occurs from a too-tight hairstyle.
Which leads to another reason for putting your hair in braids pre-flight: comfort! “It’s comfortable to sleep in braids as well, so I would say loose braids are a go-to for long flights,” Kendall laughed.
Use a silk or satin pillowcase
Long flights are, for most people, a place to catch up on some much-needed zzz’s. While we can’t exactly bring all of our most comfortable bedding with us on the plane, Dang and Kendall both recommend using a silk pillowcase for the journey.
Dang recommends covering the head of your seat so you can just lay your head back and relax without worrying about your hair being tugged on while avoiding friction and frizz. If you’re on a flight with in-seat TVs, he says to put the pillow case halfway over the seat head so that it doesn’t cover the screen for the passenger behind you, and fold the excess case over on your side.
Kendall also suggested covering your neck pillow with your pillowcase so you can have a more mobile option on hand. “That’s going to help [with] letting your hair glide over any fabrics versus having cotton,” she said.
Best hair products for long flights, according to hairstylists
Dang calls this texture spray one of his favorites right now. Made with a saltless formula, this spray is designed to instantly add volume and hold to your hair.
If you don't have room in your bag for a texture spray, Dang offered powder pomades as an alternative! He recommends applying it in three to four sections, shaking it like you would a salt and pepper shaker, then taking your hands to zhuzh your hair out. He says it's something that can be used by both men and women.
Dang and Kendall both like to use their own silk or satin pillowcases on planes. Dang offered this option from Kitsch to be your designated hair-friendly travel buddy.
Housner recommends using this styling cream while your hair is wet and says it's ideal to use if you're styling your hair before your flight. She added that it's not heavy, provides a lot of moisture and suitable for all hair types.
Got somewhere to be as soon as you land? You won't need to carry a million products in your carry on just to get presentable hair. Housner recommends using a dry shampoo like this one to give your hair a quick refresh, so you're ready to go as soon as you touch down.
Post-shower but pre-flight, Kendall likes using this bond smoother from Olaplex. "There’s no time restraint in needing to rinse it out, so you can wear it as long as you’d like getting to your destination but it’s just going to protect from breaking at all," she said. She also noted that it's especially helpful for treating heat and color damage.
Housner recommends this R+Co moisturizing cream for all hair types and says it's not "super heavy in any capacity." She also likes to put it in her hair when it's wet.
Kendall likes this leave-in conditioner, calling it versatile for any and every hair texture. She said it's ideal for the person who's always on the go or in a rush. "You don’t have to worry about washing it out. [It's] more for hydrating the hair versus damage concerns," she told us.
This is another favorite of Dang's. He called this spray and the IGK Beach Club sprays "flakeless" and won't cause your hair to get all clumpy. "If you spray those in really quickly against the root, it’s just going to give you [a look] as if you just blow-dried your hair," he said.
If you want your hair products to do some work while you relax on a long flight, Kendall recommends this hair mask that can be used on wet or dry hair. It's her go-to for bond building and breakage concerns.
Before braiding your hair, Housner recommends using this serum to help keep your hair moisturized and decrease any damage that may come from the friction between your hair and the seat. Since it's a heavier oil, she recommends applying it from the mid-length to the ends of your hair.
Dang likes this hydrating mask from IGK that is formulated to give you hydrated hair in just three minutes! You can use it on a long flight and look for the benefits of prolonged use or pop it in your hair for the three minutes and wash it out before you head to the airport for a quick pre-flight treatment.
Want more volume and body? Housner called this texture spray one of her favorites.
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