ELLE Magazines Fitness & Beauty Director Emily Dougherty talks Amenity Kits

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Although I’m an incredibly loyal flyer (I love you, Delta, for ever and ever), I do get a rush every time I get to fly Business or First on a new airline because I get to discover a new amenity kit.

But unfortunately, quite frequently, the outside trumps what is inside: a fancy partnership with a famous-name designer results in a Instagram-worthy collectible pouch, but then is filled with a random assortment of products that don’t seem to be chosen with much care. For example, all perfume and cologne samples should be banned: unless you have bought out the entire cabin, don’t spritz any fragrance while on board. This might not make the Duty Free execs happy, but an airline cabin is not the proper place to test fine fragrance. And aerosol deodorants are another no-go. Also, I’ll (hopefully) never have shave on a plane, so I personally don’t need shaving cream. I do appreciate bags that have been tailored for gender, as long as it’s done thoughtfully (don’t drop extra fragrance samples in the bag made for women and call it a day). But a truly well-curated bag is gender-neutral.

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After flying a few times on the same airline, I’ll always leave that cunning, designer pouch behind — how many little bags does one person need? I never leave behind the eye mask, the ear plugs, the toothpaste and the lip balm. I love Delta’s Malin & Goetz x Tumi collaboration for it’s simplicity, plus the lip balm is simply the best lip balm in the world. Air France’s Givenchy amenity kit, designed for the airline’s 80th anniversary, was incredible: from the soothing, deputing eye-balm to the luxe skin cream, it was exactly the type of amenity bag that makes you change airlines. Air France also brilliantly incorporated Biologique Recherche skincare products, a favorite of the most radiant-skinned beauty editors, into their First class sets, so it’s no surprise that most magazine editors only fly Air France when headed to shows or photo shoots. And as a fan of essential-oil-powered products, I’m always happy to unzip a pouch and find Aesop or Aromatherapy Associates (bravo, Cathay Pacific and British Air!). I love the Jet Blue Birchbox set: I don’t need another little bag, so I appreciate this simple box filled with a smart assortment — Kudos, Jet Blue, for being the first airline to give me a tube of sunscreen: sunscreen, unlike fragranced body lotion, is, according to most dermatologists, the most important skincare product in anyone’s regimen.

If I was designing an amenity kit that would please even the most picky beauty editor, I would keep the basics and perhaps downgrade the pouch. I would instead spend a little more on the sleeping mask: they should be soft and breathable, but fully block the light.

And an extra two ear plugs per kit: I always lose one halfway through an overnight flight. In addition to lip balm, hand cream, and a non-scented face lotion, I’d love a good face mist (my current favorites are from Lake & Skye) as well as some wipes that would work as both a hand and surface sanitizer (the lavender Herban Essentials smell amazing and don’t irritate or dry sensitive skin.). And on the subject of wipes — they don’t count as a liquid, so I’ll always bring an assortment on a flight — a good makeup-remover face wipe would also be appreciated at the start of any flight (I travel with Bioderma’s Crealine wipes, but would love a single dose version).

If I have a chatty neighbor or especially long flight, I’ll pop on a sheet mask, such as one from SK-II or Dior: they will scare off even the most talkative flyer, as well as give skin a needed mid-flight boost of moisture. (However, they have caused more than one flight attendant to ask if I am feeling okay.)

A small single-dose non-vasoconstricting preservative-free moisturizing eye drop would keep the red eye away. Many models travel with under-eye masks to pop on just before landing, but that Givenchy roller-ball does the trick with less mess. Last but not least, a small tube of mineral-based SPF 30 sunscreen would be another amazing arrival essential, especially on flights to sunny climes.